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Written by Neelie Palmer on May 7 , 2020

Because getting your products in front of the right people at the right time is key

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to set up your e-commerce search ads
  • Expert tips for optimizing your ads
  • How to import Google Shopping campaigns to Microsoft
  • Why you should consider dynamic remarketing

Here’s a stat for you: recent data shows that just 17% of brands say they’re ahead of the curve or leading in the e-commerce space in their industry. What that tells us is that there’s a wealth of opportunity for your e-commerce company to rise above the ranks. One of the most effective ways to do just that: paid search (or PPC) campaigns.

Traditional search campaigns are powered by keywords. But with Shopping campaigns, it’s all about the product feed. You want your feed to show your products in the best light, with accurate info and up-to-date inventory. Wondering how to get started with e-commerce search ads? You’ve come to the right place — let’s get into it.

HawkSEM: E-commerce search ads

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Choose a product data input method

When you’re getting into Google Shopping, your first step is to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account under the email you use for other Google programs, like Google Ads and Google Analytics. This way, all of your Google accounts are linked together, making it easy to stay consistent.

Next, it’s time to get your products into the Google Merchant Center. A few things to consider when determining how to get your product data into GMC are:

  • Which e-commerce platform will you be leveraging?
  • How many products will you be uploading?
  • How many product variations with individuals SKUs will you be uploading?
  • Do you have all of the product details organized?

If you have a lot of products and are using a popular e-commerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce, you should be able to easily integrate this with GMC. This will help you map your product feed and submit the most updated info to GMC on a regular basis, ensuring your product data is always fresh. 

If you’ve got a smaller number of products, you can input product data simply by uploading a text file Google Sheet. You can also manually add products one by one if you want to test out the platform first. 

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. After that time, the platform will expire those products, meaning they won’t be eligible to show. Because of this, you want to either reprocess your feed or send your data continuously on a regular basis. Depending on your products and how much they change, daily is generally a good frequency for updates.

2. Optimize your Merchant Center settings

There are a lot of things in GMC settings that I often see get missed. One is enabling automatic updates. Google will actually crawl your page and find your most updated price and availability if you’re opted in to automatic improvements. This is great if, for example, you run out of stock on a product, because it keeps you from running Google Ads to a page where your products aren’t available. 

However, If you have your site structured in a way that keeps Google from understanding your pricing, it’s probably best to turn off the automatic price updates.

Once you have everything in GMC, you’ll connect to your Google Ads account. The good news: Google recently announced that they’ll start running free listings on Google Shopping. This applies to the Shopping tab on Google. This Shopping section is a lot like Amazon in that you can filter by things like price. This means it’s more important than ever to get your GMC created with your products and prices, because you’ll start getting an organic lift from being able to be on the Shopping tab for free.

HawkSEM: Google Merchant Center

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks (via Google Merchant Center)

Pro tip: Even if your business isn’t in the financial place to give budget to new campaigns, I still recommend going into GMC and setting up a feed, because you’ll be eligible for those free listings. Then, once you’re ready, you can start leveraging all that Google Shopping has to offer.

3. Set up your e-commerce search ads campaign

It’s pretty easy to get started once you have GMC linked. I recommend starting with a standard Shopping campaign. Smart Shopping is usually fueled better by having a solid foundation of account data. If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend doing a manual cost-per-click (CPC) campaign first, then experimenting with Smart Shopping or automated bidding down the road.

The #1 thing you can do to set yourself up for success when it comes to your campaigns is to get granular. You can subdivide everything into product groups. You can split products into separate campaigns and ad groups that can then be split further into product groups. If you have a small, manageable number of products, I suggest breaking everything out by single-product product groups.

An example: Let’s say your core products are sporting goods, but you also sell apparel as 20% of your business. It’s probably a good idea to put all of your apparel into a separate campaign to make sure you’re giving most of your budget to your core products. 

Another one of my favorite strategies is to separate out searches based on how specific they’re getting. The more specific a search, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be. It makes sense: someone searching for a specific brand, style, color, and size of running shoe is probably more motivated to buy than someone just searching “running shoe.”

