You’ve heard the statistics. 47% of American internet users start their product searches on Amazon. 35% start on Google. Google used to be online shoppers’ favorite place to look for stuff, but Amazon has emerged as the dominant ecommerce search engine.
Now, I get it—this is compelling stuff. We’re witnessing a shift in the ways your prospects search for products online. You may feel tempted to do away with your Google Shopping campaigns and give all your money to Jeff Bezos.
[Awesome, juvenile joke regarding Mr. Bezos’ personal life redacted in the name of professionalism or whatever.]
Don’t do that. Nearly 300 million Americans use the internet. That means roughly 100 million of them turn to Google when they want to search for products like yours. Neglecting to run Shopping ads is akin to owning a brick-and-mortar store that’s open from 11 pm until 7 am.
Plus, according to that Jumpshot study I referenced earlier, Shopping listings turn prospects into buyers faster than do Amazon listings.
Whereas 35% of Google product searches turn into transactions within five days, only 20% of Amazon product searches do the same. The average amount of time between a Google product search and a purchase is 20 days. It’s 26 days on Amazon.
So, not only do Shopping ads work—they work fast. However, effectiveness isn’t a given. If you want to drive returns, you have to optimize your Google Shopping feed.
What is a Google Shopping Feed?
Shopping campaigns work differently than do Search campaigns.
Whereas Search advertisers bid on keywords—and, thus, determine which search queries trigger their text ads—Shopping advertisers don’t have direct control over which search queries trigger their Shopping ads.
Instead, Google crawls Shopping advertisers’ websites and feeds to determine which ads are relevant for a given search query. The relevance of your ads, then, depends on the robustness of your Google Shopping feed.
What is a shopping feed? Your Google Shopping feed is a spreadsheet that describes and organizes your product catalog in a such a way that Google can easily crawl it and index the information it needs.
This should sound familiar: Feed optimization works similarly to SEO. In both cases, you’re providing relevant information with the intent of appearing when people Google search particular queries.
Shopping advertisers who sell only a handful of products should feel free to create their feeds manually in Google Sheets. Those who sell hundreds or thousands of products need to use an app or service (e.g., GoDataFeed) that can crawl their websites and auto-generate their feeds in a Google-friendly manner.
How to Optimize Your Google Shopping Feed
For this section, we’ll walk through the main elements of your Google Shopping feed and provide basic optimization tips. To make sure these tips are as reliable as possible, I spoke with Kelly McGee and Sam Drane—two experts on our Managed Services team who consistently drive returns for their ecommerce clients.
But first, let’s address the theme you’re about to observe: When creating your feed, there’s no such thing as too much information. Describing your products in greater detail will only increase the relevance of your ads. Conversely, the less information you provide, the less precisely Google can match your ads with search queries.
Your product title is the blue hyperlinked text at the top of your Shopping ad.
Kelly and Sam were clear about their first piece of advice: Your product title is your top priority. “Make sure you don’t keyword stuff,” says Sam. “Pick a target keyword and get it as close to the front of your product title as possible.”
Your product title is analogous to a website page title. When Google is looking for relevant results, it looks to the title first.
Although you shouldn’t keyword stuff, you should be detailed. Online shoppers tend to search long-tail queries when they’re getting ready to buy. By including the brand, color, size, style, model, gender, measurements, and any other relevant attributes, you give yourself a better shot of capturing commercial intent.
Your product image is the—uh—image of your product.
“Product images are extremely important,” Kelly explains. “They have to look professional. Nobody clicks on a Shopping ad with an awful image.”
As you may intuit, product images are less about communicating relevance to Google and more about attracting consumers’ eyes. Think of it like making a first impression. Do you want prospects to associate your brand with sloppiness or with professionalism?
There are a few rules, too: no watermarks, no additional text, and no logos.
Your product category doesn’t show up on the prospect-facing side—it’s strictly a backend attribute that Google takes into consideration when populating the Shopping search results.
This is a required part of your Google Shopping feed. In order to make a product eligible for advertisement, you must select a category from Google’s Product Taxonomy, or GPT. Available for download, the GPT is complete with over 6,000 categories and subcategories.
