'Purchases on Google' Shopping ads test is running on iOS devices

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Google appears to be testing Purchases on Google ads on iOS devices.

Purchases on Google ads enable consumers to buy products shown in Google Shopping ads right from Google-hosted landing pages when users have payments set up through their Google accounts. The product launched in pilot on Android devices in 2015 and opened up in beta to US advertisers this spring.

Below are a couple of examples of the Purchases on Google ads we spotted this morning on iOS. Each is slugged with “Easy checkout.”

It’s not clear how long these ads have been available on iOS. With the initial pilot launch in 2015, Google said Purchases on Google would come to iOS in the “coming months,” but it appears to have taken much longer than that, perhaps closer to the beta opening up. We’ve asked Google for comment and will update here if and when we get a response. Update: We received confirmation that these ads have been available on iOS for several months. They’ve clearly been flying under the radar, though.

The “Easy checkout” messaging and icon is a change from the previous iteration that showed a blue “Buy on Google” at the top of the ad. We’ll certainly continue to see messaging tests here.

The impression volume for these ads continues to be quite limited on all devices. Additionally, with the advent of so many variations of Shopping ad formats now available — Showcase ads and ads in knowledge panels, for example — it’s not easy to find Purchases on Google ads.

The product is can be seen as part of Google’s broader mission to improve mobile web experiences and conversion rates, including a current test to send mobile search ads to AMP-enabled landing pages.

Quick view

The “Quick view” links at the bottom of the ads shown above is part of a mobile shopping update that Google announced ahead of Black Friday this year. Clicking “Quick view” on any of the product ads brings up a preview showing a bigger image, product description, reviews and seller ratings. Here’s an example from Google showing how it works:

Google introduced “Quick view” previews in Google Shopping ads in November.

The “Quick view” links also seem to be fairly limited and are not showing with most product listing ad results we’re seeing.

Is holiday paid search more competitive in 2017 than 2016?

The busy 2017 holiday shopping season is now in full swing, and we’ve already witnessed impressive Y/Y sales growth on key shopping days.

As advertisers dig into their own performance, many are taking stock of the competition to get a sense for what other brands are doing. This was a key topic for a #ppcchat Twitter conversation immediately following Cyber Weekend, in which host Kirk Williams posed the following question to chat-goers.

As you can see, most brands felt they saw more competition this year than last year, though 39 percent felt it was about the same. Zero respondents felt that there was less competition this year than last.

Taking a look at Auction Insights reports from Google for a sample of large Merkle retail advertisers, we can get a sense for how many brands were bidding on paid search keywords this year compared to last. As always, the metrics found in these reports and the stories they tell will differ significantly from advertiser to advertiser, but the following gives some quantification of what the paid search competitive landscape looks like this year compared to last.

It also illuminates at least one important 2017 change that advertisers should take into account when comparing these metrics Y/Y.

More shopping competitors than last year

Taking a look at the period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday Y/Y, we find that the average number of Google Shopping competitors included in Google Auction Insights increased pretty significantly for each day. The largest increase came on Black Friday, with a 42 percent increase in average numbers of competitors featured.

That’s a lot of additional competitors gobbling up impressions this year compared to last year!

However, one issue that might have increased the number of competitors without any actual change in the number of competitors is Google’s mid-May 2017 update to impression share calculation. With this change, Google increased “the universe of total impressions” it looks at for impression share.

Per Google’s communications, brands might have seen their own impression share decline in May with the increase in total impression volume taken into account in impression share calculations. However, Merkle brands actually saw a modest increase in Shopping impression share beginning in May relative to early 2017 and have continued to see higher impression share.

Taking a look at the number of competitors included in Google Shopping Auction Insights by month since last November, we find that the number increased steadily from November 2016 to April 2017. In May, the number of competitors jumped significantly, and this figure has held roughly steady since late summer.

Thus, it seems like Google’s impression share calculation change might be the culprit of much of the increase we’re seeing in Cyber Weekend competition this year compared to last. It’s possible that the jump in competitors is unrelated to Google’s change and actually does represent an influx of competition in May, but the timing makes me think the two are related.

Looking at competitors by device, phones and tablets saw the biggest jump in the number of competitors Y/Y for most days. Desktop saw its biggest jump on Black Friday and its smallest jump on Cyber Monday.

