Fisher Martin

by Fisher Martin | Ecommerce Strategy

Google Shopping product listing ads (PLAs) have become an increasingly important portion of retailers’ digital marketing mix over the past five years especially. As such, Google is continuously updating their products associated with this channel.

Because Shopping Ads are dynamically created from a product feed, many retailers take a set-and-forget approach to managing them. However, those who don’t create a recurring optimization plan are missing out on a major opportunity to reach more potential customers who are ready to buy with a content-rich, highly clickable placement that appears above the fold for all relevant searches.

This is the first of two posts on our New Shopping Best Practices – focusing on Shopping Attributes and Feed Adjustments. For the second part, sign up for our Monday performance marketing email using the widget on the right.

Product Titles – The Keywords of Shopping

Unlike other search campaigns, Google and Microsoft Shopping campaigns do not allow marketers to set campaign-level keyword bids. Instead, keywords are selected at the product level by what is placed in the Product Title for SKUs that you send to your Google Merchant Center account. As such, this is the most important field to have optimized in a product feed.

Advertiser Brand Terms are Essential for Titles

This is a day-one feed optimization. Do you want to access your most valuable brand searches? If Brand is not included in the product titles, showing on high-intent searches is not guaranteed. Bonus: place this term at the end of your titles – users are already seeing your brand term as part of the Shopping Tile format, so there is no need to take up valuable front space with this.

Example of brand in titles

Left: Brand visible at end of Title; Right: Brand truncated from visible Title, active as keyword.

Include Attributes in the Product Title

Consider two potential searches: “comfortable running shoes” and “grey nike mens running shoes, 8.5”. Which of these represents higher purchase intent? While any product featuring the terms “running” and/or “shoes” could theoretically show for both of these searches, a product with essential shoe attributes (size, color, gender) is much more likely to show on the second search than products that do not include this information. Remember: higher purchase intent = higher CTR + CVR.

Consider the PLA Fold

Easily overlooked in the chase to pump a product’s title full of relevant keywords is the actual user experience of the resulting placement. Though we are given 150 characters before titles truncate, the non-expanded version of a Shopping Tile cuts off much earlier. Full Titles are not exposed until a user hovers over the placement with their mouse:
Examples of titles when first viewing and later mousing over product card

Though this is the same ad, before hovering over the ad to access the entire title it is nearly impossible to learn two essentials about this ski: it is a women’s model, and is 175cm long. It’s important to keep this in mind when setting a product’s title; in this example it would have been a complete miss if the title began with “Alpine Touring Ski” as opposed to the ski’s model, which is the most important UX term in the case.

Thorough Field Coverage is More Important than Ever

As search engines continue to pursue the most accurate query delivery possible, giving them as much accurate product information as possible becomes increasingly important. We’ve already discussed why matching to high-intent purchases is important, and leveraging attribute fields further increases the odds of a product accurately matching to those high-intent searches, even when those attributes are not visible to a user.

Google provides a data specifications list that can be found here, and this outlines all eligible fields that can be processed by Google Merchant Center to inform their systems. Here are some essential fields:

  • Google Product Category – taxonomy found here, fill out as deeply as accurately exists
  • Product Type – custom attribute Google has begun processing to guide search matches
  • Item Group ID – informs which Child SKUs are related under a Parent product
  • Color, Size, Gender, Age – even when not used in Titles, guide search matching
  • GTIN / MPN – additional identifiers that can align with user search history

These fields have been confirmed to be extremely important in Smart Shopping efforts; they are also becoming increasingly useful for Standard Shopping campaigns.

Track Organic Shopping in Google Analytics

Along with the increased focus in Shopping Ads placements, Google has been placing increased emphasis on the Shopping Tile format with free listings found on the Shopping Tab:
Free Shopping tile listings on the Shopping Tab of the SERP

After one row of Ads, organic placements are provided down the rest of the SERP:
Organic shopping placement example

These listings are automatically opted in for any account with an approved Google Merchant Center, but tracking is difficult unless UTMs are added. Sarunas Kvederys has already covered this thoroughly here. Don’t ignore the impact of free clicks and revenue found through these placements when analyzing the success of your Shopping program!

Google’s Shopping Product Listing Ads have developed into an important part of any retailer’s marketing mix. By following minimum best practices to ensure proper leverage of this format, advertisers can increase traffic at both ends of the purchase funnel and take their SEM efforts to the next level. Reach out to us to learn more.