Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Shopping Campaigns in 2020

Google has been pushing its automated solutions more and more over the past few years. From automated bidding solutions to responsive ads, Google really wants advertisers to avoid manual work and focus on high-level.


Smart Shopping Campaigns bring all automation and machine learning technology to Google Shopping. 


In fact, Shopping campaign management has involved long and tedious work setting campaign priorities, product groups, bids and negative keywords. With Smart Shopping Campaigns this work will no longer need to be done. 


This type of campaign is pretty much self-driving and requires very little maintenance. Smart Shopping Campaigns' core features are an expanded reach across all Google networks and 'maximize conversion value' smart bidding strategy.


So it’s high time to dig into Smart Shopping as a strategy and see if they convert into revenue for your business. Here you will find a complete guide on how to get the most out of this campaign type. 





Table of Contents:


What the Google Shopping Smart Campaigns Are 

- What is the difference between smart shopping and standard shopping campaigns

- How Google Shopping Smart Campaigns Work

- Automated bidding - How Smart Shopping Campaigns Aim at Revenue

- Why Should you Care About Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

 How to Start Google Shopping Smart Campaigns 

- What to know before actually beginning

- How to set up & budget Smart Campaigns

How to Optimize Google Shopping Smart Campaigns 

Google Shopping Smart Campaigns Best Practices 

Google Shopping Smart Campaign Drawbacks 

Key Takeaways 


What the Google Shopping Smart Campaigns Are 


Smart Shopping uses machine learning to optimize campaigns in time and performance. The process through which Google chooses when and where to show your ads is 100% automated. 


There are no targets, audiences or placements to be set. The system shows the right products in the right place at the right time. It also decides about the targeted audience. Those decisions are based on the chances the ads have to convert into sales.


Smart Shopping’ is a combination of shopping google ads and display ads that spans across Google’s display network. That includes third-party websites, YouTube, and Gmail placements as well.






These display ads primarily are used as remarketing ads. The total data reported on a ‘Smart Shopping’ campaign encompasses the performance across all of these placements and ad types.


What is the difference between smart shopping and standard shopping campaigns


It’s automation and data


It’s worth knowing that Smart Shopping and standard Shopping run on two distinct codebases and are managed by two different engineering teams in separate Google offices.


But the actual differences between them are almost entirely automation and data. 


Google doesn’t provide data on audiences, search terms or placements in Smart Shopping campaigns.


Google Smart Shopping vs Google Standard Shopping

source: PPCexpo


How Google Shopping Smart Campaigns Work


Smart Shopping creates ads by utilizing feed submitted through Google Merchant Center. The process is the same as standard shopping and standard dynamic display ads.


With machine learning, Smart Shopping campaigns merge insights from Google and retailers. The goal is to maximize revenue or achieve the advertiser’s target return on ad spend (ROAS). Remarks include such indicators as search queries, seasonality, location, device, product price, cart size, product category, audience lists, and more.


The process through which Google chooses when and where to show your ads is 100% automated by an algorithm. As said above the right time, place, and product to show are based on the likelihood of the viewer to convert. 


Automated bidding - How Smart Shopping Campaigns Aim at Revenue


By default, Smart Shopping campaigns use a maximize conversion value bid strategy. It aims to drive the most revenue possible at a given budget. It also takes into account your target ROAS goal if you provide it.

And What Is Smart (Automated) Bidding?


Automated, or ‘smart’ bidding strategies use machine learning to automatically set bids based on the expectancy of a search term converting. To capture the unique context of the search, the algorithm uses a wide range of auction-time signals. It takes into consideration the device used and operating system, as well as location, time of the day, remarketing list and language.


It’s quite an attention-grabbing, interesting shift in how Google approaches automated bidding strategies. Google implies its effort to find new solutions tailored to retailers.


Online retail space becomes more and more competitive and Google definitely doesn’t want to be left behind Amazon.


Maximize value, together with the optimized target ROAS, are the only bidding strategies based on revenue instead of conversions. This is exactly what retailers aim at: conversion value.


Unfortunately, this feature is only available for Smart Shopping Campaigns and it can't be used on regular search campaigns.


Smart Shopping Campaigns allow for another bidding strategy, which targets ROAS. It still aims at conversion value but with more control over the ad spending. This strategy is more likely to be used by those advertisers who need to meet strict ROI targets.