Number of text ad competitors slightly down

On the text ad side, we actually find that the number of competitors included in Auction Insights declined slightly Y/Y for each day from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

Broken down by device, we find that phones saw the largest declines Y/Y in the number of competitors.

Conclusion

So what does all this mean?

There are definitely more competitors in Shopping Auction Insights this year compared to last. However, we observed a jump in May at a time when Google changed how it measures impression share. Thus, at least some of the increased competition might be the result of reporting changes.

Text ad auction insights show no signs of increased competition over Cyber Weekend this year compared to last on average for the sample studied, and in fact indicate slight declines in the number of brands competing.

Answering the question posed by the title of this post, I think it’s fair to say that Google Shopping is seeing more competition this year than last year, especially since we know at least one massive brand is now involved that wasn’t at this time last year. However, there’s reason to believe that competition might not have heated up quite as much as Auction Insights indicates.

On the text ad side, the decline in the total number of competitors isn’t massive but does seem to be consistent enough to represent a real change from last year to this year. Was the change a real decline in the number of competitors or a shift in something on Google’s end? That’s tough to answer, but the indicators at least point to a conclusion that there was not significantly more competition in text ads this year compared to last over Cyber Weekend.

As mentioned earlier, the competition observed in Auction Insights varies significantly by advertiser, and, as this post shows, also by device and ad format. What is your brand seeing this year?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Google Manufacturer Center for product data expands scope, launches API

With the growing importance of Google Shopping campaigns in paid search results for brands and manufacturers, getting product data correct and consistent has become an increasingly urgent task. It’s been a somewhat sleepy product, but this week, Google announced new features and an expansion of Manufacturer Center.

Launched in 2015, Google Manufacturer Center was designed to be a central repository for the product data that powers Google Shopping campaigns. Now, Google is using that data in knowledge panels in the US, including product features, images and descriptions. Earlier this month, Google began showing much more content in knowledge panels on mobile, including product features as shown in the example below.

Google Manufacturer Center is now available in more countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

With the launch of a new Manufacturer Center API, brands and third-party data partners can add, update and delete products without having to rely on manual feed uploads.

In addition to streamlining product data quality management, Manufacturer Center offers analytics about how individual products perform on Google within their broader categories. The analytics show overall impressions for the category, the product’s share of category impressions, total clicks and how the click-through rate compares to the category benchmark click-through rate on a week-by-week basis over a four-week period.

Merkle: Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales from Google paid search up by double digits YoY

By most accounts, this year’s Black Friday to Cyber Monday stretch was another record-setter for e-commerce sales. The search team at Merkle shared with us some early top-line stats on how a sample of the agency’s retail accounts fared over the weekend.

The sample includes Google AdWords data from 50 of the top 500 retailers in the US, along with some smaller retailers.

Sales from Google paid search campaigns rose year over year by double digits on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

Black Friday sales from paid search were up 21 percent year over year.Cyber Monday Google paid search sales rose 16 percent year over year.

Shopping campaigns (product listing ads) continue to play an increasing role in driving sales from search. Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, sales from Google Shopping campaigns rose 54 percent above last year, far outpacing text ads, says Merkle.

During that same stretch, phone sales also rose by 28 percent over last year, accounting for 26 percent of all Google paid search sales. Mark Ballard, Merkle VP of research, said that share of phone sales “was in line with expectations, which were to see some share gains compared to earlier in the quarter and earlier this year.”

7 Google tips to supercharge your Shopping ads

Shopping ads are great, and they continue to improve. If you’re looking to get more out of your Shopping campaigns, there are some straightforward actions you can take. Some of these have been true since Shopping campaigns were introduced back in 2013, while others are relatively new.

Regardless of where you are on your Shopping campaign journey, here are the top seven things I’d recommend to take your campaigns to the next level.

1. Establish clear lines of communication with other teams

A Shopping ad assembles a bunch of data to deliver an ad to a user. For larger retailers, it often takes teamwork to ensure that you’re providing Google with the ideal set of data for the best possible ad.

As a search engine marketer, you and your team may be primarily concerned with your Shopping campaigns within AdWords. In addition to that, you may have some control over your Merchant Center account. However, you may have to work with different teams for things like data feeds, your product catalog and pricing on your items. For example, an AdWords practitioner may rely on a feed team to avoid breakages (like unavailable products) and find the best opportunities (like niche products you might not be promoting yet).

