When you’re managing your product feed, you need to make sure that all of your products have been set up optimally for Google’s algorithm. By doing this you’re able to, in a sense, manipulate where your products are going to be displayed. On the other hand, a poorly managed product feed puts products in front of the wrong customers.
Both the setup and optimization processes are crucial for a product feed, so don’t rush them. Take your time because if you optimize your feed properly, you can reduce your CPC, get a higher CTR, and the overall management of your Google Shopping campaign will be easier.
So, in this part of our guide, we’ll be going over three things:
1. What it means to have an optimized product feed and how to keep yours optimized
2. How to go about setting up your product feed
3. How to create a Google Shopping campaign in Google Ads
Get these under your belt and you’ll be one step closer to driving an abundance of customers towards your ecommerce store.
What Makes an Optimized Product Feed?
Before we get into the creation of your product feed, the first thing we’re going to outline is what it actually means for a product feed to be optimized. Using these best practices will help you to create and manage your product feed so that you get the best results out of your campaign.
Setting up an optimized product feed is more than crucial – if you don’t get this right, your entire campaign could get a mere fraction of the results it could otherwise get. Seriously, go over the campaign with a fine-tooth comb before you start sinking money into it.
Now onto the important stuff: here’s what steps you must take to ensure your product feed isn’t going to drag down the Google Shopping campaign.
1. Having the Right Product Name
This is the defining element of your listing; it’s the first thing customers read when they’re looking for a specific product. Let’s quickly go over the right way to write your product names.
Right off the bat, remember that Google won’t let you put anything spam-like in the product name (discounts, coupon codes, etc). Nor should you want to put anything like that in the name, it just looks unprofessional and messy.
Without cramming your keyword into the product name multiple times, you’ll want to include it in there as naturally as you can.
And lastly, don’t be too vague or only include the keyword. If someone’s searching for a specific product, they’re probably going to search the full name. For example, when you want a new phone you might search “iPhone XR Red 128GB” as opposed to just “iPhone”, so using the latter for the basis of your product name would be ideal.
2. Choosing the Perfect Image
The next element to focus on is your product’s images. After seeing the title and thinking “Yup, this is what I’m looking for”, customers will then focus on the image.
Google explicitly make you use an image that has your product on a white background. Even without this rule being enforced, it’s a good practice – it makes your product easy to see and there’ll be no confusion over what the customer is paying for.
In addition, your product images can’t feature text or icons that aren’t on the product itself. The only thing in the image should be your product, nothing else.
But the most important thing to remember is to use high-quality images which present your products at their best.
3. Writing a Great Description
There’s no sugar-coating it – writing descriptions can be difficult for a lot of people because they’re not the easiest thing to construct. Remember: the product description is how Google pinpoints where products are going to appear, so you’ll definitely want to get this part right.
If you take into consideration the fact that only a fraction of customers are actually going to read the product descriptions, you’re really just writing to satisfy Google’s algorithm. For that reason, there is actually somewhat of a formula to this.
When you’re writing a product description, put your keyword as close to the beginning as you can, and use this short paragraph to detail the item in a formal way. Be sure to explain the details (e.g. sticking with the iPhone example, you’d list the storage and camera specifications), and try to avoid getting too informal by saying things like, “Has the perfect camera for selfies and tourism!” – these sentences don’t hold any value in a constructive description, so avoid them.
4. Selecting the Correct Category
A product’s category helps Google to determine what type of product it is you’re trying to list and uses this to further place your shopping ads in the right searches.
You’re probably used to having a narrow selection of categories, but that’s far from being the case here. Google gives you over 5,000 different categories to choose from and you’re expected to pick the best-suited one for each of your products. Since you’re only allowed to choose a single category per product, try to pick the closest/most relevant option.
Now, because there are so many categories to look through, our suggestion is that you use the Google Product Taxonomy. This is basically a long list of every category Google provides which might sound overwhelming, but it actually makes life easier. All you have to do is hit CTRL + F, type a general category for the product, and all of your viable choices will be highlighted.
This is probably the most tedious stage of setting up your product feed since you’ll be going through the process for all your products, but a hyper-specific (and accurate) category will go a long way in helping Google’s algorithm to place your feed appropriately.
5. Keeping the Data Up to Date
People forget about this and it can really hurt sales. As part of managing your Google Shopping products, all of your product data needs to be routinely reviewed to make sure all the information is up to date and still relevant.
