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How to use Google Shopping

How to use Google Shopping

Posted in Concise Webinars, Google Ads by on November 21, 2019
Last updated on 10/05/2021
How to use Google Shopping

If you sell products online, Google Shopping may be a great help for your business or it may give you problems.

This Concise Webinar explains Google Shopping. What is it, How does it work, and is it for you?

If Google Shopping is potentially right for your business, now is the time to get on top of it! This webinar is 100% educational, with no BS, no waffle and no sales pitches.

The webinar was presented by Gareth Lane and Richard Keeves and recorded on 7 November 2019.



Richard: Good morning and welcome everybody to this webinar. This webinar as you can see, is on Google Shopping. Welcome to everybody. Good day Gareth.

Gareth: Hello Gareth reporting for duty.

Richard: Thank you very much everyone for coming along. This webinar is part of our Concise Digital Webinar series. My name is Richard Keeves and the other voice is Gareth. Concise Webinars are, for people who haven’t seen the concise webinars before,  intended to be 100% educational. We try to get to the point without waffle, without sales pitches and we provide helpful information advice that you can use in your business. That is what these are all about.

Today’s topic is Google Shopping. Before we begin though we are recording this hopefully. You are very welcome to ask questions as we go through. We will address those as we go through or hopefully at the end. Hopefully there would be time for Q and A at the end. Gareth is going to be running today’s session primarily so I’m going to hand over to Gareth. There you go. Take it away.

Gareth: Thanks Richard. Google Shopping is e-commerce only. If you don’t have an e-commerce website none of the next 20 minutes is going to be relevant but you’re welcome to listen and ask questions anyway. It works best for common products where you have a competitive advantage. If you’re selling lawnmowers which is my example that I’m showing in a minute. If you are the most expensive of all of your competitors Google Shopping isn’t going to work. If you are the cheapest you’ll probably find that Google Shopping is very good for your business or if you have excess stock or local stock. If you have stock of a particular set of items that no one else has that would be very good for you or if you have some sort of unique delivery ability to deliver same day or something like that. If you don’t have a competitive advantage in a particular product then I would normally suggest that you don’t use Google Shopping to promote that product. The name of the game is to know your numbers. You really want to focus on return of investment. Google Shopping can be very cost effective but you can also waste a lot of money. You have to remember that Google is a publicly listed, capitalist American company that just turned over a $100 billion in the last 12 months. All of that revenue comes from advertising. Just remember it’s in Google’s interest to take money off you as quickly as possible and not to help you deliver a return.

Richard: Just in case you didn’t know, Google is definitely not a not for profit.

Gareth: With that in mind, what is Google Shopping? When you run a search and you use a keyword like I have done here lawnmower and those ads that appear on the right hand side that I’ve highlighted in red with little sponsored mark in the top right. They are Google Shopping ads. On a mobile view you can see from this example that it pretty much dominates the entire first view when you land. That is taken on an iPhone 7 sized screen. Even under there you’ve got the typical Google ad and then they’ll be four of those. Then under that would be the Google organic SEO type listings. If you are saying we put all of our energies into SEO then you are potentially two or three scrolls down the page before you’re even going to be seen. Google Shopping can be very handy to insure that you appear at the top of the page. In addition to that there is also the Google Shopping tab that shows a more advanced almost marketplace like filter where you can sort by lots of different options, price, location, reviews. There is a very advanced filter based on price. In my particular example of looking for a lawnmower it automatically knows which ones are petrol, what’s electric, if it’s robotic, how wide it is, who is selling it. Google is trying to push people into using Google Shopping as a marketplace like eBay or Amazon so it becomes really useful if you’re an online store that wants to compete with products specifically rather than having people come to your website first.

How does it work? Google Shopping is configured through Google Merchant Center otherwise known as GMC, another acronym to add to the list. It’s different to Google Ads and Google Analytics. If you have a Google Ads or Google Analytics account that won’t actually get you a Google Shopping account. You need to set a Google Merchant Center account up. If you Google it and follow the prompts you’ll find how to do that. It sets a feed from your e-commerce website. You tell the information that you want to pull from. You then configure your tax and shipping conditions in Google Merchant Center. For example you would set GST and you would then set your delivery conditions, where you deliver, where you don’t deliver, how much you deliver, etc. Google’s bot then comes along and checks that that information is valid on your website. You have to be very careful that you’re not misleading the bot because you can get penalised and potentially banned. We had a client overnight who has been banned for a month because the GST was showing to an international audience and not just an Australian audience so the bot takes things very seriously. It doesn’t want to show prices that are inaccurate. You’ve got to be very careful with that.