Talk to one another. The importance of teamwork can’t be overstated. You all have the same goals, so ensure you’re on the same page with your teammates. Also note that Google recently announced some changes that give marketers more controls to modify and improve their product data directly in Merchant Center.

2. Let your product data do the talking (and shed your search ad mentality)

Like many, I’ve been doing search ads for years. Shopping ads are a much more recent addition to the online marketing landscape. As a result, a bunch of people apply a traditional paid search mentality to their Shopping campaigns. While that can be a good thing, there are some pitfalls to avoid.

The biggest difference is that you have product data instead of a keyword list. Your site (and your products) connect with user queries like they always did, but the mechanism for that connection is different. Focus on your product data. A focus on product data accounts for different situations — situations where keywords won’t always match the intent. A user’s motivation for searching could be anything from research to getting ready to buy at that moment.

I recognize that people love having control over their accounts (it’s one of those things all search marketers have learned over the years), but that mindset can actually lead you to creating a lot more work for yourself. Overly intricate Shopping campaigns that attempt to replicate a product-level, keyword-like structure are a bad idea. They are a pain to maintain, and they don’t even improve performance (check out slide 6 here for a non-Googler’s POV). I’ve even seen cases where they make things worse. I’d suggest simpler structures like grouping by popular brands, categories or profit margins.

You should use things like campaign priorities to direct traffic, but trying to force Shopping ads into a text ad mentality can do more harm than good.

3. Submit your entire inventory

Submit your entire inventory to Merchant Center. More products means more chances to get in front of customers.

I’ve also heard of advertisers not submitting certain products believing that they will never be profitable. If you’ve ever worried about that yourself, give Target ROAS a shot. With the right target in place, you’ll have a chance to sell that product while still keeping a sharp eye on profitability.

Here’s an important caveat, though: If you’re in a sensitive category — think health care or pharmaceuticals — be careful about what you submit. Those rules can be stricter.

Additionally, the days of frequent account-level suspensions are behind us. Product-level disapprovals are now the preferred approach, so if you make some sort of error, the penalty won’t be nearly as painful as it might have been in the past. Our goal is to deliver the best possible results (including ads) for users, advertisers and Google. The more stuff you give us to work with, the better user experience we can deliver.

4. Use Smart Bidding to set bids at the query level

You can still optimize product-by-product (query-by-query, really) with your Shopping ads. Both enhanced cost-per-click (ECPC) and Target ROAS set bids based on the specific context of each and every query; depending on that context, the same query can have wildly different values. Smart Bidding is the best way to get query-level bidding. It’s the only way to set bids specific to each query, actually.

With ECPC, you set your own bids for the product group, then those bids are tweaked either up or down for each auction to maximize the total conversions you can receive at that bid. Target ROAS does more of the heavy lifting. All you have to do is provide a target return for it to optimize toward, and it will bid toward queries with high purchase intent.

5. Build your brand with Showcase Shopping ads

As you go about finding the ideal pictures to include in your product data, you should also think about presenting a more complete picture of your brand on Shopping. Showcase Shopping ads are more likely to show when people search for general items — think “lighting” instead of “hand blown glass 3-light lantern.”

Showcase Shopping ads are a great way to show off a selection of products that you offer. They’re also a great way to reach people earlier in their purchase journey.

Showcase Shopping ad

Showcase Shopping expanded ad

Showcase Shopping ads are available via the API or the new AdWords experience.

6. Move beyond last-click attribution

Shopping ads can take advantage of data-driven attribution in AdWords. If you’re still waiting to take the non-last-click attribution plunge in AdWords, do it now. Across both your search and Shopping ads, you can see which clicks make a real difference on the way to conversions.

And if you don’t have enough traffic for data-driven attribution, we recommend choosing a rules-based model that values all touch points.

7. Connect your ads to physical stores

Local inventory ads bring the stuff that’s in your store online. And they drive foot traffic to your stores with local information. At Google, we studied this last year and found that consumers who clicked on a retailer’s Google Search ad before visiting the store are over 25 percent more likely to buy something in-store, and they spend 10 percent more on average (Source: Google data, Oct-Nov 2016).

I started off by talking about Shopping ads being a team sport. To that end, don’t neglect your in-store team members. To a consumer, your ads and your store locations are one and the same. Even if you report to different bosses, you and your in-store compatriots should have the same goals.