Pro tip: Google Shopping is unique in that it has a priority system — you can set low, medium, and high priority campaigns. If you have several Shopping campaigns, this system dictates which ones serve an ad first.

HawkSEM: e-commerce search ads

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

4. Consider dynamic remarketing

If you’re running Google Ads, you’re already paying for people to get to your website. But, as consumers ourselves, we know not everyone buys the first time they visit a site or product page. That’s where dynamic remarketing comes in.

Dynamic remarketing is a great way to nurture your funnel. At its core, this method aims to show users specific products they’ve viewed on your site. If they look at running shoes, you then show them that exact pair of shoes as a Shopping ad while they browse other sites on the web. 

To set up dynamic remarketing, you generally have to add a bit of code to your site. This is powered by your GMC feed, so you have to make sure your account is set up and working if you want it to be successful.

A lot of people put things in their carts while shopping online, then don’t end up following through with the purchase. You can remarket these products to cart abandoners and, if you have the e-commerce settings set up correctly in Google Analytics, you should already have some audiences available.

5. Optimize your campaigns

There are two KPIs I consider most important when optimizing a Shopping campaign. If you’re on a manual bidding strategy, I’d pay attention to your conversion volume and the result of  conversion value over cost. That will calculate a rough idea of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

After you’ve accrued some data, you can decrease bids on anything under your goal or your average. You can also increase bids on items that are producing the most conversion value when compared to ad spend.

With Shopping, you can’t run a traditional experiment within Google Ads, but you can switch over for a time period and compare after a while. Automatic bidding strategies are powered by data, so the longer you run them, the better they should get. 

If you’re going to try Smart Shopping, it’s a good idea to pick a mix of high and low performers, then exclude those from your regular Shopping campaign. Don’t simply pick all of your low performers from your regular Shopping campaign and put them in Smart Shopping. You want a mix to ensure you’re getting accurate results.

Pro tip: It’s not a good idea to run the same products in your traditional and Smart Shopping campaigns. If you do, Smart Shopping will automatically take precedence.

HawkSEM: E-commerce search ads

No matter the size of your e-commerce brand, search ads can help take your sales to the next level.

6. Carry the success to Microsoft Advertising

If you’re seeing success in Google and topping your impression share, why stop there? You can easily carry your Shopping campaigns over to Bing. As we’ve mentioned before, Bing Ads recently rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. Along with the Bing search engine, this suite includes Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and other sites. 

If you already have a Microsoft Ads account it’s easy to get a merchant center account set up right from the ad platform. Microsoft will process this data just like Google. Once it reviews the product data, you can create a Shopping campaign within Microsoft or import a Shopping campaign from Google that’s already working well.

Recently, Microsoft Ads made it so that you can import on a recurring basis. If you set up a recurring sync, you can optimize in one place and make sure it’s carried over easily, instead of having to manually optimize within each platform. You can even optimize based on the different platform behaviors if that proves advantageous.

Microsoft usually has cheaper CPC and less competition. If you’re in a saturated market, your Microsoft Ads campaign might perform better than on Google.

The takeaway

No matter the size of your brand, e-commerce search ads can help take your sales to the next level. By making sure your Google Merchant Center account is set up properly, keeping product info fresh, experimenting to see what works well, and considering leveraging both Google and Microsoft, you’ll be set on the path to success — and more sales. 

Want even more tips for achieving success with e-commerce search campaigns? Check out our webinar recording, Getting Started with E-Commerce Search Ads.

Neelie Palmer

Neelie Palmer

    Neelie is a lead strategist at HawkSEM. As a digital marketing professional with more than 6 years of experience specializing in PPC & SEM management, she believes in making data-driven decisions with client business goals at the forefront of digital strategy. Since starting at HawkSEM in 2017, she's expanded her experience and produced results across a broad spectrum of industries and platforms, including social and Amazon Advertising. In her spare time, Neelie enjoys running, yoga, and gardening.

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