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Google Shopping for E-commerce: A Beginners Guide

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E-commerce site owners fight for search engine rankings alongside every other site out there, which can be tough.

Not only that but all you normally end up with is a boring old text link to your site, hopefully crafted in a way to entice a click.

It would be great if you could actually show your products when someone searches for them wouldn’t it?

Well, you can!

What is Google Shopping?

Google is much more than a search engine; in fact it makes all its money by being an advertising network.

Google Shopping is the companies answer to visual adverts for e-commerce stores.

Why create a generic text advert for your store, when you showcase your actual products in the search results?

This is precisely what Google Shopping is about.

Why Use Google Shopping?

You might be wondering whether it’s even worth bothering with Google Shopping especially if your site is already SEO optimized.

You should at least consider it because not only is it another advertising method, it’s visual and targeted.

If your potential customer searches for men’s shoes, instead of seeing just links they will see actual products for sale. This becomes even more pronounced when the search term is narrow. If someone looks for red men’s sneakers, that’s exactly what they will see!

This sort of visual and targeted advertising is leaps and bounds better than generic text adverts in the search results.

In fact, Google Shopping’s revenue grew by 52% in just the first quarter of 2016 which is remarkable growth, and Google is still focusing on this part of the network.

Just recently SE Round Table reported of Google Shopping results in their local search results.

Setting Goals

Like any marketing campaign, it’s important to use Google Shopping correctly. You will be bidding on advertising space, just like with AdWords and as such it’s easy to get carried away and actually end up losing money!

You need to know beforehand what your average order value is and how much you make from that and how much of that you’re willing to spend to acquire a customer.

If your order value is $50 and you make $10 out of that, you know that you really can’t spend $10 or more to obtain a customer unless you think you can gain more over the customer lifetime.

Once you know how much you have available to per order you can look to set up the adverts and set your maximum bids.

You also need to consider what products you’re going to list. Listing everything on your store is tempting but unwise as it dilutes the products available that Google can choose from – yes Google chooses, not you!

As such your product selection has to be carefully thought about so that your product list has the right products.

Some people prefer to display cheaper products that can lure customers into the site. Others prefer high priced items that can generate a decent ROI on the advert cost. Others still go the consumables route.

At the end of the day it depends on your business and your products.

How to Use Google Shopping

Google Shopping is closely tied to Google AdWords, in fact you create your campaigns in a section of AdWords.

You also need a Google Merchant Center account. This is where you’ll list all the products you want to showcase, and where Google will pick the products from. If it isn’t listed here, it won’t get shown.

Like AdWords, Google Shopping is also closely tied to keywords so keyword research is important. As with normal adverts highly popular and shorter keywords generally cost more to bid on, increasing the cost of your marketing campaign.

Long tail and low competition/high demand keywords are always going to be the better choices and only keyword research can bring these to light.

Google Merchant Center

Before getting started with buying ads, you need to set up your Google Merchant Center. This is where you list your products.

Sign up is easy and free.

The first thing you should so is fill out your tax and shipping data. Yes it’s boring stuff, but it’s necessary.

After that it’s on to adding your product data. There are three ways to do this:

  • A manual upload
  • Programmatically via an API
  • Or through an e-commerce platform

I really recommend using your e-commerce platform if possible as the manual option is fiddly at best. If you’re not using a hosted e-commerce system, but instead something like Woocommerce on WordPress, then there are several different plugins you can use.

If you prefer to do it manually, make sure you read the documentation and do it on test first! The manual option is slow and unforgiving for slight mistakes.

While you can choose (to some extent) what data you want to list you will need at least:

id

A unique id to track the product

title

The product title, make it SEO heavy so don’t use Shoe; use Kid’s Red Leather Sneakers with Flash Logo.

As you can see it’s a great idea to use keywords and the product features (size, color, etc) but avoid keyword stuffing.

The titles have a maximum character limit of 150, so make use of it.

Also make sure you check Google’s requirements, because things like using all CAPS or promotional text like free shipping will mean the product will not get picked.

description

This is a more detailed description of the product. This is your sales pitch so it should be feature and SEO rich and well written.

The same rules apply here as for the title, so stay away from gimmicky content and make use of keywords. Putting the most important aspects of your pitch at the start is important as only so much of the text will be initially visible.

link

A URL to the product page and it must be a page about the product, not a category or home page.

image_link

A URL to an image of the product. Make sure that your image is clear and well taken; thumbnails are small so the image must stand out. That being said, avoid watermarks and special effects as these are frowned upon.

condition

The available options are: new, used, or refurbished

availability

The available options are: preorder, in stock, out of stock

price

The price obviously.

brand

Brand name can be entered here.

gtin or mpn

The Global Trade Item Number for the product. If yours doesn’t have one, use the MPN (basically your SKU number).

AdWords

Once you have your feed set up it you then need to create a Product Listing Advert (PLA) in order to bid on advertising space.

Setting up ads is slightly different to normal, and the key aspect is Product Groups. This allows you to categorise your products into separate groups, and importantly have different bids set for each group.

This means that your products with a lower ROI can have smaller bids where more profitable products can utilize larger bids.

It’s extremely important not to set the same bid for your entire product feed unless they are basically all the same products and ROI. Even in that unlikely situation product groups can be used to test and tweak your bids.

The Bottom Line

Google Shopping is another avenue that e-commerce stores can take to advertise their wares, and it can be highly effective, what with the products being available directly in the search results.

It’s not the easiest system to use, but it can be learnt over time (or just hire someone) and because it’s based on their ad network, mistakes can be costly. That’s the same with any marketing though, so as long as you’re prepared and well informed you should see good results.

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