Conclusion

Shopping ads deliver great results for users and advertisers. Hopefully, you’ve been able to pick up a new tactic or two from this article that you can use to see even better performance from your Shopping campaigns.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Google updates mobile product knowledge panels to show even more info in one spot

Google is updating the look of of its product-oriented knowledge panels on mobile to show even more details about specific products in the search results.

In an example spotted by Vlad Rappoport, shown below, the shopping knowledge panel has a blue header and a new carousel featuring third-party editorial reviews and separate tabs for stores in addition to reviews along with several other features, like videos, to provide a one-stop resource for product information. 

In the example above, there is one Shopping ad in the “Shop on Google” section. In other cases, the knowledge panel will feature a carousel of Shopping ads.  The example below also features several product images in a carousel, as well as an additional “Details” tab.

Google pulls in user reviews from various sources, including merchants, manufacturers and brands that participate in the Product Ratings program and from platforms like Influenster.com. The editorial reviews about specific products are surfaced algorithmically.

Google first began showing ads in knowledge panels at the end of 2013. The update comes right before the holiday shopping season, a time when Google competes heavily with Amazon and others for product search volume. It also reflects Google’s move to provide more information about products in the search results themselves with features like side-by-side product comparisons, for example.

Google tweeted a GIF showing the new shopping panel experience:

Get shopping information in a snap. Now with a single search, you can quickly find product photos, videos, reviews, descriptions and more. pic.twitter.com/4w0OXyvAJ2

— Google (@Google) November 14, 2017

3 last-minute Google Shopping tricks to level up your account for the holidays

We’ve all heard the classic holiday jingle about Kris Kringle’s holiday prep: First, he makes a list, then he checks it twice. (He’s gotta find out who’s naughty or nice!)

Believe it or not, I use a checklist of my own as I review my Google Shopping campaigns for the holiday season.

Unlike Search and Display, Shopping doesn’t give advertisers a ton of control over when ads will show and how much to pay. That’s why it’s so important to check and double-check that you’ve crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s.

Today, I’ll be sharing three Shopping strategies I’ve added to my checklist for the upcoming holiday season.

Take advantage of Showcase Shopping Ads

Google’s experiment with Showcase Shopping Ads and auto-play video are two of many indicators that the company is shifting toward a richer search experience. Long gone are the days of text-only ads!

If you’re already running Shopping campaigns, give Showcase Shopping Ads a shot. This new ad format features interactive photo collages that showcase a store’s name and its most relevant products on search.

Showcase Shopping Ads in Google search results

Users who click on a Showcase Shopping Ad will be presented with a full-screen product feed, including details like special sales, average shipping times and contact info.

But before you get started, you have to make sure of a couple of things:

    You’re using the new Google AdWords experience, which is now available to everyone.You have a Google Shopping Campaign set up.

Like any other Shopping Ad, bidding can get a little tricky, because advertisers bid on Max Cost-Per-Engagement instead of keywords. An engagement occurs if someone clicks the Showcase Ad and spends more than 10 seconds on the ad, or if they click on a link within the expanded ad.

Segment your bids using priorities

Google Shopping ads may not work the same as standard text ads, but here’s the problem:

Advertisers aren’t segmenting their bids.

Since advertisers can’t bid on specific keywords, they’ll throw up their hands and let Google handle the rest. Not the smartest way to spend your precious ad dollars! Ideally, you’d want to place higher bids on keywords with higher purchase intent, which are generally more specific, long-tail keywords.

You can actually achieve this with priority settings. You can assign a priority level to each campaign: low, medium or high. If more than one product qualifies to show for an ad, the higher priority will always enter the auction first, regardless of bid.

You can segment your bids by adding negative keywords. Do this by creating three shopping campaigns of the same product, like so:

Campaign #1: GENERIC NON-BRAND

Priority: HIGHNegative keywords: “running,” “basketball,” “nike”Your bids: LOWPossible conversion rate: LOW

Campaign #2: SPECIFIC NON-BRAND

Priority: MEDIUMNegative keywords: “nike”Your bids: MEDIUMPossible conversion rate: MEDIUM

Campaign #3: BRANDED

Priority: LOWNegative keywords: NoneYour bids: HIGHPossible conversion rate: HIGH

Here’s what will go down:

    All three campaigns qualify to enter the auction.Google surveys the highest-priority campaign for entry.The negative keywords “Nike” and “running” force Google to pass and consider the medium-priority campaign.The negative keyword “Nike” prevents the ad from matching and pushes it down to the low-priority campaign.The long-tail keyword with high purchase intent matches with the lowest priority campaign. Now you have a higher chance of winning that valuable conversion because your higher bid is going to place you higher in the search results.

