Shopping Ads on Google: The most common mistakes eCommerce brands make

Setting up or managing campaigns with Shopping Ads on Google can be complicated and time-consuming. And working with digital companies for 15 years has helped us understand exactly how that leads to mistakes, both big and small. It’s also why the RedBrain Shopping Service combines AI machine learning with expert human oversight, so we can help eCommerce brands avoid or fix issues and get the best results.

We want to help you get the best from Shopping Ads on Google. Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been running campaigns for a while, it’s easy to overlook apparently small details which can have big consequences. So, we’ve used our experience in driving 100 million impressions, 3 million clicks, and £5 million in sales every day to provide a comprehensive checklist of common errors you can avoid.

1. Not maintaining regular backups or noting tests and changes

It’s vital to continually test and optimise your Shopping Ads on Google to achieve the best possible results. But not every hypothesis or typical best practice will apply to every campaign, so it’s important to be able to quickly rollback and revert anything that underperforms.

In addition, it can be easy to accidentally make wider changes than intended when you’re managing your campaigns via Google Merchant Centre and Google Ads. Almost every experienced digital advertising or marketing expert has learned from painful experience that having recent backups is essential to resolve problems.

And while you might keep track of recent changes in your head or via old emails, it’s less certain you’ll be able to refer back accurately in 12 or 24 months. Keeping notes of significant tests and changes can be massively helpful when you’re assessing past performance or explaining why results have changed.

2. Ignoring the warnings Google offers you

If you’re responsible for managing multiple campaigns across different advertising and marketing platforms, it can be easy to skip checking Google Merchant Centre and Google Ads for any errors. But this can lead to massive problems if warnings about your account lead to the suspension of your entire account.

The manual process for lifting a suspension can take up to a few days to be resolved. Which can have a big financial impact. So even if you’re not actively making improvements to your product feed or adverts, it’s important to check any notifications, warnings and errors to make sure they’re fixed with a fairly quick time frame to avoid losing sales. Many of these issues will be down to issues with your product data feed or website.

3. Making mistakes with your Product Data Feed

Your product data feeds are the basis of any sales and success on Shopping Ads on Google. Advertising placements are based on your product information, categories and other data, not by choosing what keywords you might want to target, as you would for display adverts. Incorrect data can lead to products appearing for the wrong searches at best, and account suspension at worst.

So, it’s important to ensure your feeds are working properly. All fields should be filled correctly and include the latest accurate information for price and availability. Unique product identifiers (Manufacturer Part Numbers, Universal Product Codes (U.S) and European Article Numbers (outside the U.S) need to be checked to ensure that products aren’t either disapproved by Google or shown for the wrong searches.

It’s important to make sure you also select the right Google Product Categories and ensure that you take care of any formatting issues such as special characters and white spaces which can cause problems.

4. Not optimising your product data

After the hard work of setting up a campaign, it's easy to think the hard work is over; particularly if you're making sales. But for real success, it’s just the start of constantly tweaking and improving your product details to ensure you get the best possible results and stay ahead of your competition.

Key areas to examine include the product titles and descriptions. Many eCommerce businesses simply take the basic product listing from their website, without thinking about how they can target various types of consumer searches. Will consumers be looking for a narrow search term, such as the product name, or a broader category phrase to research their next purchase?

Are you showing the right variation of your products? If you’re competing against rival brands displaying smaller sizes of various items, their prices will appear significantly lower.

Standing out in results is increasingly important as more and more businesses realise the benefits of Shopping Ads by Google. This means ensuring you’re using the best quality images and using additional features such as reviews and ratings to display in your advertising.

5. Running a single campaign with one ad group

It’s possible to simply create one Shopping Ads on Google campaign which covers every single product in your inventory. But you shouldn’t leave it like that.

By creating multiple campaigns and groups, you’re able to split brand and non-brand traffic, run promotions on specific categories or products, and split out your best or worst performers to optimise their results.

In many cases, you may find running single product groups will give you the best results. The trade-off is managing so many individual items unless you, or your CSS partner, can use artificial intelligence to cover your full inventory at all times.