If you stop selling a product, remove the listing. If you now sell a newer version of a product, make that clear. If a product is out of stock, update your data – you might get clicks from customers who didn’t notice it was out of stock, but they won’t become a sale.
This is simply good practice because if customers click on your listing only to find out that your ecommerce store doesn’t have what was advertised, that’s a wasted click and over time this can eat away at your budget. Taking a short amount of time to keep your products updated is worth it.
6. Not Overpopulating Your Negative Keyword List
A negative keyword list is a list of phrases that you don’t want your ad to be shown for. Having this is a great way of stopping your products from listing for extremely generic searches that rarely turn into conversions.
However, having too many keywords can make your list over-restrictive which may result in you inadvertently blocking a lot of good traffic. Figuring out what your list should look like will depend on various factors but mostly on what exactly you’re selling.
So, do some research into creating a negative keyword list for Google Shopping and don’t overpopulate it to further restrict traffic.
And to give you some extra help with optimizing your Google Shopping campaigns, here are a few tips to take note of:
- If you sell your products in different countries, make sure that you have shopping campaigns set up for individual countries (every country should have an individual campaign).
- Frequently check your product URLs to catch broken links early on; if there are any broken links in your product feed then the product won’t be listed.
- Since keywords aren’t used to cater to Google’s algorithm as much as they are for SEO, there’s no need to keyword stuff – use keywords in an informative manner.
Where to Create Your Product Feed
So, now that you know some of the best practices to keep in mind when creating and optimizing your product feed, the next step is actually creating the product feed. In order to do this, there are 3 methods you can choose from:
- Your Store’s Backend. If you’re running a store using Shopify, you can install a Shopify app which makes setting up Google Shopping campaigns an effortless process.
The Google Shopping app is free and automatically syncs your store’s products with the Merchant Center, and it even does a few optimizations too. By using this app you can also monitor your campaign’s performance directly from Shopify.
- A Google Sheet. Alternatively, you can manually create a Google Sheet that has all of the necessary data about your products and sync that with your Merchant Center account. This can be messy for beginners because these sheets need to be filled with extensive detail about each product (which is very overwhelming). Here are the required columns that need to be filled for each product:
- id – a unique ID for the product
- title – the product name
- description –a short description of the product
- link – the link to the product page
- image_link – the link for the product’s image
- availability – whether the product is in stock or out of stock
- price – how much the product costs
- google_product_category – the specific category that the product falls into
- condition – is the product new, refurbished, or used?
As well as these required columns, there are several optional columns which can be used as needed. Some products may require the brand column, others may require the adult, sale_price, or expiration_date columns – use Google’s full list to put together your own sheet with the most accurate information you can.
3. Product Feed Management Software. The best way of keeping your product data up to date, especially when you’ve got a lot of products to manage, is with management software. Think about it: if you’re selling lots of different products, creating a Google Sheet with all their information and keeping that updated will require a lot of time and effort.
So, if you’ve only got a handful of products, a spreadsheet will be fine, but for bigger stores, looking into product feed management software is worthwhile.
A quick Google search will find a bunch of software options that vary in terms of features, integration, and pricing plans, but there are definitely a lot of options so you’ll have no issue finding one that meets your needs.
Will the way you create your product feed impact your shopping campaign’s results? Not particularly. It all comes down to preference – some marketers like putting together a detailed spreadsheet from scratch whereas others stick with the easier option of doing it through Shopify or management software.
Linking to Merchant Center
When you’re ready to start running a campaign you’ll need to link your Google Merchant Center account with Google Ads. The former platform is where all of your product data is collected, whether it’s from you uploading it manually or with a software solution.
Linking your accounts on these two platforms is what will make it possible to create campaigns that focus around your product line. Follow these steps to get going.
- Step #1 – Start by going to the Merchant Center and clicking Get Started to sign up for an account if you don’t already have one.
- Step #2 – During the sign-up process you must enter your store’s details (the store’s name, URL, and the country you are based in).
- Step #3 – Next, all users are required to verify ownership of the website they’ve entered. Instructions for the different ways of doing this will be shown, and you can’t proceed until the verification has been successful.
- Step #4 – After you’ve got a Google Merchant Center account set up, go to Google Ads and again sign up for an account if you don’t have one.
- Step #4 – After you’ve got a Google Merchant Center account set up, go to Google Ads and again sign up for an account if you don’t have one.
- Step #6 – Click the LINK ACCOUNT button below Your AdWords Account, confirm the account you’re linking, and you’re good to go!