“When it comes to relevance, product category is extremely important,” says Sam. “The more targeted you are with your subcategories, the more relevant your product will be.”
In other words, narrow it down. If you sell baby socks, don’t simply categorize them like this:
Apparel & Accessories > Clothing
Instead, categorize them like this:
Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Baby & Toddler Clothing > Baby & Toddler Socks & Tights
Remember: There’s no such thing as too much product information.
Plain and simple, your product type is an opportunity to give Google another backend attribute that helps determine relevance. Unlike product category, it’s optional.
But, according to Kelly, it’s not really optional. “In some cases, the GPT will provide the perfect categorization of your product,” she says. “More often, you’ll find yourself wishing you could be just a bit more precise.”
That’s where product type comes in. It’s your chance to paint an even better picture of your product. If a painting a better picture means getting your ad served to more relevant audiences, product type is a no-brainer.
This is an especially crucial attribute for those of you who sell niche products. Admittedly, I haven’t memorized the GPT. Nonetheless, I’m fairly certain it doesn’t include a subcategory called Bruce Lee Custom Merchandise. Therefore, if you sell handcrafted grandfather clocks in the shape of Bruce Lee (drop me a line), you’re going to need to use product type.
We’re back to the prospect-facing side of things. Your product description is the text that appears below your product title and to the right of your product image.
There’s a common misconception that you can use the product description to get, in Kelly’s words, “fluffy.” What she means is that a lot of well-meaning Shopping advertisers write lengthy product descriptions that, frankly, provide frivolous information.
“Google crawls your product descriptions for relevant keywords,” Kelly explains. “It’s your chance to target secondary keywords that didn’t make the cut for the product title.”
As is the case with your product title, don’t keyword stuff. Be detailed and thorough, but not spammy. If you can, get those second-tier keywords as close to the beginning of the description as possible.
This is less of a feed optimization tip and more of an advanced bidding tactic. But it’s relevant.
When you’re building out your Shopping campaigns, you divide your product catalogue across buckets. You can segment as you like—according to brand, style, age groups, etc. Once you’ve created your product buckets, you assign bids to them.
Via Savvy Revenue.
Let’s say you sell athleisure apparel and you divide your products across buckets according to brand. You’ve got a lululemon bucket, an Athleta bucket, and an Outdoor Voices bucket.
You could set bids at the bucket level. But there’s a problem: Your best-selling product is a pair of lululemon pants. It sells much, much better than do other lululemon products in your catalogue. As such, you want to bid up on that particular pair of pants.
That’s what custom labels are for. They allow you to differentiate amongst products that are categorized within the same bucket and to set bids accordingly.
“I always jump on the opportunity to set custom labels for my clients,” says Sam. “It’s a simple, effective way to segment your catalogue and prioritize your heavy hitters.”
Miscellaneous product information
Your product price is a required part of your feed, of course. Make sure to see what others are charging for the same products and price yours competitively.
If you’re a reseller, you must include in your feed the brand of each product in your catalogue.
If you sell apparel, you have to list attributes such as gender (male, female, unisex), color, size (small, medium, large, etc.), size type (regular, petite, maternity, etc.), age group, and size system (U.S., U.K., E.U., etc.).
Every product you sell must have a Global Trade Item Number. GTIN is a unique item identifier that’s used to store information in databases. Every item that’s for sale needs a unique, universal GTIN such that the same item can be identified across different databases. Additionally, when populating the Shopping search results, Google groups together sellers that are offering products with the same GTIN.
Finally, across your feed, you must indicate each product’s condition (new or used) and availability (in stock, out of stock, or available for preorder).
Google Shopping Feed: Crucial for Your Success
You can spend tons of time perfecting your products. You don’t want to go to market with anything less than your best.
But how much does that effort really matter if you’re not getting your products in front of online shoppers?
Not much. Not much at all.
The visibility of your ecommerce catalog depends on the thoroughness of your Google Shopping feed. The value you get out of it corresponds to the work you put into it.
And that’s true regardless of who you are. Whether you’re a solo seller capable of building your own feed or a marketing director in need of a software solution, feed optimization is a must.