Google Shopping isn’t necessarily the first campaign type that springs to mind when considering Google Ads. Setup and management are more technical in comparison to Google Search, which may act as a barrier to some retailers, or prevent them from generating their desired ROAS.
However, it has been proven that Google Shopping conversion rates are +30% higher than text ads, making them essential to any e-commerce strategy. Ensuring they are right from the beginning is the key to successful campaigns.
So, how are shopping ads created? In this guide to Google Shopping, learn how to set up Google Shopping from scratch, from product feed creation to launching a campaign in Google Ads.
What are Google Shopping ads?
Google Shopping ads are a match made in heaven for online retailers looking to increase product visibility and generate online sales. Compared to text ads, Google Shopping ads are more visual and specifically designed for consumers who are searching for products.
They can appear in a number of places, with standard Shopping campaigns able to show in Search results, the Shopping tab, Google Images, Maps and Google Search Partner websites. Here’s an example of Google Shopping ads in Google Search results:
Google Shopping ads work by using product data from a product feed to target users who are searching for relevant terms online, rather than using keywords. This places a lot of importance on your product feed in the first instance, to ensure it is set up and optimized for success.
Standard Google Shopping vs Performance Max
It’s also possible to set up Google Shopping with a Performance Max campaign, which is a newer goal-based campaign type that’s automated. The ads themselves are the same and largely set up in the same way, powered by a product feed using a Google Merchant Center account.
The main difference is how Performance Max can show ads on all of Google’s inventory, which also includes Google Search text ads, Google Display Network, YouTube, Discovery and Gmail.
Providing a Performance Max campaign with an array of assets, such as headlines, descriptions, images, videos and other ad assets, and a product feed, will make it eligible to serve ads on all Google Ads inventory. However, it is possible to stick to the traditional shopping inventory by only providing the product feed and nothing else.
Google Shopping Requirements
There are three main requirements that advertisers must adhere to in order to successfully set up and run Google Shopping Campaigns.
- The first requirement is to set up and link together a Google Merchant Center account and Google Ads account.
- Next, you’ll need to send Google up-to-date product data a minimum of every 30 days, which includes all of the required product attributes and the data must also meet Google’s standards for data quality.
- The final Google Shopping requirement is to ensure the content used in Shopping campaigns and ads, as well as the type of business and website, comply with Google’s Shopping ads policies.
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5 steps to set up Google Shopping
How are shopping ads created and what are the steps involved in setting up Google Shopping campaigns? In this section, let’s walk through the five essential steps involved in going from zero to launching effective and most importantly, profitable, Google Shopping ads.
1. Create a Google Merchant Center account
The first step in creating Google Shopping ads is setting up a Merchant Center account and as we have already touched upon, having a Merchant Center account is a requirement. Google Merchant Center serves as the main platform where retailers can upload product data in the form of a feed.
Follow the steps involved in setting up a Merchant Center account and accurately fill in your business information, such as business name, country and timezone. It’s important to get the timezone right as this can impact when your feed fetches data.
Once the account has been created, you will need to link your website to the Merchant Center account and verify ownership of your website. This can be achieved using Google Analytics or directly in the Merchant Center by adding a tag or uploading an HTML file to the website.
You also have the option to set account-level shipping and returns in Google Merchant Center, by clicking on settings and then ‘Shipping and returns’. Use account-level shipping if shipping is the same for all products on sale and ensure it matches the shipping costs on your website. Alternatively, it’s also possible to set delivery cost and time for each product using the delivery [shipping] attribute in your feed, which we will cover later on.
2. Link the Merchant Center account to Google Ads
Google Ads is where campaigns are created and managed, whereas the Merchant Center houses all of the important data that powers Google Shopping. Therefore, step 2 in creating Google Shopping Ads is to link your Merchant Center account with your Google Ads account.
To do this, in your Google Merchant Center account click on ‘Settings’ and then ‘Linked accounts’. The Google Ads accounts you have access to will appear, so select the account and click ‘Link’.
In Google Ads, under ‘Tools and settings’ > ‘Linked accounts’, approve the link request and then the Merchant Center will now appear here and it can be managed from here.
3. Create a Product Feed
Now that the Merchant Center and Google Ads are linked, how are shopping ads created? A primary product feed will need to be created and uploaded to the Merchant Center, which is how products can be displayed on Google.
It is possible to add products to the Merchant Center manually, however, this isn’t the recommended approach. The only occasion where this may be appropriate is if the retailer is only selling a couple of products. More than 3 products and this becomes an extremely inefficient way to set up and manage products in the Merchant Center.