Google’s Smart Shopping product is beta testing a new Conversion goal: New Customer Acquisition. To access new customer acquisition goal beta advertisers should contact their Google representative.

Do you wonder how the system distinguishes new users? There are three kinds of data taken into consideration and for the highest accuracy Google recommends utilize all three:

Google’s Native Data:
This will happen automatically when advertisers select the NCA target and it uses a 540-day validity period based on its own data

Self-Reported Data:
New customers may be tagged with a combination of the Global Site Tag and new customer parameters.

First-Party List
Advertisers can upload their customer list to Google Ads.

Since the bid strategy of Smart Shopping Campaigns is to maximize conversion value, it will rely on the Total Conversion Value you calculate.



Why Should you Care About Google Smart Shopping Campaigns


The main benefit unique to ‘Smart Shopping’ is that it is incredibly easy to set up and encompasses a number of ad types.

Advertisers can quickly get exposure across both the Google Shopping and Display networks.


It’s a perfect way to start advertising on Google without much struggle. Especially precious  for those who don’t have the time to set up a full-scale advertising strategy, nor have the money to pay an expert to do so.


Being able to utilize automated bidding strategies and machine learning is not unique to Smart Shopping campaigns but also considered as an obvious benefit. 


The Performance Planner has also been available for Smart Shopping campaigns since September. This allows you to see conversion value and rate. Other metric retailers should put the eye on is an estimated spend based on your goals and historical performance. The forecasts are updated daily, taking into account fluctuations over the past 7-10 days.



Go Back to the Top or download The Ultimate Google Merchant Center Handbook

How to Start Google Shopping Smart Campaigns 


What to know before actually beginning


Requirements for Smart Campaigns:


The most important ones say that you need to set up conversion tracking and add a global site tag to your website. Apart from that, the usual conditions and policies for Google Shopping must be met.


Before you can start with Google Smart Shopping Campaigns, you have to make sure you’ve met the following requirements in the last 30 days:


  • Display Network must have 50 conversions.
  • Search Network must have 100 conversions.
  • Cost Per Acquisition must not be too low (track the conversions in Google Analytics or Google Ads to determine)


Remember to also:



How to set up & budget Smart Campaigns


These campaigns are easy to set up in the Google Ads interface. Advertisers only need to set a budget, and an optional target ROAS goal.


Follow this checklist to not suffer any fatigue:


  • Create a new Campaign in Google Ads.
  • Select a goal (Sales, Leads, Website traffic et. )
  • Choose Shopping as a Campaign type
  • Select “Smart Shopping campaign” in the Campaign subtype section
  • Insert the budget value
  • Choose the Smart bidding target
  • Perform steps, such as: adding the name, uploading the product feed, choosing a country.
  • Click Save and it’s ready.



Don’t forget about the priority a Google Smart Shopping campaign has over a regular Google Shopping campaign. So if you are advertising the same products via both, Google will choose the ads from the Smart Shopping campaign to display to the potential customers. This is why we advise deactivating the regular campaign to not lose the resources.






Go Back to the Top or download The Ultimate Google Merchant Center Handbook

How to Optimize Google Shopping Smart Campaigns 


An important aspect of optimizing Smart Shopping is feed optimization. Feed health is important since Google uses this information to determine when and where your products show up in searches.




Monitor the Google Merchant Center 


Catch any feed or item issues, and make sure the feed is updated regularly.

Use tips from our 10 Most Common Google Merchant Common Errors article to keep your feed healthy and to avoid errors, warnings and notifications.


Use Feed Rules for Testing Titles


First set up products for your test and control groups using custom labels in your feed. Then in the Merchant Center, set up your title test via Feed Rules.


Then, analyze performance by comparing click share, click-through rate, impression share and total eligible impressions (impressions/impression share).


Test Smart Shopping with Custom Labels


Use the custom labels in your product feeds to segment and test products to learn which ones perform better in Smart versus standard Shopping campaigns.


It’s suggested to use custom labels to isolate higher performing or popular products with segments such as top products, most reviewed products or gateway products.




Go Back to the Top or download The Ultimate Google Merchant Center Handbook

Google Shopping Smart Campaigns Best Practices 


As with all Google innovations, the best thing you can do to find out if they suit your marketing strategy is by testing them out extensively before deciding whether to ditch or embrace them.