To get your product to show in the Google Shopping area you configure that in Google Ads or Google Adwords as it used to be called. There’s a few steps to getting that campaign set up but you use Google Merchant Center to connect Google’s Shopping bot to your website and then you configure the campaign and the ads in Google Ads. Inside Google Ads you can set locations, bids, budgets, etc. you can’t control the ad text or the image or the price. That is all pulled from the feed directly. That is coming from your website. It’s very important to make sure that your website has all the relevant information in the right place and is accurate. There’s good quality pictures. They must have white backgrounds for example. They’re not allowed to have text in the picture. They’re not allowed to have little banners or promos on them. Google wants to keep it very clean. They’re very protective of their home page. They need to make sure that all the product information is accurate and applies. Things like typos and spelling mistakes they’ll ban those products. Then you use Google Analytics to monitor the success. Once you set up the campaign you can then connect Google Merchant Center to Google Ads and then Google Ads to Google Analytics and then everything will be connected together and you can monitor the success of the campaign.

Top tip. Make sure that you control your product feed so that you only show the products where you are competitive. For example fi you have 5000 products on your website but you’re only price competitive in 500 of those products then you would be silly to be uploading the entire feed to Google Shopping. You should only really be uploading or telling the bot to show the products that you are competitive. You can control that based on category or individual products as well. You can set those products directly in the feed or you can include certain categories that you don’t want to show as well.

Example of a poorly configured ad here is I have searched for an electric lawnmower and this particular product that I’ve highlighted here is a manual lawnmower. That is a waste of an ad because it’s not relevant to what I’ve searched for and that is probably down to the ad itself and the feed because it’s clearly a manual lawnmower and it’s not an electric lawnmower so that ad should not be showing.

Richard: You could also argue on that that potentially someone thought about offering this as a competitive product to electric is that I want to spend $700 or $300 and maybe they might want to go for a manual one but it is an example of a bad placement.

Gareth: This is an example of it down well where I’ve used the term cheap lawnmower and all the lawnmowers that were shown are cheap. The same product is shown again as an alternative and it is a cheap lawnmower. Google understands that the word cheap is lower priced. It is very clever in working out what the intent of the user wanted. If you compare that to my electric lawnmower you can see that it hasn’t necessarily looked at price. It’s pulled in a few examples. There’s one there that is $800. There’s one there that is $550. There’s one that is $99 but if I use the word cheap they’re all around the same price $199, $215, $100, $130. It’s very clever at showing relevant ads to the user.

Some tips on how to structure your product data. Your product data is what makes up the feed. This is just simply the information that you have on your website for each product. There’s a few tips here that we’ll go through. With your product titles make sure that you are being very specific. In the product title itself you can include the brand, the model, the type if it’s an electric or people or manual lawnmower you would put that in the title. The product descriptions. While the product description doesn’t show in the Google Shopping ad itself the Google Shopping bot is using the product’s description to work out the keywords and what the product has and it builds its filtering system based on the product description. If you’ve got a product that you are trying to promote in the feed then you want to make sure the product description is really clear and accurate with all the information that the user or the bot might want to find out.

Category selection is very important. This is to do with how your categories on your website are set up. Google has a public taxonomy listing which you can email. It’s quite a long list. If you just want to send either myself or Richard an email we can send you a link to that. These are Google’s official category listing. When you’re building your e-commerce store and creating your categories or collections for products you really should be using Google’s category structure because that is going to help not only your Google Shopping, your Google Ads but also your organic SEO by making sure that the bot knows the category of product that you’re trying to use. It’s a very long list. I think there’s about 6500 lines on there but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything on there that isn’t relevant. I would strongly encourage anyone watching this to review their categories on their website and update their category listing to suit Google’s taxonomy list.

Richard: Gareth, that is actually a really good tip even if you never use Google Shopping. Take a look at Google taxonomy to understand the categories of products and how Google thinks things can or should be categorized because as Gareth said it will help or can help your organic listings even if you don’t use Google Shopping. Would you agree Gareth?

Gareth: Absolutely. Probably the most important tip on there and applies to everything not just Google Shopping. Next tip, images. You need to have an image that can be visible in large and also a thumbnail as you can see from some of these images here on my example. They are quite small. They are all very clean. They all have white backgrounds. Some have had shadows put on them. Google is looking for very clear, very clean, very crisp images otherwise it will block your ads from the feed. You can’t have text or watermarks in your pictures either. If you’re trying to put sort of banners or promos or watermarks on images then you need to use an app or module on the website itself. Shopify for example has an app that you can do that with so that it overlays an image to the viewer but the actual underlying image itself can be picked up by the feed.

Price, personally I’ve never seen Google Shopping work unless you’re either the cheapest or in line with everybody else price wise. If you have a product where you’re 10% more than everybody else then you’re wasting your time with Google Shopping ads because it’s really designed for price shoppers because it presents say five options and whoevers got the lowest price usually will get the ad shown over someone else. Make sure that you are price competitive. You don’t have to be price competitive for your entire product range. You just have to be price competitive for the products that you are trying to show in Google Ads through the feed. Again, you can control those.

