There’s been a ton of buzz this last quarter around game changing Google Shopping updates. Of course, the biggest has been free Shopping ads. The importance of eCommerce was also highlighted through global events and day to day changes kept things evolving.
Google is consistently making tweaks and improvements to the Merchant Center in order to give retailers better control over their ads. When these updates take the form of additional analytics, they also provide increasingly helpful insight.
Sell on Google Shopping… for free!
Google’s major announcement in April brought a lot of excitement to the eCommerce community. Since 2012 it’s been a completely paid for service. But as now, it’s possible to have your Google Shopping ads listed for free. While only available in the US market at the moment, they plan to have this feature launched across all countries by the end of 2020.
With all that’s been happening and the need for brick and mortar shops to shut down for a while, Google’s president of commerce said that they created this change to help reduce any negative impact. This change means that your Shopping ads now have the possibility of showing organically just like how Google Search Index lists websites. As a retailer you’ll be able to get more exposure for your products and your shoppers will be able to find what they’re looking for more easily.
What should I do next?
Existing Shopping users
If you already have a Google Merchant Center account and are using Shopping, just double check that you’ve opted in to ‘Surfaces Across Google’. To do this:
- Log into Google Merchant Center
- Click on ‘Manage programs’
- Choose ‘Surfaces across Google’
You won’t need to take any additional steps after that.
New to Shopping ads
If this was the spark you needed to start selling your products on Google Shopping then there are a few steps you can take. When you register for your account, just make sure that you’ve opted into ‘Surfaces across Google’ during the process (you can go back and do this later too).
Now that you’ve set up your account, it’s time to optimize your product data feed! Because it’s now free to advertise you’ll need to find ways to stay ahead of the competition. Perfect your ads so you don’t get left behind.
Check out our post about simple Google Shopping campaign optimization tricks to get started.
How are free ads different from paid ones?
Paid and unpaid ads will look pretty similar.
New reporting metrics
Surfaces across Google was launched back in 2019. This feature makes it easier for retailers with physical shops to advertise their products locally.
It was announced in June that we’d be getting reports for data related to “surfaces across Google”. For now this is just for unpaid clicks and traffic metrics, meaning any click that leads to your website (through items you’re advertising, for example). Additional metrics are also said to be coming soon, which can only mean good things. Knowing how much traffic you’re getting from these listings is helpful, but it will also be important to see conversion data in the future.
Viewing your data
Once you sign into your Merchant Center account, just head to the ‘Overview’ page and then click on ‘Performance (unpaid) to view data from the last 30 days.
PayPal started out as a simple way to send and receive payments online and has continued to morph with the FinTech industry. Google and PayPal have had an ongoing partnership in the last years which made things like being able to link your account with Google Pay. This new partnership means that the onboarding and verification process for your Google Merchant Center account will be easier than before. When you link your Paypal account with your Merchant Center account, it lets Google know that you can be “trusted” and it's really you behind the screen.
Product attribute changes
Another aspect that Google consistently updates is the product data specifications. In other words, the requirements for the attributes you use with your product data feed are changed to create a better shopping experience for users.
Introducing the product_detail attribute
Like the product_highlight attribute, product_detail is also optional and lets you create a bullet point list. But this one is for technical aspects of your products rather than general information.
Sale price annotations
The requirements for showing a sale price have been relaxed. Now the sale price must have been shown on your landing page for at least 30 days (not consecutive) within the last 200 days to be accepted.
Planned changes ahead
These changes have been announced by Google, but will be implemented September 1st, 2020. So you have some time to update your feed if needed.
Introducing the product_highlight attribute
This optional attribute allows you to make a bullet point list of the main features, or highlights, of your products.
While the description attribute is required for all products, they will still be eligible to display even if it's missing. However, you'll still want to make sure this isn't the case because products with a missing description field will be given less of a priority.
Material, pattern, and image link
If a product has more than one separate value submitted for the material, pattern and/or image attributes, they'll now receive a warning. It's still possible to list more than one, but they need to be separated by hyphens or slashes rather than with full spaces and commas. In case you'd like to showcase more than one image, you can use the additional_image_link attribute instead.
