The online shopping space is noisier than ever and you would definitely be wondering how you can make your ads stand out so people visit your website instead of your competitor’s one.
The answer is: play your cards right with Google Merchant Promotions.
But unfortunately, in real life, we all know this is not possible for many reasons. What it is possible though, is having lower prices only on specific products at certain times and certain conditions. This is called Promotions.
Google Shopping offers a solution for you to show your promotions within your Product Listing Ads, so they will really stand out from competitors'.
Table of Contents:
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What Google Merchant Promotions Are
Google Merchant Promotions enhance shopping ads by showing special offers such as:
- euros off;
- percentage off;
- free shipping;
- free merchandise with purchase;
Merchant Promotions are labelled in shopping ads with an annotation which triggers a pop-up with additional details and a “Shop” button. They proved to significantly increase CTR and ultimately Conversion Rate, Revenue and ROI.
Office Depot, one of largest suppliers of office products and stationery in the world, stated in a Google case study that thanks to Merchant Promotions it managed to increase CTR by 8.1% in the UK and 9.8% in Germany as well as Conversion Rate by 18.1% in the UK and ROI by 9.3% in Germany.
Those outstanding results don't come as a surprise. In fact, it goes without saying that online shoppers love discounts. It is how you communicate your offer and how many users you are able to reach that makes all the difference.
Google Merchant Promotions allow you to show your discount to a massive audience at no additional cost, securing the best ad placement you would ever think of: the very top of the Google Search Result Page.
The Fall of 2020 brought users the possibility to see if the price of the product is "high, low, or normal compared to other prices on the internet and nearby stores. Price statistics are displayed on the product purchase pages when the user clicks the listing in the purchases tab. If they want to try to wait for a better price, they can turn on "price tracking" to receive alerts by email or in the Google app.
They enable comparing prices and shipping options for both online and local retailers, including curbside and in-store pickup.
In fact, unlike regular search ads, Shopping Ads always appear at the top of the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) and are one of the most prominent elements on the page. The way they appear on Google often changes.
Promotions can also appear on both free and paid listings on the Shopping tab (opt-into surfaces across Google in Merchant Center to enable free listings), Mobile Image Search, and Local Inventory Search Ads.
Benefits from Google Merchant Promotions
Google Merchant Promotions are the best way, after the products' price, to make your shopping ads stand out from competitors'. Imagine the following scenario:
You really don't want to be Huntoffice.ie. In fact, they are selling the same iPhone X as their competitors, just for a few hundred euro more.
How many chances would they have to get a click through? If I was looking for an iPhone X 256gb, I would definitely click on the cheapest of the results, the first one. But let's assume you actually are the Huntoffice.ie's PPC manager.
Well, you better think of a creative way to sort things out if you don't want to be laid off. Placing a "Special Offer" label in Shopping Ads would definitely help our unlucky PPC professional.
People would get curious about what this offer can mean for their wallet and would click on it.
They might find out that, using the promo code shown in the promotion pop-up, they would actually save money compared to the first advertiser. Huntoffice.ie would get a click through, a conversion and a nice return on the advertising investment.
Now, the good thing about Google Merchant Promotions is that they can be applied at the product level. So you can use them to fight your toughest competitors in expensive auctions, while maybe keeping a high price on products you are already dominating the market for.
This way you can save the margin where you know you can afford it.
- Increase conversions: Give shoppers a reason to buy now.
- Capture multi-screen traffic: Google shows “special offer” links on desktop and mobile devices.
Google Merchant Promotions Drawbacks
Although the aforementioned PPC Manager might think he has just saved himself from a shameful situation, he actually needs to think again.
In fact, his company, Huntoffice.ie, is advertising in Ireland and Google Merchant Promotions are not available there.
1. Geographic availability
Unfortunately, they are just available in a few countries: Australia, Germany, France, the UK, India and the US.
2. Not very intuitive editorial requirements
Also, Merchant Promotions can be quite tricky to set up in terms of policies and editorial requirements. For example, you can't advertise an "up to x%" promotion, as well as "get double loyalty points".
The promotion must be redeemable at the checkout and can't be already included in the product price on the landing page.
Promotion title must be very clear and precise and if it mentions specific products (eg. 15% of Diesel Blu Jeans), then only those products need to be available for the discount on your website.
3. Long approval process
Furthermore, the review process of a new promotion might take a while, up to 3 days.
Therefore, you really want to make sure you are doing that right, otherwise, too many back-and-froths with the Google tech support might significantly delay your promotions to go live.