  1. Google suggests you start by targeting only a specific product group, so you can leave the others running in normal shopping campaigns in the meantime. This is in order to not disrupt your normal Google Ads activities and performance.

  2. Optimize for new customers. Announced in July, the new customer acquisition target allows marketers to set a separate conversion value for new customers to inform about Google's automatic bidding.

  3. Don't forget to use “sales to new and existing customers,” and “store visits" goal options in campaigns.

  4. Evaluate performance after a minimum of 15 days. If you are happy with it, you can add other product groups until you eventually add the full product catalog.

  5. If you are including your whole product catalog in a Smart Shopping Campaign, Google recommends you pause your existing regular Shopping and Dynamic Remarketing campaigns. In fact, although it is said that Smart Campaigns have priority over existing campaigns for the same products, I would still recommend you follow Google’s advice. This is in order to avoid ad over-serving and wasting budget.

  6. Forget about the old campaign priorities and product over-segmentation. Create only one Smart Shopping Campaign targeting your whole product catalog. Google will do the job for you in deciding what product to show at the right time and price.

  7. Think strategically before choosing a bidding strategy. Although it might not seem like a big deal, choosing the Target ROAS strategy vs Maximize Conversion Value can have a significant impact on your campaign performance. In fact, while the latter strategy tends to maximize your ROI within a given budget, the former sticks to the target you set.

  8. Problems come when you have a large catalog with many different products in it. With some products there might be a strong competition and therefore a high CPC, returning a lower ROI, with sales being the same. Other products might have a lower CPC or may be more expensive and therefore return a higher ROI with the same amount of sales.

  9. Therefore, if you want to use a Target ROAS strategy, you might want to segment those products in separate campaigns so you can set different ROAS values. This is in order not to miss out on products that naturally return a ROAS far from your target.

  10. Segment your products in several product groups, even within the same campaign and even when you are targeting the whole catalog. This way you can get granular reports and will be able to gauge campaign performance based on how product groups are doing.





You might find out that some products are better staying in a separate campaign with a higher/lower budget.



Go Back to the Top or download The Ultimate Google Merchant Center Handbook

Google Shopping Smart Campaign Drawbacks 


Although Smart Shopping Campaigns seem really great at a first glance, there are many targeting limitations you need to be aware of before starting:


  • Negative keywords are not available
  • Location targeting is not available. In fact, all you can do is set the country of sale, but you can't target a specific region or exclude a city.
  • Ad Schedule is not available
  • Device targeting and bid adjustments are not available
  • Audience targeting is not available. Although, as said before, you must have at least one audience list with 100 users, you can't decide which audience to use as a target. Google will choose automatically based on its machine learning algorithm
  • Reporting-wise, a few important columns are not available (yet):
  • Search Impression Share
  • Search Abs Top IS
  • Click Share
  • Search Lost (Budget)
  • Search Lost (Rank)

Go Back to the Top or download The Ultimate Google Merchant Center Handbook

Key Takeaways 

Google Smart Shopping is an advanced, highly automated way to manage Google Shopping Ads. 

Smart Shopping is definitely a great solution for:

  • those who don’t have time to run a campaign on their own
  • debutants in Google Shopping Ads world
  • small businesses
  • retailers with limited knowledge and experience in a matter of Google Shopping Ads


At the same time, users should remember that Smart Shopping means the need to sacrifice full control over the campaign and a limited possibility to monitor and analyze data.

Smart Shopping Campaigns may not be the best choice if:


  • collecting search term data is important to you
  • having terms you don’t want to advertise towards (negative keywords)
  • wanting to control what creative you advertise and who you advertise to
  • advertising to new customers
  • remarketing or trying to capture new users
  • trying to change your goals based on real-time data
  • wanting to allocate unique budgets to shopping efforts vs retargeting efforts



Go Back to the Top or download The Ultimate Google Merchant Center Handbook



The key to adding value and getting more out of your Shopping efforts starts with understanding how Smart Shopping works.


Google is giving advertisers more and more access to machine learning but that doesn’t necessarily mean better results.


What does it mean in a nutshell? Surely less time managing accounts, possibly better results (in chosen cases). At the very least it gives a chance to A/B test campaign performance and go from there.


The mysterious nature of Smart Shopping campaigns makes some advertisers hesitant to try them, however the potential lift in performance makes them worth testing.


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