Keeping an eye on Google's testing
Every once and awhile, a careful eye will catch sight of a change in how Google Search results appear. This quarter, there have been some reports around the internet of these new features that Google is testing.
Google Search test features
While not widely available, some users are seeing suggestions for alternate search terms based on their search history. In most cases it used recent activity to show what they might also be interested in. The format of the text looks similar to the blue “Did you mean…?” text that appears when you make a typo in your search. While the suggested terms you see when typing into the suggestion box are based on popular searches, this one is tailored to your recent activity.
Source: Search Engine Land
A full roll out of this interest-based feature could prove useful for retailers. Shoppers could be led to your products through past search data and discover your products this way.
Shopping Ad test
SEMRush took notice of something else that also caught our attention. In a tweet they posted a screenshot of a Shopping Ads carousel that seemed to be testing out a new format.
We found a slightly similar example, but this time the text at the bottom was indicated as being an ad more clearly.
Whether they formally introduce these changes or not, it’s clear Google is constantly tweaking, testing and trying out new functionalities across their platform. It’s this kind of innovation that keeps us on our toes and looking out for what’s next.
The first quarter of 2020 has come to a close. It’s the perfect time to look back on some of the updates made to Google Shopping and how they affect retailers. In the last few months, Google has made updates to better analyze data, help productivity and improve ads.
Let’s explore these updates in detail and see how you can take advantage of them from here on out.
Google Shopping Ads on Gmail
Sunset of Accelerated Delivery
Add Individual Products Manually to Merchant Center
New Market Insight Features
New Mobile Features
Google Shopping ads on Gmail
A big update for campaigns is that Google Shopping Ads have become available to appear on Gmail. This means your Product Shopping and Showcase Shopping ads can both be displayed. If you’re already opted into the “YouTube, Gmail and Discover” option then your ads will automatically be set up to run.
Sign into your Google Ads account and check if you have this option selected by:
- Clicking on the ‘Campaigns’ tab
- Choose the standard shopping campaign you’d like to check
- Under the section ‘Networks’ look for the ‘YouTube, Gmail and Discover’ option
Since over a billion people use Gmail, it makes it a valuable place for you to show your ads.
Just like before, the ads will show under the Social and Promotional mail folders. If someone is checking the Promotional tab in their email, they’re most likely already open to finding a good deal. Your shopping ads appearing on Gmail will be reported under the Google Display Network. In the words of Google, it’s “designed to help you find the right audience” and lets you “strategically show your message to potential customers at the right place and the right time”.
Since many people check their email from their mobile devices, you may want to consider adding deep links. This will give your audience a better overall experience because your ads will be formatted to whatever device your potential customer is using.
Sunset of Accelerated Delivery
By choosing the ‘accelerated delivery’ option, merchants were able to spend the entirety of their daily ad budget as soon as possible. Usually this resulted in the budget being spent by the morning, meaning that possible impressions and sales were missed out on later in the day. This option is being phased out because Google believes there are more efficient ways for advertisers to pace their budget.
Existing campaigns with ‘Accelerated Delivery’ will continue operating until May 2020, after that it will result in an error. Google suggests going into your settings now to update it. From this time, it won’t be possible to choose the ‘Accelerated Delivery’ option for new campaigns.
If you’re someone who’s disappointed by having to say goodbye to this feature then there are probably other solutions to the outcome you’d like to see. For example, if your primary objective was to spend your budget in the early hours of the day, then you can use the ad scheduling feature to adjust your bid amount for certain times.
Standard delivery is set up to factor in expected ad performance throughout the day along with making the most out of your daily budget.