Integrate a feed management tool

All Google Shopping campaigns require a Merchant Center data feed to list all the products you’re selling. If you’ve tried to set that up before, you know how annoying it can get, especially when you’re required to update your data feed once every 30 days.

And if you want optimal results, you might even have to update it daily. Nobody’s got time for that. Data feed tools automate the process and will undoubtedly save you some energy to tackle larger tasks at hand. (Personally, I’ve had good experiences with Go Data Feed, but there are a ton more worth checking out.)

Go forth and make money!

That was easy, right? Now, go ahead and start testing. If you don’t know where to begin, check out the way too early holiday testing guide to get started.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Four key holiday paid search trends to keep an eye on

During the holidays, there are a million different data points advertisers can look at to see how paid search is performing throughout this crucial shopping period. Depending on business goals and the type of products sold, which of those data points are most important for a particular site can vary widely from one brand to the next.

That said, there are a few overarching trends that apply to many advertisers and which help to set the stage for performance expectations over the coming weeks. Here I’ll outline four interesting paid search trends I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Will Black Friday continue to close the paid search sales gap on Cyber Monday?

Black Friday is for doorbusters. Cyber Monday is for online deals. That’s the way this thing is supposed to go, right?

The lines are blurring on those distinctions, with Black Friday Google paid search sales growth far outpacing that of Cyber Monday last year.

Paid search sales growth from 2015 to 2016 for Merkle advertisers.

Although Black Friday sales nearly equaled Cyber Monday’s in 2016 in aggregate, many smaller/individual sites still see the latter deliver much larger sales due to how they run their promotions. As a result, the median Merkle advertiser saw Google paid search sales 102 percent higher on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday in 2015, a gap that narrowed to 69 percent higher in 2016.

With so many early shoppers searching online rather than/in addition to in-store on Black Friday, paid search marketers must likewise expect to spend big on this historically brick-and-mortar sales holiday. It doesn’t appear that Black Friday will be able to knock off Cyber Monday as biggest paid search sales day of the holiday season for the median brand just yet, but it will be interesting to see just how close it gets.

Does Google Shopping have the juice to keep growing faster?

Online retailers are already well aware of the importance of Google Shopping, but did you also know that Product Listing Ad (PLA) sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas have grown faster year over year for two straight years?

There have been a lot of changes over the years to help spur on this growth, including:

Google roughly doubling the size of PLAs on mobile devices in Q3 2015.Rapid impression growth beginning in early 2016.Yahoo’s move to begin showing Google PLAs on its domain in Q1 2016.The official rollout of PLAs to Google image search in Q2 2016 after months of low-volume testing.

Even with year-over-year growth numbers recently running up against stronger year-ago comparisons created by the early 2016 changes, Shopping has continued to grow impressively. Q3 PLA spend was up 37 percent, according to the latest Merkle Digital Marketing Report.

With Google’s recent release of Showcase Shopping Ads out of beta testing and the steady rise of Local Inventory Ads for brick-and-mortar advertisers, it’s not out of the question that advertisers could once again see holiday sales from these ads grow even faster.

One factor that’s likely to assist in that growth is that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year is the longest it’s been since 2012 at 32 days. The number of days in this stretch has steadily increased since 2013, when there were just 26 days, and 2017 will be longer than 2016 by two days.

Will phones and tablets top 60% paid search traffic share?

Over the past few years, we’ve consistently seen the share of paid search clicks coming from phones and tablets rise in Q4 relative to Q3.

Most years, this increase is fairly modest, such as last year, when share went from 57.3 percent to 57.6 percent. Our data shows that 2015 had the largest growth in phone and tablet click share from Q3 to Q4. We believe this is because Google made several changes in the latter half of 2015 that significantly increased phone ad traffic, including adding a third text ad above organic links where there used to be only two and doubling the size of PLAs.

