Samantha Noble

The Competitive World of Google Shopping #EdgeRetail

16th Apr 2015 PPC Blog 11 minutes to read

The Competitive World of Google Shopping #EdgeRetail

Today, I had the pleasure of speaking at On The Edge Retail in London. When I was putting together my presentation idea, I wanted to keep it relevant for the retail industry, which is what led me to talk about Google Shopping.

A study by the team over at Marin Software last year indicated that advertisers were expected to allocate 33% of their entire paid search budget towards Google Shopping by the end of 2014. Considering how new Google Shopping campaigns are, this figure really surprised me as I was expecting it to be lower. After reading the study, it makes it clear that Ecommerce businesses really need to up their game when it comes to the optimisation of Google Shopping campaigns; with the ever growing competition, costs are going to steadily rise. The earlier you work to optimise your campaigns, the more you will benefit in the long run.

The Slides

I have embedded the actual slides from the event below for those of you who would like to have a look through. In the next section, you will find an overview of my talk written up as a blog post.

Getting The Campaign Build Correct From The Start

I have read so many posts that talk about just having one campaign and splitting that campaign down into Product Groups and/or Ad Groups. However, in my opinion, it is best to have multiple campaigns. If you go down the one campaign route, your targeting options are extremely limited. For example, if different products sell better at different times of the day, your ad scheduling settings would only be able to be set at campaign level. Going down the route of having multiple campaigns stops this.

Some ideas for breaking down your campaigns:

  • You could split campaigns by brand and then by product within that brand
  • Use Custom Labels (more on that later) for Seasonal, High Return, ROI & Top Converters
  • You may choose to create campaigns by Product Type or Product Category
  • If Condition is important to use, break down campaigns by New, Used or Refurbished

On top of this, I would recommend that you retain your ‘Catch All Products’ campaign and have it set at a low priority (see next paragraph for more on priorities) so that you always have a campaign fall back for new products or products that don’t fit the format of your broken down campaigns.

Before you start breaking your campaigns out, think carefully about the format you want to follow. This is especially important if you have lots of products as you want to be able to keep track of what campaign each product falls into. If a product sits in more than one campaign, you can use Campaign Priority to tell Google how important each campaign is. For example, if you had a flash sale on certain products, you could pull them into a separate campaign and set the priority as High to ensure that campaign gets preference over the other campaigns that those products are sat in.

Whatever you decide to do, take things slowly and let the data guide you before you split all the products out into lots of different campaigns.

17 Google Merchant Centre Data Feed Tips

The Data Feed is where you can really gain a competitive advantage. So many feeds are not fully optimised which means products are not showing as often as they could be and they may not be showing for the most relevant product searches.

Above all, you need to make sure you are making the most of all the different field attributes available to you. Google have a very handy document that you can refer to which I strongly recommend you read.

A feed should be updated at least once per day. Google seem to rank feeds higher the more frequently they are updated.

Product Titles

  1. Product titles should be keyword rich, descriptive and under 70 characters.
  2. Think about what your customers are likely to be searching for. Do your research.
  3. Avoid using promotional text, unusual characters, shipping details or block capitals.
  4. Always include the most important information at the start (brand, style, audience).

Product Descriptions

  1. Aim for 500 characters for Product descriptions & include important information at the start.
  2. Always include the most important information at the start (brand, style, audience).
  3. Always use unique content and avoid the standard manufacturers’ descriptions. Don’t use characters in brand names.
  4. Products with different variations should be kept simple. Just say this item comes in various colours, sizes etc.

Unique Product Identifiers

  1. UPIs are the most important element of your feed. Ads will be disapproved if not correct.
  2. There are three types; GTIN, MPN and Brand. For most products you will need to submit two of the three.
  3. Google will disapprove products using this attribute incorrectly.
  4. Custom made goods should use the Identifier Exists attribute instead.

Item Name / MPU

  1. Make the MPU your Item Number so the product name is pulled in.

Product Images

  1. The Product Image is what makes people click. It needs to stand out from the crowd.
  2. Try taking your own product photos so they are different from the competition. They need to match with the landing page too.
  3. The recommended image size is at least 400 x 400 but for clothing products this should be 250 x 250.
  4. If the ones you are using are not converting well, test different images .

Monitoring For potential Issues

One of the more recent additions to the Google Merchant Center is the diagnostics section. It alerts you to any potential issues or threats to your data feed and tells you what you need to do to fix the issue. As a merchant, you should be checking this area very frequently to ensure that all the ads you want running are actually running.

If you are ever uploading a new feed, I would recommend doing so in Test mode first. This will alert you to any problems with the feed so you can fix them before actually uploading a live feed. This is best practice for any new feed being uploaded.

One of the most frequent reasons that an ad gets disapproved is because a price has changed or an item has gone out of stock. If you run a business where these two things change quite quickly, you need to make sure you are uploading a new feed every few hours. There is also a fall back option to help reduce price related disapprovals; Schema Markup. I will talk about this in the next section.

Schema Markup For Google Shopping

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Schema Markup can be used as a backup for your Google Shopping feed. If Google checks the landing page and compares it against the feed and finds discrepancies for a product, that product will become disapproved and will no longer be shown in the results. This is not good, especially if this happens to be one of your best selling products.