Add individual products manually to Merchant Center
If you were looking for an easy way to add individual products directly to the Merchant Center, then you’re in luck! Google added this feature in February and you can find it by:
- Going to the navigation menu
- Selecting ‘Products’ -> ‘All products’
- Clicking on the + button to add a new product
- Or click the pencil icon to edit an existing product
One potential drawback is that the products you upload individually won’t be affected by feed rules, so you’ll have to adjust them individually as well. It’s also worth mentioning that if your inventory is on the smaller side then this can be a handy tool for you. However it most likely will not be a practical solution if you have a range of hundreds to thousands of products.
You'll have the choice between basic and advanced options for most of the sections:
- Country of sale and placements
- Product Identifiers
- Product data
- Price and Availability
- Detailed Product Description
- Shipping and Tax
- Product campaigns and other configurations
- Product category
New Market Insight features
Market Insights is a resource provided by Google that gives you exclusive access to retail data. You can use this data to make informed decisions about your marketing strategy. In order to start using these features, you'll have to enable Market Insights on your account. Have an account administrator opt in by going to the section Growth -> Manage programs -> Market Insights. Once it's set up, these reports will be shown under Growth.
Price competitiveness report
As a retailer, it's important to know how your prices compare to other sellers in the same sector as you. This report does exactly that. Sort data by category, brand or product type and then track how you compare in the scope of your market over a specified time.
This data can be really valuable to you when you're deciding where to price your products and even on how much you should be bidding on your ads. It can also be helpful to check if you should be updating these areas, or when the best time to advertise a promotion is.
Best Sellers report
Have you ever wondered about which brands and products were most popular and what you should be adding to your inventory? If you use Shopping Ads or Shopping Actions then this report will inform you about exactly that. You'll be able to sort products by category and country to know which direction you should be heading. You'll also be able to see which products you already carry could potentially benefit from increasing the bid or budget.
Every week the best sellers report data is refreshed so you can stay up to date on the trends. Check information related to categories like:
- Popularity rank
- Popularity change in the last 7 days
- Sample title of the item
- Which Google product category applies
- Most popular GTINs
- Price range
- Product/Brand inventory status
Making the Data Work for You
This information can be really beneficial when it comes to optimizing your product data feed. You can use the list of your best sellers, or items with a best seller potential, to advance the bidding strategy across your shopping campaigns and put more emphasis on the items that give you the biggest bang for the buck.
First, you need to create a list of your bestsellers (consider using ID or SKU) in a Google spreadsheet or a csv./txt. file.
Then you can head on over to DataFeedWatch and create a custom label in the 'Optional Field' section under the 'Mapping' tab.
Here you will connect the list of bestsellers. It should look like this:
Products matching an item from your spreadsheet will be labeled with “Best Seller” in your product feed.
Now you can use your isolated 'Best Seller' products to increase your ROI. Either create their own separate campaign or break down your existing campaign structure. Adjust your bidding for the best sellers accordingly.
Learn more about improving your campaign performance with custom labels.
New mobile updates
Google created a Google Ads mobile app to fit into retailers’ on-the-go lifestyle. They're constantly tweaking and improving the app based on feedback. There are two major updates they've introduced for quarter one.
The first is a change to the interface and user experience. Love it or hate it, dark mode for mobile devices is becoming more and more popular. To the delight of dark mode enthusiasts, you now have the choice to give your eyes a rest while checking in on your Google Ads. This feature will automatically turn on if you already have your phone set to the ‘dark mode’ theme.
Prioritize top recommendations faster
The second update is an improvement to an existing feature. By using ‘optimization score’, you can get an estimate of expected Google Ads account performance. It’s now possible to view your optimization scores for your account and campaign-level ads on the account overview screen. It makes it easier for you to check campaigns that have recommendations with the 'highest potential impact' since they'll be listed first.
It’s also possible to get a notification when your optimization score changes. Stay aware of any necessary changes to make in real time. You can opt in to getting these notifications in the app by going to the 'Settings' page.
Now that you’re all caught up on the Google Shopping updates for quarter 1 you can log into your Merchant center and try some new features out. Or why not download the mobile version (if you haven’t already) and see if it suits you?
It’s clear that Google has merchants and advertisers in mind when they’re innovating and fine tuning their features.