Now that you’ve got these two accounts linked, you’re ready to go ahead and sync your product feed before proceeding to create a Google Shopping campaign.
Creating a Shopping Campaign in Google Ads
And finally, now that everything is in place, we can create your first Google Shopping campaign and start racking in sales for your ecommerce store.
Step #1 – Create Your New Campaign
First, go to Google Ads and click the + New Campaign button to get started.
The next page you’re taken to will prompt you to choose a campaign goal and then a campaign type – in this case, you’d select the Sales goal and the Shopping campaign type.
Next, select your Merchant Center account as the account you want products data to be taken from, as well as the country where you primarily sell products. You’ll then be able to choose how you want the campaign to be run – Smart Shopping uses automated bidding which can be more appealing for first-timers, but the Standard Shopping option gives more control.
After clicking the “Next” button, you’ll be taken to the next part of the setup where you’re going to be setting up your bidding strategy. But before you get to that, give your campaign a name and adjust the additional settings if you feel that it’s necessary.
The inventory filter enables you to run campaigns for specific groups of products or prevent certain products from being advertised through the campaign. For example, you might want to run a campaign to sell used sporting goods:
Similarly, if you want to run a local Google Shopping campaign, you can set up your campaign so that only products sold in your store are advertised.
Step #2 – Setting Up Your Bidding
Moving onto your bidding strategy, you have a few big decisions to make here. First is the bidding strategy itself – do you want to do it manually or are you going to use one of Google’s automated options?
Regardless of the strategy you pick, if you have conversion tracking set up you can use Enhanced CPC, another handy tool that Google offers.
To reiterate what we said earlier in this guide, when it comes to setting a budget Google is going to base its spending on the monthly equivalent of whatever you’ve put. So, if you put your daily budget as $100, Google may spend $150 some days and $75 other days, but at the end of the month you won’t exceed the $3000 mark.
You’re not going to bid just yet, but if you’re using the Manual CPC strategy then keep in mind that to calculate your maximum CPC:
Product Profit x Conversion Rate = Maximum Cost Per Click (CPC)
Going over whatever value you work out will cause you to lose money, so use this formula to prevent doing so.
The last thing you’ll notice here is Campaign Priority which isn’t important at the moment, but if you’re running several campaigns then this is how you can tell Google which is the most important.
Step #3 – Setting Up Targeting
Targeting is how you decide who an ad gets shown to and with a Google Shopping campaign, you have a few options at your disposal.
First is choosing which parts of the Google network you want to advertise on. For a shopping campaign, you need to select Search Network and if you want to extend your ads to appear in YouTube searches, you can opt to do that too.
Then you can move on and choose the location you want to target – where exactly is your ideal customer from? For anyone running a local campaign, get really specific about the location targeting and keep in mind that customers will only travel so far to buy from your store.
And as you can see, you have some extra targeting options including the ability to exclude locations from your targeting too. Once you’re done here, you can set start and end dates for your campaign before moving onto creating an ad group.
Step #4 – Creating an Ad Group
Setting up an ad group is fairly straightforward – you choose what type of ads you want to run, give it a name, and you choose your CPC bid for that ad group.
This is the final part of creating a Google Shopping campaign and once you’ve saved the ad group, go ahead and pause your campaign so that you’ve got time to review all of the settings before money starts being spent.
Unpausing and Making the Shopping Ads Live
After you have your product feed set up and optimized, your Merchant Center account is linked to Google Ads, and you’ve got your first Google Shopping campaign ready to go, all that’s left to do is unpause the campaign and make your ads live.
Why keep your ads paused? This is another good practice because it means as soon as you’ve finished setting up a campaign, it isn’t being launched instantly. Instead you’ll have some time to review all of your settings and product data, just to make sure that everything’s perfect before your budget starts getting funnelled into the campaign.
And only once you’re completely sure that you’ve got it perfect, unpause your campaign and let the results start coming in.
In this part of our Google Shopping campaign guide we’ve taught you two very important aspects of shopping ads – how to create your product feed and how to create your Google Shopping campaign.
Constructing a precisely detailed product feed is just as important as creating the actual campaign. Google’s algorithm uses the data you provide it with to build your feed and if you haven’t submitted accurate information, products could be shown in all the wrong places.
Once your feed is perfected, and you’ve got a Merchant Center account linked, you’re good to go and can create a campaign that’s built to succeed – all the best practices we covered so far will prepare you for this.
In the final part of our Google Shopping campaign guide we’re going to be diving into a crucial, and ongoing, process – how to optimize your shopping campaigns.