Google Shopping product feed requirements
The feed is made up of product attributes, some of which are compulsory in order for products to be approved for Google Shopping. The following attributes must be included for each product:
- ID [id]
- Title [title]
- Description [description]
- Link [link]
- Image link [image_link]
- Availability [availability]
- Availability date [availability_date]
- Price [price]
- GTIN [gtin] or MPN [mpn]
There are also optional attributes that you should consider including, bearing in mind the richer your product feed is with relevant and accurate data, the better chances of Google Shopping success. For example, Google product category, additional image links, sale prices, condition, size, color, etc.
A full list of available product attributes can be found in Google’s product data specification guide.
Upload your Primary Feed to Google Merchant Center
Once the primary product feed is ready it can be uploaded using a text (.txt) file, XML (.xml) file, a Google Sheet, or the Google Content API for Shopping.
In the ‘Feeds’ section of the Merchant Center, click on the plus icon and enter feed information, which includes language, target countries and the feed destination, whereby Google Shopping should be selected.
Consider using a Third-Party Feed Management Tool
The process of setting up a product feed and uploading it to Google Merchant Center can be streamlined using a third-party feed management tool.
The DataFeedWatch Google Shopping feed management system allows advertisers and retailers to automate product data feeds, not to mention optimize them for higher profits. For one client in particular, DataFeedWatch was able to produce a +379% increase in year-on-year conversions.
Whether you are new to Google Shopping or you would like to experiment with a third-party tool to optimize your existing product feed and Google Shopping campaigns, try our free 15-day trial today.
4. Optimize your Product Feed Data for Google Shopping
Once the product feed has been created, to increase the chances of success ensure the feed attributes are fully optimized for Google Shopping. There are a number of ways to optimize your product feed, however, the best Google Shopping ads strategy is to first prioritize the attributes that carry the most weight when it comes to Google Shopping.
Here are the most important attributes to get right from the start and how to optimize them for Google Shopping:
- Product titles
It’s important to show the most important product information at the start of the product title. This will help consumers quickly see key information as they browse. Treat product titles like SEO as well, so that Google can match user search queries with your products.
As an example, here are two product titles for the same knitted jumper product, with the second being optimized for Google Shopping. Notice how the second doesn’t include as many descriptive words and it’s more search query focused.
❌ Finisterre Warm & Luxurious Fisherman Jumper in Cayenne Red
✔️Finisterre Knitted Wool Jumper in Red, Mens, Size M
Discover 10 rules to optimize your Google Shopping titles to increase the chances of getting clicks on your shopping ads.
Use high-quality product images that clearly show each product and that use minimal staging. Images are what set Google Shopping apart from Search and it’s one of the main benefits to consumers, with Shopping ads being way more visual, so use this to your advantage by providing top-notch images.
In the example below, Beauty Pie uses a creative way to show the color of a lipstick product by using the image background. Visually this helps them to stand out in comparison to competitor product images and it may appeal more to consumers interested in a specific color.
Product images must also meet minimum size requirements. Check out this full guide to Google Shopping images here.
- Product descriptions
Use feed data to create descriptions that will boost your ad rank as well as provide shoppers with the information they need to make an informed decision about their purchase. Use strategic keywords to help your ads rank higher.
Use the following do’s and don’ts as a guide to writing effective and informative product descriptions:
Product titles and descriptions should be different from one another
Stuff descriptions with keywords, instead, they should be helpful for shoppers
Write long descriptions but make sure the most important information is in the first 160 to 500 words. (Up to 5k characters are allowed)
Include promotional language in your description. Use Merchant Center promotions to highlight promotions
Keep descriptions specific to each product and ensure they are accurate
Use confusing and overly complicated writing. Simplicity is key
- Product type and Google product categories
Product type and product categories provide Google with guidance on the products you are selling, helping Google to better understand what you are selling and match this to relevant search queries.
The product type [product_type] attribute in your feed should include your product categorisation, whereas the Google product category [google_product_category] attribute uses predefined categories.
For example, for a dress the product category could be the following:
Home > Women > Dresses > Maxi dresses
Optimize Your Feed with A/B Testing
Another great way to optimize your product feed is by a/b testing feed attributes, as it allows you to experiment with alternative variables, whether that’s product titles, descriptions or images, to learn what performs best.
By using a third-party feed management tool it’s possible to a/b test just about anything, not just the attributes mentioned above. Doing this is a proactive way to continually improve performance by learning what works best.