Brand, if you’re selling a product that has a brand or a manufacturer that must be included as well because Google is trying to crawl through all of the Google Shopping ad accounts and look for all of the products that are the same. By having the brand and the product name included and clear it helps the bot work out what to show and to whom. The GTI and bar codes, these are unique identifiers. If you are selling a product that has a bar code on it make sure that bar code has been uploaded in the product directory or catalog or reference number because that again will help Google associate that product with everybody else’s who is promoting it and that will help you get your product shown in the Google shopping ads as well. It is required in most circumstances. If you have a product that does have a bar code or an internationally recognized identifier and you’ve not included that on your website in the product details then you probably won’t get your ad shown and you probably get locked because it’s a requirement.

The second most important tip I guess is the quality score concept that Google is famous for which a lot of people don’t seem to understand still applies. If you would like to learn more about the quality score concept, Richard and I did a webinar on that a few weeks ago. You’re welcome to send us an email and we’ll send you a link to that because that is also how Google shopping bot calculates position and the bid pricing also comes into play with that as well.

Richard: Just to add to that those previous webinars are on the Concise Digital website and also up on our YouTube channel.

Gareth: Look for the one that says Google shopping. There’s also a really good one on writing product descriptions which will also help you write product descriptions that the bots love. A few top tips for Google Shopping generally. You want to make sure that you have a goal. Richard, do you want to just talk through that?

Richard: Different people think about goals in different ways. A few years ago someone came up with a clever approach. The acronym for SMART goals. A goal without specifics is kind of a dream. SMART goals have the acronym Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. If you’re going to set a goal the more specific it is the better. Make it clearly measurable. No point in having unrealistic goals that are never going to be achievable. Also have some time element into goals as well. We can talk more about that and have a whole webinar just on goals and goal setting but SMART goals. Think specific don’t think dreams. The point as it relates to Google Shopping is to understand what the goals are that you want before you start paying money to Google. You can let things run for a month or two but if you’re not clear on what you want out of it then you won’t really know whether you’re being successful or not. Set some goals at the start and then judge things along the way and adjust your goals.

Gareth: Make sure as I have for the last 18 minutes make sure that you select products that you know are competitive. Absolute no no is just putting your entire product range on there. You really want to select categories or certain areas of product or even individual products that you are price competitive. I usually recommend a lot of clients they just start with the specials, what they have on specials and use them as a loss leader. You get a customer into your business that you can then remarket to, send email campaigns to, upsell other products to, so on and so on because remember you are paying for these ads and you are paying per click. You are not paying for results. You are paying every time someone clicks on that ad. You really need to make sure that when that user lands your website you get the absolute maximum return out of that spent.

You want to select locations. This is often overlooked. People say I’ve got an online store so I want to target everyone in Australia so that they could buy from anywhere whereas that is wrong. Typically an online store has a physical store in a particular area or state. You really want to focus on people who are within a vicinity of say 50 kilometers of that store first because then they’ve got multiple potential options to purchase. They can either buy directly to your website or they can come in and pick it up from store particularly if someone is in a hurry for some stock they might Google online and because you’re within 50 km of them they might drive to your location. You then might sort of otherwise pick pockets. You might know that you’re in Sydney and people from Brisbane and Melbourne often buy from Sydney. You might target the Brisbane metro area and the Melbourne metro area with individual campaigns. You can set different budgets for each of those campaigns as well. You can help improve your return on investment by being selective with locations. Google Analytics also give you some really good information and data on where your users are coming from. It will keep track of your conversion rates and all those bits and pieces as well.

That’s it. That is our sort of 20 minute guide to Google Shopping. Hopefully that was interesting and helpful. Now we’ll put out to some questions.

Richard: Happy to take questions. What sort of products sell well through Google Shopping?

Gareth: Products that I believe sell well are products that are common products that people know lawnmowers, tools, anything that is sort of typical household object where it’s not unique to a certain business. It’s a well-known brand where you have a lot of stock or you have local stock or you’re the cheapest in Australia, that sort of thing. Those are the sorts of products that do very well in Google Shopping. Even if you’re running a promo for two weeks on a particular product where you’re cheaper than everybody else that is a great way of just having a two week campaign for that product just to acquire some new customers.

Richard: Added to that same products where people are looking to compare things anyway and know that there are enough comparative products that can meet their needs that they actually want to compare. Then they will have the chance of looking through the Google Shopping products that are presented to them and clicking on those that look interested to them but then it’s a case of understanding as Gareth sort of hopefully drummed in through this whole session to know your numbers because you don’t just want to be clicked on. You pay for the click. You really want to look at your conversion rates on the way through.

