'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.

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.

Bing expands Shopping Campaigns to Canada & India

Bing Ads has announced the expansion of Shopping Campaigns to Canada and India starting today.

Advertisers may now begin targeting Canada and India with their Shopping Campaigns. Quebec will be the one exception in Canada, as Bing product ads are only supported in English in Canada, and Quebec’s language laws mandate that stores located in the province must also provide a French website experience.

Bing product ads are now available in Canada and India.

These latest countries join the US, the UK, France, Germany and Australia with support for Bing Shopping Campaigns. Bing product ads launched in the US in 2014, with its first international expansion into the UK in April 2016.

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

2017 growth hacks: Increase CTR by monitoring competitive offers

It is October — which means that the holiday buying frenzy is upon us. Advertisers will try to attract shoppers with enticing offers and promotions. To be competitive, you will need to stay up-to-date with the top offers in your category.

To give you a window into the kinds of things to consider, I segmented the top offers by category for September 24 through 30, 2017, using data from our company’s own software. Below, I’ll share what I learned.

Product listing ads

Overall, only 8.3 percent of all product listing ads (PLAs) have a “special offer.” This means that there is an absolutely huge open field for you to grow just by injecting an offer into your PLA ads. You can add the “special offer” tag to your PLAs using Google’s Merchant Promotion feature.

Here is an example of how the landscape looks. As you can see, only L.L. Bean has a special offer:

Top 5 PLA categories for special offers

Here are the top five PLA categories based on the quantity of listings with special offers. You can see that even in these top categories, the percentage of ads with offers is under 15 percent. Do you think there is opportunity here?

Top 5 offers overall (across all categories):

Just for fun, here are the most visible offers across all categories determined by reach.

Paid search ads

There are two common places where offers usually appear in paid search ads: within the ad copy (headline/description) and/or included in a “callout” ad extension. Overall, 73 percent of paid search ads have some form of offer in ad copy text, including shipping, deals, sales or something for free. However, only 18 percent of paid search ads utilize callout text, with just 14 percent using both ad copy and callouts for offer messaging.

Callout extensions are an effective tool to make your ads bigger and to emphasize your offers, like free shipping or coupon codes, thus leaving you more room in your actual ad copy for your message.

Here is an example of a callout extension used by Alpine Swiss to emphasize two offers: “Free Shipping” and “20% off”:

Offers by category

Here is the distribution of offers across several popular industries:

How will you know if this strategy is working?

Below are obvious signs that adding “Special Offers” to PLAs or using “Offer Callouts” is working:

Improved CTR (click-through rate)Improved conversionsLower CPCs (cost per click) — because your ads are getting a higher CTR

Be sure to check out the rest of my 2017 search marketing growth hack series:

Use Affiliates to Improve PPC ReachMonster growth from brand protectionGain monster paid search growth using competitive dataOptimizing organic market shareGrow ROI with cross-channel optimization

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

Ahead of the holidays, Google Merchant Center sees substantial upgrades

A new suite of tools has arrived for merchants — just in time for the 2017 holidays. The new upgrades include helpful feed expansions, rules and overrides, as well as the ability to add multiple members to Merchant Center accounts.

These new changes are currently available to all accounts created on or after July 13, 2017, and are rolling out to everybody over the next month. Here’s a look at the changes that have been announced:

New Supplemental Feeds
One of the biggest changes to Merchant Center is the ability to modify an existing feed with a new supplemental feed using various data sources. A new supplemental feed will give merchants the ability to use an existing product feed from a site and layer on additional information such as seasonal promotions, custom labels and other values and attribute changes. There will now be two variations of feeds: Primary Feeds and Supplemental Feeds, and some pre-existing feeds may be labeled as “legacy feeds” — which will continue to work.

A Supplemental Feed cannot add or remove a product, but it can update product data in the primary feed. The ability to layer a Supplemental Feed onto a Primary Feed will be a massive time-saver and should allow retailers to create better, fresher ads for searchers.

Multiple-country submission from a single feed
Another new feature is the ability to create a feed that can be submitted cross-country and cross-language. This multicountry feed allows for additional combinations of countries and languages for a primary feed. The primary feed can have a target country added, as well as the content language.

Feed Rules for product data
The integration of Feed Rules and product data from the Content API gives retailers the ability to modify a feed on the fly every time it is submitted. This is a huge upgrade for small and mid-tier retailers that have limited development capacity. A Feed Rule can replace values to make sure they are compliant with Google Shopping Products Feed Specifications, populate missing attributes and create shipping values based on product weight values.

Team-based Merchant Center accounts
No longer will there be one primary and one technical contact for a Merchant Center account. Additional users can now be added as “admin,” “standard” and email-only users to the account. Users will then be able to manage their notification options themselves.

Look for these changes to roll out in the coming month for older accounts, and you may find these active in newer accounts. Overall, these new upgrades should be a welcome sight for marketers headed into their peak season.

For more information, see the official Google blog post.

Google Shopping gets top spot impression share & product diagnostics reporting

Each year, Google rolls out several new features ahead of the holidays for retail advertisers. This year’s updates have started coming out.

The company introduced a new metric and new reporting for Shopping campaign advertisers — only in the new AdWords interface.

The new metric, called absolute top impression share, reports how often Shopping ads and Local Inventory ads appear in the first spot on mobile and desktop. Google says that during Q4 last year, the first Shopping ad on mobile saw up to three times more engagement than the other spots.

On the Products page, a new diagnostics report lets advertisers dig deeper into product status issues in AdWords.

These features can be added to the list of features exclusive to the new AdWords interface — what Google calls the new AdWords experience — that’s rolling out to advertisers through this year.