Using Custom Labels will help you organise products by attributes.  You can avoid your multiple campaigns competing against each other if they contain the same product by using Campaign Priorities and Negative Keywords. For instance, setting a lower priority for brand terms, and a higher priority for generic search terms with the brand as a negative keyword. This means your non-brand campaign will be used first by Google, and your more expensive brand keywords will only appear for the searches it’s most relevant for. Just be careful that negative keywords are not overly restrictive.

6. Not targeting a time of day or location

Bidding costs and conversion rates will be different throughout each week, and each hour of the day. If you’re not adjusting your advertising schedule and bidding, you’re treating every customer as identical, even if you know UK orders tend to stop being made at a certain time of night.

Location targeting applies in the same way. Is a website visitor from London more relevant and likely to convert than someone from the Isle of Skye, or mainland Europe? By not using location targeting, you could be paying too much for traffic from underperforming countries and areas. Or even accidentally advertising your products in countries where different national laws apply.

7. Bidding the same across devices

As with time and geography, the conversion rates for your customers will often correlate with the devices they’re using to browse your adverts and website.

A potential buyer might be using their mobile during their commute to work, idly browsing on a tablet whilst watching television during the evening, and then using their laptop to finally make a purchase, but without segmenting and adjusting bidding across your inventory by device, you’re paying the same amount to show your advertising each time.

Conversion rates by the device will vary across retail sectors and customer demographics. If you’re aiming for an older business customer likely to purchase on a desktop in their office, should you be paying a premium to reach mobile visitors?

8. Not adjusting bids for your best and worst performers

If you have products performing well, it’s tempting to leave them as they are. And to turn off the spend on products which aren’t selling. But both options can mean you’re leaving money on the table by missing sales.

Items which are already selling well should be examined to see if a higher budget will release further growth.  You should be comparing the sales made via Shopping Ads on Google with other advertising and marketing channels to see if something which sells on your website, or through display advertising, is performing as expected via the Shopping Advertising.

By the same token, underperforming products shouldn’t be removed. It’s much better to simply lower your bidding to capture the occasional sale while you look to improve and optimise their results.

9. Not including Gift Cards in your product inventory

Although Google Merchant Centre doesn’t allow advertising for future transport or event tickets or pre-paid gift cards branded by a credit card issuer, it does allow businesses to advertise their own gift cards.

These even have a specific Google product category, for Gift Cards & Certificates, which can be an additional way to reach potential customers and is often overlooked by many brands.

10. Ignoring Shopping remarketing lists

Most online shoppers will go through the browsing and research phase of the customer journey before they settle on a purchase. In some industry segments, the gap between looking at a product and committing to purchase can be weeks or months.

Remarketing lists for Shopping will allow you to target previous visitors to your website with advertising. You can customise bids for different groups based on their behaviour, such as ‘shopping basket abandoners’ or ‘loyal customers’. Our experience in delivering around £1 billion in annual sales includes the knowledge that someone browsing a review site for television on a Saturday is most likely to make a purchase on the following Monday.

11. Not using CSS Partners On A CPA Basis

Most online advertisers are comfortable with Cost-per-Click (CPC) fees as it has been the basis for digital display advertising for many years. But this means you’re paying simply for your advert to be seen.

The skill and experience of some CSS partners, including RedBrain, means that it’s possible to offer a Cost-Per-Action (CPA) model instead. This means you only pay a commission when a sale is made, and your partner carries the cost of any fees for non-converting advertising.

In addition to the obvious benefit that you won’t spend anything until you’ve already made a sale, a CPA model also incentivises your CSS partner to optimise campaigns as much as possible to avoid wasting their own money, and to focus on successful conversions.

12. Ignoring the benefits of multiple CSS partners

Many businesses will set up their Shopping Ads on Google campaigns in-house, or with a single agency or CSS partner; this is certainly better than having no Shopping advertising running at all.

