June 18, 2021
Google Smart Shopping: What Makes it Special and How to Make it Work for You
Any PPC marketer will tell you that if you want a successful Shopping campaign, you can slice and dice your targeting with all the precision of an Iron Chef and still come up short of your performance goals. Structure, bid management, and negatives are all important to Shopping strategy, but Shopping success starts the same way it does for an athlete: with what you feed it. Ultimately, the structure and design of your Merchant Center product feed will be the foundation of any successful Shopping campaign. There is one narrow aspect of your product feed that can greatly improve the scope and reach of your campaigns and ultimately drive traffic and revenue to your site: colors.
There are many follies to be aware of when constructing a product feed for Google Shopping, whether it is taking the J. Peterman route and writing each title and description like a carefully sculpted poem, or just listing product specs with no regard to how people actually think about a product. Both of these approaches ignore the key factor that looms large in all of paid search marketing: how are people actually searching for your products?
Colors, besides being a legendary Ice-T song, are a key component to many product feeds, especially those heavy with apparel products. If you have inaccurate or obscure colors listed in your feed, you can miss out on valuable impressions, clicks, and ultimately revenue.
Looking at a client’s feed recently I noticed that many of the colors being used were obscure color names that are not likely included in searches for their products, like using “eggplant” instead of purple. A quick check on Google Trends confirmed my suspicion. Comparing the search volume for “eggplant shirt” vs “purple shirt” provides pretty clear evidence that more people are searching for purple shirts.
Once you have a clear idea of the change you want, it is time to start optimizing the feed. I decided to first test this on a subset of products with obscure color names in the description. I followed the formula of “new color + item,” and added it to each item description so that Google could better match to these item and color combinations in the SERP. Using these new descriptions in addition to the obscure colors allowed for us to gain new traffic without limiting traffic from people searching “eggplant shirts.”
Looking at a period over period sample from before and after our color change, we saw major gains in traffic. Due to seasonal fluctuations in search volume, total Shopping impressions decreased about 13% from one period to the next. However, impressions for the products with new color combinations actually increased 13% during that same time. So, even while Shopping impressions experienced a normal ebb, a relatively small change like adjusting the colors in our descriptions had a big impact on Shopping performance.
While, it may seem tempting to use flowery, highfalutin, or grandiloquent language when describing products within your feed, you should remain conscious of how people are actually searching for your products, and thus how Google is matching to them. Remember to keep it simple, consult sources on traffic volume such as Google Trends or your own search query report, and to make sure that you are using the right phrasing for the best results.