5. Build your Google Shopping Campaign in Google Ads
Last but not least, how are shopping ads created in Google Ads? Once the feed is created and it’s optimized, the final step is to build a Google Shopping campaign in Google Ads.
Create a new campaign
At campaign level, click on the ‘Plus’ icon to create a new campaign. Choose your campaign objective, which will likely be sales, followed by your conversion goal and click continue.
Standard Shopping or Performance Max
Choose either Performance Max or Shopping depending on the type of campaign you would like to set up. In both cases, you must then choose the Merchant Center account, which is already linked to the Google Ads account and it should pull in automatically.
Standard shopping campaign
Here are the steps involved in setting up a standard shopping campaign. First, work through the general settings, which include naming the campaign, deciding whether to opt in for Local products and setting any campaign URL options.
You also have the option to filter inventory based on certain attributes. For example, if your Google Shopping ads strategy is to separate certain products by campaign, such as bestsellers, product types, brands, etc., then use the relevant filter. If all products should be included, select no filter.
Choose your bidding strategy from manual CPC, maximize clicks or target ROAS and set your campaign budget. By default, the campaign’s priority will be set to low, which is recommended.
Campaign priority only needs to be tweaked if you are setting up multiple shopping campaigns and there is a need to manage certain search queries, such as branded searches. For example, for a brand shopping campaign and a generic shopping campaign, the generic campaign’s priority should be set to medium. This means this generic campaign will take priority over the brand campaign. Once branded keywords are excluded from the generic campaign, brand searches will then filter down to the brand campaign, which should have low priority.
Opt-in for Search Network if you would like to expand your shopping campaign across Google’s search partners and then set device, location and start and end dates if needed.
Finally, name your ad group and set your ad group bid if using manual CPC, and click ‘Create campaign’.
Performance Max shopping campaign
The steps involved in setting up a Performance Max shopping campaign differ slightly from that of a standard shopping campaign.
Choose from either maximize conversions or maximize conversion value bidding strategies and decide whether or not to set a Target CPA or Target ROAS. You also have the option to check a box that focuses on new customer acquisition, which could be handy depending on your acquisition strategy.
Next, define all of the campaign settings, which include:
- Target location
- Ad schedule
- Start and end dates
- URL options
You also have the option to opt into automatically created assets, which work in the same way dynamic search ads work. If you are happy with Google creating text assets and choosing final URLs that will be more likely to lead to conversions, leave these opted-in. It is possible to use this feature and also exclude non-relevant URLs from being used.
Alternatively, if you would like to retain full control over your campaign’s assets, uncheck these boxes. For Google Shopping, the assets and final URL will be pulled in automatically from the product feed as attributes and that’s how to add products to Google Shopping.
The next step in creating Google Shopping ads is to build your asset group and define your audience signals for the asset group.
To run Google Shopping ads only, ensure the ‘Automatically created assets’ boxes are unchecked and don't add any other assets, such as headlines, descriptions, images, videos, logos and extensions. Just use the product feed as the main asset group asset and that will be used to generate your shopping ads. For inspiration, check out these 10 Google Shopping ads examples for retail campaigns.
Add audience signals, which help Google target users with machine learning and automated optimization. Google will use audience signals as guidance and aim to find more people searching that look and behave in the same way.
Audience signals can be made up of the following:
- Custom segments & keyword lists
- First-party data (converters and non-converters)
- Interest-based targeting
Finally, set your budget and launch your Google Shopping campaign and ads. Performance Max campaigns don’t have product groups that can be found in standard shopping campaigns, so to see an overview of product performance in Google Ads, navigate to ‘Listing groups’.
Google Shopping is a powerful sales channel for e-commerce businesses all around the world.
Follow the five steps outlined in this article to create Google Shopping ads, seamlessly setting up and launching your shopping campaigns. Remember that it’s better to get it right from day 1 than to launch with errors that will hinder delivery and performance.
To conclude this article, here are 8 best practices taken from our ultimate guide to Google Shopping to keep in mind when setting up your product feed and Google Shopping campaign:
- Use lifestyle images where possible to help users visualize using the product
- Upload multiple images to provide more variation and changes for optimization
- Start with accurate and complete product data from the get-go
- Fix errors as soon as possible and regularly check the diagnostics section in GMC
- Include negative keywords and negative keyword lists to avoid wasted spend
- Remove unprofitable products from your product feed or campaigns
- Combine Shopping ads with a Performance Max campaign to increase visibility
- Continuously track and monitor your campaign and product performance