There haven’t been any major updates along the lines of what occurred in 2015 to suggest a big jump this year, but there are subtle trends that might help to increase mobile share nonetheless.

As I outlined last month, Google Local Inventory Ads and Maps ads play a bigger role during the holidays, and they are particularly important on mobile. With these ad units now accounting for much more traffic than last year, seasonal Q4 growth might help to boost overall mobile traffic share.

Could we see phones and tablets account for more than 60 percent of all paid search clicks in Q4? Perhaps. Google is already well over 60 percent, with Bing and Yahoo bringing overall mobile share down.

How big will Maps ads get on key days?

Last holiday season, brick-and-mortar brands saw a steady increase in traffic coming from the “Get location details” click type leading up to Christmas Day. This click type is attributed to text ads featured in Google Maps for any brand with active location extensions added to AdWords campaigns, and it accounts for the highest traffic share for brand text ads on phones.

In 2016, the highest share of brand phone text ad traffic coming from these ads all year was 8 percent on Christmas Eve, as shoppers were looking to head in-store for last-minute purchases. Since then, “Get location details” click share has, on average, risen significantly.

As such, it’s fair to expect that we may see a significant increase this Christmas Eve from the 8 percent figure observed last year. I think there’s a chance that up to 15 percent of all phone brand traffic for brick-and-mortar brands will come from “Get location details” clicks on Christmas Eve — a pretty big chunk of clicks on an important day for a format that was only announced in mid-2016.

Conclusion

These predictions fall into four key themes that have played a huge role in the evolution of paid search over the past couple of years:

    The rise of online shopping in general has blurred the role of Black Friday, a historically brick-and-mortar sales holiday that’s now closing the gap on Cyber Monday in terms of paid search sales volume.Google Shopping has long outpaced text ads in terms of year-over-year growth (clicks, spend, sales, orders and so on) for online retailers, with holiday PLA sales growth accelerating relative to the year prior in both 2015 and 2016.Phones and tablets now account for more paid search traffic than desktop, and the click share of these devices will likely continue to grow this Q4, when we typically see a quarter-over-quarter lift in share.Lastly, users are increasingly turning to navigational tools like Google Maps for both brand and non-brand searches, and Google’s monetization of this traffic has likewise grown over the past year. These ads stand to be even more important for brick-and-mortar brands during the final days of the holiday shopping season.

So, those are four data points I’ll be keeping an eye on this coming shopping season and the broader themes each relates to. We’ll have to wait and see if my predictions come true, as well as to find out if any new and unexpected developments unfold.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

5 ways to sell more this holiday season with Google’s updates to shopping ads

With the biggest e-commerce days of the year just around the corner, it’s not too late to take advantage of some of Google’s newest ways to help you sell more stuff online.

Attract users earlier in the buying process with showcase ads

For consumers who are further along the path to an online purchase, Google is good for finding the best price and doing more in-depth research, but it traditionally hasn’t been the best place to help consumers make choices earlier in their decision process.

But with Showcase Shopping ads, Google is delivering a better discovery process for these shoppers. This ad format was introduced in limited beta in 2016 and is now available to every retailer. The idea behind it is that it allows advertisers to use a mix of lifestyle images and products to showcase its brand for generic e-commerce searches where ads for specific products wouldn’t be relevant.

Showcase Shopping ads allow retailers to promote their brand to users who are earlier in their decision process.

Showcase Shopping Ads are a cost-per-engagement format, which means the CPC is charged when a user expands the ad and spends 10 seconds within it or clicks a product or link. Automated bidding doesn’t work with these ads yet, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on their performance.

These ads can be set up programmatically through the API or by creating a new Showcase Shopping ad group through the new AdWords interface. Since this is among the newer capabilities of AdWords, it can only be set up through the new interface (or using the latest version of the AdWords Editor).

Undercut competition on price with price benchmarks

Consumers care a lot about getting the lowest price, so when all other factors are the same, they tend to click more on shopping ads with lower prices. Google cares about this, too, because they make more money when there are more clicks, incentivizing them to serve more impressions of ads with lower prices for the same products.

This concept was documented by Andreas Reiffen from Crealytics in a presentation he’s given multiple times.

Research from Crealytics presented at SMX shows that product ads with lower prices get more impressions.