Another question, how much does Google Shopping typically cost?

Gareth: Google Shopping works in the same way as cost per click. That means that you pay every time someone clicks on that ad. The ads effectively show for free. Then if someone clicks on that ad then that is when you pay. It uses the quality score algorithm to calculate that bid price. You set a ceiling bid price that you’re prepared to pay per click. Then the bot comes along and does it little quality score magic and then works out a competitive bid price based on how relevant your ad is and how much other people are willing to pay for that bid as well. That is why you’d often find people like Amazon and eBay and so on at the top of the results because they’re trying to acquire customers and get people to their platform so they’re spending a lot of money on Google Ads trying to get people there.

Richard: To follow on that. Is the cost of ads for Google Shopping similar to the cost for Google Ads Adwords?

Gareth: No, it’s often a lot less because there’s a lot more potential for more ads to be shown. The pricing is a lot cheaper. It depends on certain areas and certain products and how competitive they are but in general in my experience they are sort of at least half of the price of a similar bid for a normal ad that you would find but no doubt that is going to change and increase over time as more people jump on the Google Shopping bandwagon.

Richard: Another question, if all my product photos have text and watermark can I just upload one main image without text and watermarks to use for Google Shopping?

Gareth: I’ll just have to reread that and I hope I understand that.

Richard: All my product photos have text and watermark. Can I just upload one main image without text and watermarks to use for Google Shopping?

Gareth: Tricky question. I’m not actually a 100% sure what the answer to that would be. I think it would be a case of connecting your site to the Google Shopping feed. It does a very good job of telling you what it doesn’t like. That is before you need to activate the ad as well. It doesn’t like text and watermarks so if it had an alternative image, say you had two images per product. One was the clean image and the other one was the image with the text and the watermark on it then you might find that you get away with that but I think that that question really is a case by case basis. You would have to try the things and it will tell you if it didn’t like that. I’m not entirely sure.

Richard: Another question, I guess this wouldn’t work for services like workshops or courses as you need physical products.

Gareth: Absolutely correct. It’s a product based ad. If you’re doing web design or workshop absolutely you’re not going to get in the feed. It would need to be a common product with a suitable image. It’s just like a typical department store in a physical sense.

Richard: Next question, how long does it take to set up Google Shopping and is it easy to set it up?

Gareth: It depends on your technical ability. It’s quite easy to sort of create a Google Merchant Center account however the tricky bit is the feed. There are quite a few apps particularly if you’re running a Shopify store that you can connect into quite easily however if it doesn’t like the feed or it doesn’t like the products or you can get into quite a bit of technical mess that you probably need a developer to help you with. Setting up a Google Shopping campaign in Google Ads is also quite easy to do but it’s fraught with danger because if you don’t understand the quality scores and locations and languages and long list of other bits and pieces then you will find that you will spend money very quickly and that is in Google’s interest. You’ll also probably likely get hounded by the Google account managers trying to tell you how to set things up and just remember the golden rule is Google is an American capitalist company that has to deliver a return to shareholders that increases over time. They will do whatever they possibly can to get money off you as quickly as possible. Any call that you get from Google directly take with a grain of salt and generally ignore what they say because they’re doing it for them not for you.

Richard: Just remember the Google Account Manager is not your friend. One more, is there press to shop module for Google Shopping?

Gareth: There is. It works relatively okay as long as you don’t have any dramas with your feed. The actual connection to the Google Merchant Center is quite straightforward. It is pretty point and shoot. Where things get very messy and difficult is when the bot doesn’t like your products or it can’t find your shipping information. It’s kind of one of those things that you fire up and see what happens. Then you go about fixing it from there. It does a relatively good job of telling you what it doesn’t like. For all of the major software platforms there are modules that exist. Some are better than others but most of them are free.

Richard: Thanks guys. Thanks Gareth.

Gareth: No worries.

Richard: If there any other questions please feel free to contact us afterwards. There is a button up there that you can click if you want to schedule a chat with Gareth. That chat is absolutely free. If you want to clarify anything click there and you can get right into Gareth’s calendar. Just a quick one. What is coming up next week is a really good webinar like they all are. This is The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand. The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand is going to be with our guest presenter Michelle Hogan who is a brand specialist from Melbourne and has done a lot of work in the US and different places. That is next Thursday. After that one on the 26th Smart e-commerce Strategies for 2020. That is not a do not miss session in our view because we are going to really be outlining some key things to think about. One we’re also putting together at the moment is Ransomware How to Avoid Getting Hurt. Thanks very much again. Gareth, do you want to wrap up?

Gareth: Thanks everyone for attending.

Richard: All the best everybody. Have a great day and thanks again for being part of this Concise Webinar. Thank you. Bye.


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