Since October 2020 Google approves promotions much faster and advertisers are able to edit them once they were posted. In the past, slow promotion reviews often meant short-lived sales. That should be less likely to happen starting form 2020 holiday season. Editing allows advertisers to counter check the time and duration of the promotion.
It is always a good practice to start working on a new Merchant Promotion way in advance to your planned promotion start date. Before starting with Google Merchant Promotions you really want to check the full Program Policies and Editorial Requirements.
Getting Started With Google Merchant Promotions
Provided you advertise on Google Shopping in one of the countries mentioned above, the first thing you need to do to start using Merchant Promotions is filling an interest form.
Usually, the Google team reviews the applications quite quickly and you can expect an answer in a few hours. You will get an email communicating the good news and including a few helpful resources.
After that, you will find the Promotion tab in your Merchant Center account's sidebar.
The next step is to decide how many promotions you want to set up. In fact, you can have up to 500 promotions running at the same time.
They might be on different subsets of products or simply working with different mechanics.
If you think you are going to create only one promotion at a time, you can use the built-in Promotion Tool in Merchant Center.
Create a Merchant Promotion using the Promotion Tool in Google Merchant Center
You can do it in two steps:
1. Simply click on the + button in the Promotion section.
2. Start creating your first promotion.
- Be very careful when you complete the fields above. In fact, once a promotion goes live, you won't be able to edit it anymore. The only way to do that would be to create a new promotion, which would need to be reviewed again and therefore it would take at least other 24 hours.
- Set the effective start date as early as possible, even the same day you are creating the promotion. Google will start to review your promotion only from that date. Therefore, you want to make sure everything is set and approved before the actual promotion start date.
- If you mention specific products in the promotion title, make sure you select "specific products" in the product availability field. Instead, if your promotion title is something like "15% off all products", then you have to select "all products". Failing in doing so will result in the promotion to be disapproved.
If you have selected "All Products", all you need to do then is clicking on "Create" and wait for the review. Your promotion's status will look like this:
As you can see from the image above, Google will perform two reviews:
The Policy review - is performed quite quickly, usually within the same business day of the promotion creation. It checks that all the policies and editorial requirements are met at the promotion level.
The SKU review - only starts on the promotion effective start date that you had set in the promotion creation process.
That is why I mentioned earlier that is best practice to set that date as early as possible.
The SKU review checks that the promotion is actually live on the website and performs the exact way you mentioned in the merchant promotion's title.
Now, if you chose the "Specific Products" options, there is an additional step you have to follow. You have to add a promotion_id column to your main product feed and populating it with the value 'SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS' only for products included in the promotion.
This is where the process goes a bit tricky. Depending on how many and what products you want to include in the promotion, you will likely need a third-party feed management tool in order to map the promotion_id attribute.
Through DataFeedWatch you can set complex feed rules and map the promotion_id attribute in a few clicks, without having to re-generate the whole feed.
Merchant Promotions using a Promotion Feed
With the promotion tool you are able to run only one promotion at a time. But what if you want to run multiple promotions at the same time? The way to do that is by uploading a Promotions Feed. Check this feed template.
With Promotions Feeds you have the ability to create and run multiple promotions at the same time as well as to set the promotion_effective_dates to be different from the promotion_display_dates.
This is essential from a review point of view. You can set the promotion effective_start_date to be as early as possible so you make sure the promotion gets reviewed, but then set the display_date just a few days later when you actually want to start showing the offer in your listings.
All the other fields are basically the same as the ones you find in the promotion tool. Make sure you use the SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS or ALL_PRODUCTS values in the product_applicability attribute depending on whether you want to apply the promotion to all products or just a subset. Next step is to map the main product feed with the right promotion_id.
You will need to add the promotion_id column to your product feed and populate it with the respective promotion ids to eligible products. Note that you can map multiple promotions to a single item by separating each promotion_id in the cell with a comma.
A product might be included in more than one promotion. See a Mapped Product Feed Sample.
Again, you would likely need the help of a third-party feed management tool to map your product feed with promotion ids.
How to create Merchant Promotions using DataFeedWatch
The option to add a Google Promotions feed in DataFeedWatch is activated after a Google Shopping channel is added.
Promotion_id – the unique ID of the promotion. It should not contain any spaces or symbols.If you want to limit the promotion to a specific group of products you need to provide the same promotion id for those products in your standard Google Shopping feed.E.g. if you create a promotion with promotion_id = ASICS_PROMO, which should apply only to Asics products, then in your Google Shopping feed you would map promotion_id field something like this:
Product_applicability - specifies whether the promotion is applicable to all products or only specific products.