Since promoting lower prices in ads will lead to more impressions, and hence more opportunity to generate sales, advertisers can use pricing strategies to their advantage. For instance, rather than using the CPC to control how much your ads get shown, you can experiment with product pricing to achieve a similar outcome — instead of raising bids, lowering prices may achieve the same effect.

And that’s where the new Price Benchmark report comes in. Google has now made it really easy to find out if your price is the lowest or if there is an opportunity to boost your results by lowering your prices to be more competitive.

The Google Merchant Center has a Price Benchmarks report that shows prices from competitors for products you also sell.

For example, look at the fourth row of data above. Rather than increasing the bid to try and outrank a competitor whose price is $0.01 lower, it could be possible to boost impressions by setting your price to be the lowest. It would cost only $0.01 per purchase and has the potential to dramatically improve the number of impressions, ad rank and sales. Achieving similar results by increasing the bid would undoubtedly cost more.

Drive more ROI with the GRIP structure and better bids

The typical PPC expert wants a lot of control over how they manage ads, so they like creating granularly structured accounts. But these granular structures can make it hard to get enough data to be able to make smart bidding decisions, so advertisers often group products together to get more data. They sacrifice the control that comes with granularity to simplify account management.

Luckily, with the types of reports Google makes available for Shopping Ads, it is possible to get both granular control and sufficient data to make informed bidding decisions.

To achieve this bidding freedom, you have to implement a granular structure that we’ve named the GRIP structure (which stands for Groups of Individual Products). By putting each SKU or Item ID in a biddable product group, you can use attribute-level commonalities to deploy different bid strategies as needed.

An example of the GRIP structure applied to a retailer selling sporting goods. Each product group is subdivided further until there is exactly one product ID per product group.

Here’s an example of the limits you run into when you don’t use a GRIP structure. Say you’re selling electronics, and you make a product group for all digital cameras. This is problematic because, while it helps you set bids based on aggregated product group data for low volume cameras, it doesn’t give you the flexibility to set smarter bids for high-volume cameras, nor does it allow you to set different bids for full-frame DSLRs if you discover that this type of camera outperforms point-and-shoot cameras.

Even if you structure things fairly granularly, with two or three items in a product group, you will still run into bid limitations because you can’t set different bids for each of these items individually once you get a new insight.

You can use third-party tools to implement the GRIP structure and manage bids based on product attributes, or you can pull the data from AdWords in the Dimensions reports for Shopping campaigns and then make the corresponding bid changes through the campaign management section in AdWords.

Once you have a new insight, the GRIP structure will let you take action to turn the insight into better performance.

Optimize the merchant feed with supplemental feeds

One interesting application we’ve seen used in conjunction with the GRIP structure explained above is to set bids based on product price range or margin. But for that to work, you need to first add those attributes into the feed, something that can be done with custom labels.

Setting that up can be a challenge for marketers because the merchant feeds are usually automatically generated, often on a daily basis. This means that to add a new custom label, you need access to the tool that generates the merchant feed, and not everyone has this level of access.

The tool used to generate the feed may also lack the flexibility to easily make the optimizations that the marketing team wants to test. And, until now, making changes to the feed manually was also not a viable option because these changes would be lost every time the automatic system refreshed the feed.

But now there is a way that marketers can easily test changes to the feed, with Google’s introduction of Supplemental Feeds. A supplemental feed is easy to set up from the Merchant Center and can be something as basic as a manually created and maintained Google Sheet.

Set up a supplemental feed in the Google Merchant Center to take control over your feed optimization.

Here’s how you could use that. Set up a new supplemental feed and copy over the columns for Item ID and Price from your main feed. Then add a new column called “Price Range” and create a formula in the sheet to assign the product price to a price range. Ideally, you’ll choose price ranges that allow your products to be evenly distributed across the different options.

Once the supplemental feed is set up, you can instruct Google to grab this data on a schedule and use it to append or modify the data that is in the main merchant feed. So in our example, we’d use the supplemental feed to append a new Custom Label 0 column.

The reason this is a significant new capability is that it allows you to maintain a feed of supplemental data without the need to stay in perfect sync with the automated generation of the primary feed. The primary feed will still be updated as required to keep Google apprised of prices, availability and so on, while marketers can play with fields that don’t require constant updates, like custom labels, titles and descriptions.

Whenever the new feed is fetched, the feed rule can update it with the marketer’s fields. This gives you time and flexibility to run experiments that will hopefully bring you new insights into ways to improve performance.

