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Google Shopping Campaigns Overview: What You Should Know Before Transitioning

With Product Listing Ads (PLAs) making up an increasingly significant chunk of advertisers’ paid search programs, the Google Shopping Campaigns transition is understandably a hot topic right now across the industry. Here is a quick overview of some of the enhancements you can expect to see after transitioning to the new Shopping Campaigns, along with our take on how to structure your campaigns for success. For more information and tips please tune in to our Google Shopping Campaigns webinar today, Thursday, June 26th at 1pm EDT! Update 6/30/14: The full webinar is now available for streaming on our site here.

Better Reporting Capabilities

One of the most helpful new features of Google Shopping Campaigns is its enhanced reporting. Previously, performance data lived and was reported at the target level; under Shopping Campaigns, reporting is available at various levels of granularity, including at the specific item ID level. This enables marketers to easily identify individual products or sets of products within a broader group that should be broken out into their own groups in order to receive tailored bids.

GSC ID Images

Performance can be segmented by the following attributes, either by themselves or in combination:

  • Item ID
  • Google Category
  • Product Type
  • Brand
  • Merchant Center ID
  • Store ID

Google will also start to provide competitive insights for PLAs. This will include impression share data, benchmark CPCs, and benchmark CTRs for competitors, as well as bid simulator data similar to what we currently receive for text ads. All of these features provide advertisers with additional tools to assess and manage their PLA program in a sophisticated way.

google-shopping-campaigns-ui-report AdWords UI reports are more flexible and granular under Shopping Campaigns


More Control over Ad Service

Google Shopping Campaigns also provide levers to help better control PLA ad service. Under the legacy PLA structure, accounts with a robust sets of PLA targets may still see a significant amount of click traffic come from the All Products catchall target, even when the SKUs being served by Google fall into a more granular target with a higher bid. This has been an ongoing source of frustration and concern for our account analysts; if we have created an item ID target because our data deems a product worthy of a $1.50 bid, we always want Google to use that bid in the auction, not one that is assigned to a broader target, even if it is lower. When Google would serve SKUs from needlessly broad targets under the legacy PLA model, it suggested they did not fully understand our intentions and were not delivering as much traffic to us as they could have. Fortunately, the new Google Shopping Campaigns model allows for better control over ad service. With the new format, the product group creation process requires you to build product groups in a hierarchical manner. As shown below, when you build more granular product groups within an ad group, any product within that group is automatically excluded from the broader groups above.

Campaign prioritization structure

However, this only applies within ad groups, not across them. For example, let’s say an account has separate PLA ad groups for “Flower Bouquets” and “Wedding Flowers”. Having an item ID target for a bridal bouquet in “Wedding Flowers” would not necessarily stop that product from serving out of a category product group in “Flower Bouquets”. To offset this, you can now a) keep all of your product groups within one ad group, b) leverage product exclusions (in this example, exclude “Wedding Flowers” from the “Flower Bouquets” ad group), or c) use campaign prioritization.

Campaign Prioritization

Campaign prioritization is another new PLA feature in Google Shopping Campaigns. Setting campaign priority levels of high, medium, or low allows you to control the campaign from which Google serves a product, regardless of bid. In other words, if you have a product that is eligible to serve in multiple campaigns and one of those campaigns is set to “high” priority, it’s guaranteed to serve from that campaign, even if its bid is higher elsewhere.

Campaign priorities

Campaign prioritization is most helpful for pushing strong product groups and pulling back on poor product groups. For example, if we find that “XYZ Co. Dog Beds” performs terribly, we might want to bid that product group at 5 cents with “high” priority. By placing “high” priority on that group’s campaign, we ensure that if that product goes into the auction, our bid will only be 5 cents. We avoid the risk of having that product serve from groups like “product type=Dog Beds”, “brand=XYZ Co.”, etc. that might have higher bids. On the flip side, if we have a product group for On Sale products with an aggressive bid, we can set the campaign priority to “high” to ensure that any product that exists in that group will only enter the auction with that high bid. It is worth emphasizing that campaign priority has no impact on relevancy. Google considers all products equally when determining relevancy for a given query, regardless of campaign priority. Priority only comes into play when a product exists in multiple campaigns with varying priorities, at which point the bid in the highest-priority campaign will be used.

Setting Your Account Up for Success

The structure of PLA campaigns under Google Shopping will have a significant impact on your ability to effectively manage your program. As always, each account will require custom tweaks depending on your volume of data, the size of your feed, and whether your products/groups of products perform differently enough to warrant different bids. Generally speaking, we recommend following these rules to help ensure success:

  • Develop your ad group structure based on how you will leverage negatives and mobile bid modifiers. Carrying your negatives and modifiers over from existing PLA campaigns makes sense.
  • Exclude the “Everything Else in All Products” product group that is automatically generated in each ad group. Having an “All Products” product group in each ad group would mean you have multiple all products targets running against each other with a lot of SKU overlap. Having one true “All Products” ad group or campaign makes management easier.
    • Putting All Products in a separate campaign at low priority, with your other campaigns set to medium or high, basically eliminates any SKU overlap. As mentioned previously, this guarantees that your more granular bid (whether higher or lower than All Products) is honored.
    • Examine and, as needed, revise the values in the product type and labels fields to best leverage the new structure and reporting features. This is especially important because the number of custom labels allowed per product in Google Shopping Campaigns is 5, compared to 10 adwords_labels values in legacy PLA campaigns.

We have conducted extensive testing over the past several months and are excited to capitalize on the new opportunities brought about by Google Shopping Campaigns. We plan to publish our findings and expand on best practices here in the coming months. In the meantime, tune in to our Google Shopping Campaigns webinar today, Thursday, June 26th at 1pm EDT, where Todd Bowman, Director of CSEs & Feeds, and Sarah Carpenter, Senior Analyst, will share transition strategies and tips and answer any questions you may have! Update 6/30/14: The full webinar is now available for streaming on our site here.

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