The step was not unexpected, but its consequences are nevertheless striking. For a few days now, the Google search engine is no longer showing paid AdWords ads to the right of search results. Google made this change as part of its endeavors to adapt search results to mobile devices, departing from the classic desktop experience.
The conversion substantially squeezes the ad space available for advertisers. It reduces the overall available count from up to ten text ads across the entire page to a mere three positions above the search results. According to Google’s announcement of the changes, only “highly commercial” queries will be given a fourth central spot. The move will increase competition for the remaining positions, so customers and agencies must expect higher CPCs and thus more expensive AdWords.
Stronger in the focus of digital marketing planning
To cope with the intensifying competition for Google AdWords, it is worthwhile to take a fresh look at Google Shopping. Unlike AdWords, the image-supported ads do stay in the right-hand column and thus become more prominent from the point of view of digital marketing.
This makes it an advertising format with many advantages. Finally, there is hardly a channel as goal-oriented and platform-independent in its approach to users such as Google Shopping ads. Not only do Google Shopping’s graphical results visually stand out in comparison to classic text ads, their usage is continuously increasing as well. According to a 2014 study by the advertising technology company Marin, more than 30% of all ads in the retail sector were placed through Google Shopping, with more than 45% of Google Shopping clicks coming from mobile devices.
Optimize product data towards a targeted customer approach
However, the success of a Google Shopping campaign is not sure-fire. For best results, various disciplines of online marketing must work in synergy. To permanently achieve high click-through rates at the top of search results, you should optimize all product data for a targeted sales approach and provide them through platform-specific data feeds.
In addition, smart bid management makes all the difference when you want to get the maximum return on investment (ROI). In general, you need to consider the following five aspects:
1. Feed relevance
All information relevant to an ad is sent to Google via the data feed. It might need to be changed more or less often depending on the industry — for example, if the price changes or specific product versions are sold out. It is important that the data sent in the feed to Google Shopping stays up-to-date at all times. You must ensure round-the-clock monitoring of data feeds to avoid downtime and to be able to update prices and offers quickly and smoothly. The goal must be to have context-specific offers displayed to potential customers at any time and in any place.
2. Feed content
The integrity of the feed is just as important as its relevance. In this context, all product specifications defined in a Google Shopping feed must contain all relevant product information, such as its description, availability, price, or category. This applies in particular to optional configurations. Such custom data feed columns are used, for example, for top-performing products, brands, or to introduce other meaningful criteria to optimize the campaign. Product texts and descriptions must be analysed and published based on actual user search behaviour. This step is crucial to enable the tracking of ad visibility and shop purchases. Finally, high-quality pictures top off a positive user experience.
3. Keyword control
Advertising campaigns are controlled based on product information. In doing so, Google analyses behavioural signals to decide whether a particular product fits a query: If a product is especially often clicked in combination with a certain request, Google gives such ad a higher priority. But high click-through rates do not always mean high margins. Thus, it is better to have a product displayed when it leads not only to a click-through but also an actual sale. By properly controlling the keywords you can make it so that a data feed-based ad is preferably displayed when the product is searched in combination with its own brand. Here, the conversion rates are generally higher than those of organic entries or text ads without product images.
64% of all E-commerce users state that product reviews are among the top two criteria in making a decision to buy. For women, this value is even higher, reaching up to 70%. In Google Shopping, you can configure the integration of product reviews graphically and in close connection to ad content. Good usability on smartphones and tablets maximizes the user’s awareness of and attention to product reviews, bringing them much closer to an actual transaction.
5. Bid management
As Google Shopping campaigns often generate a large part of sales in the long tail, it is essential that you use technology to recognize and analyse patterns in the bulk of individual values. Based on these findings you can not only optimize daily budget allocations and bidding strategies, but also forecast upcoming developments and seasonal trends by analysing recurring behaviour patterns. Furthermore, in order to control the campaign’s budget in a more efficient way, it is advisable to separate branded keywords, generic search queries, and, where appropriate, product-related keywords.
On the way to a data-driven marketing, one that focuses on compelling, cross-platform user experience, Google Shopping should be a staple in any marketing mix, as it is currently the most efficient and wide-ranging advertising channel. But from creation to delivery to reporting, this requires a complex process that takes into account a lot of different aspects. If such a process is in place, Google Shopping ads can also yield exceptionally high click-through and conversion rates. The effort is worthwhile.