But the structure and bidding process of Shopping Ads on Google has been built to benefit those who work with multiple CSS partners, especially if one or more are on a CPA basis. Each partner will have a different approach and focus, which should complement each other. With the bidding auction is designed to ensure that multiple partners of the same merchant won’t drive up prices by competing against each other.

13. Missing out on Showcase Shopping ads

In addition to individual Product Listing ads, brands can also benefit by Showcase Shopping ads which are usually triggered by broader and more generic search terms.  And with a selection of products displayed for each individual merchant, it’s particularly effective at reaching new customers.

It’s recommended to set up Showcase Shopping Ads as separate campaigns which will allow you to get accurate information for first and last-click attribution, which is important as Showcase ads typically receive 20% more conversion credit with first-click attribution enabled.

 A separate campaign also allows you to focus on smartphones and mobile devices, where Showcase Shopping Ads are particularly effective. And it’s the only Shopping option which currently allows you to potentially include video as part of your product promotions.

14. Not monitoring Competitive Metrics and Auction Insights

There is a wealth of information available to help you optimise your campaigns within Google Ads. By going into the option to ‘Modify Columns’ within Google Ads, you can monitor a range of Competitive Metrics. These include impressions data:

Search impression share: The impressions you’ve received on the Search Network divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.

Display impression share: The impressions you’ve received on the Display Network divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.

Search Lost IS (budget): The percentage of time that your ads weren't shown on the Search Network due to insufficient budget. This data is available at the campaign level only.

Display Lost IS (budget): The percentage of time that your ads weren't shown on the Display Network due to insufficient budget. This data is available at the campaign level only.

Search Lost IS (rank): The percentage of time that your ads weren't shown on the Search Network due to poor Ad Rank in the auction. Note: Lost IS (rank) won't be shown on your Ad groups tab if you ran out of budget at any point during the date range being examined.

Display Lost IS (rank): The percentage of time that your ads weren't shown on the Display Network due to poor Ad Rank. Note: Lost IS (rank) won't be shown on your Ad groups tab if you ran out of budget at any point during the date range being examined.

Google Adwords also has price benchmarks currently in (beta) for Shopping ads, with three metrics available.

Average product price: This is the average price of a product when your ad showed or when your ad was competitive in an auction

Benchmark product price: This is the average click-weighted price for a product across all merchants who advertise that product using Shopping ads.

Benchmark Product Price Difference: This is the percentage difference between your product’s average product price and the associated benchmark product price. For product groups, the price difference is weighted based on your product's traffic potential. More popular products will be weighted more than less popular products.

The separate Auctions Insights report is also available at campaign level as long as your keywords and ad groups meet a minimum threshold of activity, and this will also give you impression share, overlap rate and outranking share.

Impression share is the number of impressions that you have received divided by the estimated number of impressions that you were eligible to receive. Overlap rate is how often another participant's ad received an impression when your ad also received an impression. And outranking share is a percentage defined as the number of times that your ad ranked higher in the auction than another participant’s ad, plus the number of times that your ad showed when theirs did not, divided by the total number of ad auctions that you participated in.

How to avoid serious Shopping Ads on Google Mistakes

It’s good to learn from your mistakes, but potentially better to avoid them altogether. Especially when your livelihood could be seriously affected by any issues.

There is a wealth of information available online, including the Google Ads Help and Google Merchant Centre Help resources. But it’s important to ensure that any advice is relevant, up-to-date, and comes from a source which can demonstrate significant experience with delivering results via Shopping Ads on Google. As a relatively new advertising channel which has seen frequent changes, advice can become outdated quite quickly.

That’s where working with a trusted Google Premium CSS Partner, such as RedBrain, can provide a big advantage. We work with thousands of merchants across Europe, including major retailers including eBay, Missguided, GAME, Nike and Harvey Nichols to name a few of our success stories. And with 15 years of working with digital companies, alongside running our own price comparison sites for almost a decade (serving 25 million unique visitors in the EU and up to 50 million across the US and Canada), we’ve helped a massive number of retailers avoid or fix issues to ensure their Shopping Ads on Google campaigns are as successful as possible. Because our CPA model means we only benefit from increasing your sales.


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