Offer_type - this attribute indicates whether or not a coupon code is required for users to redeem the offer.
Long_title - this is the full title of the promotion. It should describe the promotion completely and accurately. Maximum length is 60 characters.
Promotion-effective_dates - the date and time frame when the promotion is active.
Redemption_channel - Indicates that promotion is valid online.
Once feeds are ready, you can upload your Promotions Feed by clicking the '+' button in the 'Feeds' tab under the Promotions section in Merchant Center.
As for regular product feeds, promotions feeds can be uploaded via Google Sheets, scheduled fetches or a single spreadsheet upload.
Just follow the instructions and you are good to go.
Google Merchant Promotions Are Not Available In Your Country: Is There An Alternative?
If Merchant Promotions are not available in your country there is still a card you might want to play: Sale Price Annotations.
Through the sale_price_effective_date attribute, you can tell Google when the sale starts and ends.
If you don't submit it, the sale price is intended as always-on. When Google finds a sale active, it will show a price drop label in Shopping Ads.
Unfortunately, even if you submit both attributes in the correct way, it might still be the case where Google doesn't show the price drop.
In fact, in order for your ads to show sale price annotations, you need to meet certain requirements:
- The base price must have been charged for a period of at least 30 consecutive days in the past 180 days.
- The base price must be valid.
- The sale price must be lower than the base price.
- The discount of the sale must be greater than 5% and less than 90%.
It's not really easy to meet all these criteria, especially the first one. In the fast-moving e-commerce industry even basic prices change all the time. If you want to use this Google feature you need to plan your pricing strategy in advance.
You can use DataFeedWatch to help you properly map the sale_price and sale_price_effective_date attributes.
Now, the main difference between sale price annotations and merchant promotions is that the former shows a discount that is already included in the product's price on the landing page and is available to all customers, while the latter shows a promo code which will trigger an additional discount at the checkout, only available to who enters the promo code.
It is essential to fully understand this difference as, in fact, you might want to use both strategies, but you need to be careful not to overlap them.
You may also find interesting: How to Advertise Promotions with Automated Search Ads
Google Merchant Promotions: Best Practices
We have already mentioned some best practices but let's recap them and add some new:
- Start working on a new merchant promotion at least 5 days before the actual start of the promotion on the website. This is to allow for the time to fix potential disapprovals.
- When you submit a promotion feed always set the effective start date to be earlier than the display start date.
- Make promotion id and title clear, concise and easy to be recognized. This is to help you organize your promotions when you have more than one running at the same time and to make sure the system approves your promotions
- Read the Program Policies and Editorial Requirements in full before starting. It is easy to overlook small details that could be the cause of your promotion disapproval
- Optimize for new customers and don't forget to target to “sales to new and existing customers,” and “store visits.”
- Make sure your promo codes work as expected only on products mentioned in the promotion
- Make sure your promotion is redeemable at the checkout and is not included in the product's price on product pages
- Set a product group on Google Search Ads for products eligible for the promotion. This way, you gain full control over your promotion (you can start and stop showing those products whenever you want without stopping the promotion on Merchant Center) and you can get a detailed report on its performance.
- Keep track of clicks on your promotions segmenting your shopping campaigns by click type. The "Shopping - Product - Coupon" click type reports impressions from the “Special offer” link and reports clicks to the “Shop” button in the promotion bubble.
9. Test, test and test. There's no magic formula to success on AdWords. Always perform trial and error before jumping to conclusions.
Common Issues With Google Merchant Promotions
Merchant Promotions can be tricky to set up because of many policies and requirements to be strictly met. These are some of the main issues you might encounter and how to solve them, taken from the FAQs in the Merchant Center help centre.
1. Google Merchant Promotion rejected
If your promotion was rejected after the validation review some it could be because:
- it doesn't respect the policies and requirements
- the price on the landing page is not the one advertised in the promotion
- on the landing page you should display both base price and discounted price
2. Google Merchant Promotion approved, but not displaying
If you find yourself in this situation then check if:
- the submitted start date time
- if all feed items are processed correctly
- if the promotion_id is mapped according to Google's requests
3. The Google Shopping promotion failed the validation review and I've made all the requested changes. How to request a review?
In your promotions dashboard you can request the retest in the SKU status column by . clicking the speech bubble icon.
Good luck and start increasing your sales with Google Merchant Promotions!