This is where Schema comes in. You can tag up the key elements on your product pages (this is good for SEO too!) including the price and availability elements. If a price changes or the item goes in-out of stock and it does not match the data feed, Google will default to Schema and pull in that information instead until you update your feed again.

Schema does not replace your Google Shopping feed, it should be used alongside it.

Custom Labels

Although the data feed has a lot of different attributes, you can’t segment products in AdWords by all of them. You are limited to just eight different options. However, you can also make use of Custom Labels. Google allows you to have five of these and they basically enable you to tag up your products with whatever you like so you can segment and bid more effectively.

Here are some examples of how you could use Custom Labels in your AdWords campaigns:

  • Seasonality – tag products based on seasonal trends. For example, if you sold snow boots and flip flops, snow boots are more likely to sell better in the winter months compared to flip flops which would sell better in spring and summer.
  • Profit Margin – tag products based on high, medium or low profit margins. You know that you can afford to spend more on a conversion if the product drives a greater profit margin.
  • Complaints – tag specific products that tend to have a high complaint rate. You can then bid lower for these products if you wanted to avoid having more complaints than you can handle at this moment in time.
  • Best Sellers – use Google Analytics to understand which products are your best sellers. You may wish to separate these into a separate campaign and bid higher to get a quick revenue injection into your business.
  • Price Buckets – in a similar way to profit margin, tag products in price buckets so you know how much revenue you will get from each sale. For the higher value items you are most likely going to be able to spend more on a click and conversion compared to the lower value items.

Optimisation Of Your Google Shopping Campaigns

So, we have spent a lot of time looking at the data feed and what you need to do to maximise potential in that area, but we haven’t spent much time looking at the optimisation of your actual AdWords campaigns. We have looked at lots of different Google Shopping campaigns and it is surprising to see how many are set up and just left to run. You wouldn’t do that with your Google Search campaigns, and you definitely shouldn’t do that with your Google Shopping campaigns.

I am going to talk you through some of the optimisation techniques and reports that you should be using. Google Shopping should essentially be treated in the exact same way as your text ad campaigns with the addition of a few extra reports.

Dimensions Tab

Use this report to see performance breakdown for the product group or the campaign. You can really drill down to see which products are working for you and which ones are not and then make changes to your bid strategy based on your findings.


Reduce Bids

Go through your campaign and ad groups applying a filter to ascertain which products are costing you, but are not converting. You should consider making changes to the bid on those products, lowering the amount so that you are not wasting so much of your budget on products that don’t convert. Some advertisers may exclude products from their campaigns if they are not converting, but I always think it is best to lower the bid down to £0.01 as you still have a chance of appearing in the main Shopping section of Google with a low bid.

Reduce Bids

Lost Impression Share

A very handy feature in AdWords is Lost Impression Share. If you notice that you are losing out on a high percentage of the available impressions for your product, you need to improve the Quality Score. With Google Shopping, not much is known about QS, but it will undoubtedly have something to do with the bid and CTR. Increase your bids to be seen in higher positions and entice more clicks.

Lost Impression Share

Search Query Report (SQR)

Even though your Google Shopping campaigns are not based on keywords, people still use keywords to search for and find your products and click through on your ads. It is important to check the SQR frequently; this will pull out any negative keywords unrelated to the products that you sell. You can add these at campaign or ad group level.

Lost Impression Share SQR


Benchmark CTR and CPC

Another handy feature is the Benchmark CTR and Benchmark CPC columns. These are not usually on by default so you will need to go and switch them on. You can then see how your CTR and CPC compares to other advertisers in the same auction. If you have a lower CTR and/or a higher CPC than the average, you know you have some work to do to improve this.


Finally, Some Of The Latest Features

There are two new features that I want to touch on briefly:

  • Merchant Promotions
  • Local Inventory Ads

Merchant Promotions

If you have any special promotions on particular products, you can highlight this nicely within your advert in the search results. This is something that can really give you an edge over your competitors.


As you can see from the screenshot above, the special offer really makes the ad stand out from the competition on the page and entices more people to look at your offering. The advertisers who took part in the Beta test of this saw a 7% increase in CTR and a 11% decrease in CPC!

If you want to get a piece of the action, you will need to request access directly with Google as this is not available to everyone yet.

Local Inventory Ads

If you have physical store locations that contain stock, this new feature could be a great for you. Google will highlight in the advert whether or not a product is currently in stock at the searchers nearest store.

Have a look at the example below from Currys.

Local 1

The ads show ‘In store’ at the bottom when an item is in stock at the local store. When you click through, this is what you see:

Local 2

This is very handy if you sell products that customers typically like to see in person first before they actually buy it. Expensive electronics are a good example as some people like to go into the store and look at TVs etc before they hand over their money.

The Local Inventory Ads also help drive more footfall into stores. In a study that Google did, it showed that 83% of online shoppers were more likely to visit a store if they could check availability beforehand.

Like with the Merchant Promotions, you will need to apply to Google if you want to take part in these type of ads.


I hope you found this post and my slides helpful. If you have any questions, please get in touch, leave a comment below or tweet me at @SamJaneNoble


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Samantha Noble

Sam is a talented multi-tasker, a dedicated mother to the gorgeous Theo and a big fan of cooking – word on the street is that she’s pretty good in the kitchen but we’re yet to know if this is true or not. Hint hint, we like cake, Sam.


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