Use ValueTrack to better understand your clicks

What I’ve covered so far are tools that should help you achieve more shopping ad success. But AdWords often produces the best results for those who deploy new tests using new tools and strategies, measure the results and continuously optimize based on the findings.

So let me cover a tool to help with the measurement part that’s almost as old as AdWords but is often overlooked. It’s called ValueTrack, and it has some new options related to shopping ads.

ValueTrack is like dynamic keyword insertion for your destination URL. It lets you append a wide variety of data to the URL, which you can use to do creative things with your landing pages. It can also help you enrich your own tracking system with more data about the clicks you’re getting from AdWords.

There are eight ValueTrack parameters specifically for use with Shopping ads and three more for Showcase Shopping ads.

Google has eight ValueTrack parameters available specifically to help with better click tracking for shopping ads.

A full explanation of how to use ValueTrack for Shopping ad tracking is beyond the scope of this article, but let me share an example to illustrate its power.

You could use the {adtype} parameter to track whether a click was on a regular shopping ad (=pla) or a shopping ad shown in conjunction with a promotion from the promotion feed (=pla_with_promotion). This could help you measure the impact of the various promotions you’re running for your shopping ads.

Conclusion

Shopping ads continue to be a great way for retailers to get more visits from interested buyers, and Google keeps adding new capabilities that make this unique ad format easier to work with and experiment with. It’s not too late to start using some of these techniques to boost your sales this holiday season.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Google announces new online-to-offline features on the cusp of the holiday shopping season

Google’s focus on local search the past couple of years has some expecting local search traffic to play a heightened role for brick-and-mortar retailers this coming holiday. Google is now teeing up some new shopping features and reporting capabilities ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The announcements, made by Kishore Kanakamedala, director of product management for online-to-offline solutions, and livestreamed at 8:15 a.m. ET from SMX East in New York on Tuesday morning, include ways for retailers with brick-and-mortar locations to drive and measure more store visits from Google properties.

Kanakamedala said that mobile is “now the anchor of the customer journey” and cited Google research  showing mobile ads generate 160 percent more incremental store visits compared to desktop and tablet and that local ad efforts such as local inventory ads drive an 80 percent higher rate of incremental store visits.

Local inventory tie-in to Google Assistant

With voice searching becoming an ingrained habit for more consumers, Google is tying local inventory data into results provided via Google Assistant.

When users ask their phones or Google home, “Okay Google, Where can I buy _____ nearby?,” Google will show a list of local inventory results on their phones. To be eligible for inclusion in local inventory search, retailers need to upload their local inventory feeds to Google Merchant Center.

Local inventory in display ads

Earlier this year, Google added location extensions to display ads. Now, Google is adding a local inventory display ad format that features promotions and local products from a retailer’s inventory feeds.

The pilot for this new local display ad format is now open to all advertisers that set up display campaigns and upload their assets, including a feed and images.

Store visits measurement updates

Kanakamedala said Google has now measured more than 7 billion store visits globally.

Along with the introduction of the local display format, Google is adding reporting for impression-based store visitsThe ability to measure store visits without needing an ad click is a fairly significant development on the trajectory of Google’s store visits measurement capabilities.

Google is also introducing three new reports to AdWords for store visits:

Time lag report — Shows the time between an ad click and a store visit.Demographic report — Users can add store visits as a column to existing demographic reports.New vs. returning customer report — This will show how many of store visits come from repeat customers. “Together with the time lag report, this can help you gauge how your ads drive incremental visits,” Kanakamedala said.

Apparel shopping updates

In mobile Shopping results for apparel searches, users will soon see filtering options for sizing, pricing and other criteria. The listings within Google Shopping are bigger and feature brand logos.

Earlier this year, Google rolled out support for Showcase Ads in AdWords Editor and the new AdWords interface. These are the ads designed for broad category queries that feature three product images related to the query. Google said Tuesday that early tests have shown Showcase Ads to drive an increase in brand searches and click-assisted conversions leading to a purchase when compared to standard Shopping ads.

People are watching other people shopping on YouTube

If unboxing videos were the big thing a year or two ago, Google says YouTube “shop with me” videos, in which people take viewers into stores, and store tour videos, in which, yes, average people give viewers tours through stores, have seen watch time grow over 10x on mobile in the past two years.