By Richard Eccles

Google yesterday started rolling out its new Google Shopping platform. Once you've got your feed in order, it's time to start looking at Product Listing Ad Optimisation!

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Last week I posted a blog on what you can do to optimise your product feeds in preparation for the new Google Shopping model being rolled out yesterday. However, this is only half of the equation. The next step is to turn your attention to Product Listing Ad (PLA) Optimisation. If you've done the first part, you should have plenty of options for optimising at your disposal!

Don't Fall At The First Hurdle!

So, you’ve got your data feed looking accurate and attributed up to the hilt, now it’s time to advertise your feed!

Firstly, it’s important to note that just because a product sells well through search does not mean it will work well through PLAs and vice versa. Generally, price competitive products will be the winners as prices are a big feature of PLAs:

As you can see from the example above, having the correct images displaying is essential as the two highlighted options are showing white trainers and therefore would probably receive a low CTR for this search. This goes to show, if you don’t make sure your feed is optimised, you’ve already lost half the battle before you’ve even starting optimising your ads!

Target Everything!

The first recommended step for starting a product listing ad campaign is to create an "All Products" ad group and attach the entire data feed as the target. Setting the max CPC high to begin with will ensure the majority of your products get exposure when search queries are entered. Add an engaging promotional line (no capital letters, highlighting your best USP) and you’re set to go.

Analyse and Optimise – Use Your Attributes as Product Targets

Once you have a sample of data you feel is representative (anything from a week to a month), it’s time to make some decisions on what needs to be split out and how you want to target these split out groups of products. Using the number of impressions, clicks, conversion rates and your own personal CPA margins, you can identify popular products (impressions), which of these products you are competitive/attractive on (clicks/CTR), are successful at leading to purchases (conversion rate), at a margin that you are comfortable with (cost per conversion). This can all be checked in the search term report accessed through the auto-targets section in the Product Listing Ads campaign:

For example, you may find that a particular brand of shoe (for argument sake, Nike) is selling well across the range. A logical move would be to create a new ad group called “Nike Shoes” targeting the brand attribute “nike” in the Merchant Center:

You can use the validate button to ensure that there are one or more products in your feed that match this target. If you come back with an error, check your merchant center account and make sure your Nike shoes have the exact term “nike” as a brand attribute.

Another example could be a certain type of product that is selling particularly well (e.g. loafers). Creating a “Loafers” ad group and targeting it using the product type attribute, you could then increase the bid on this ad group to capitalise on the high performance. The same can be said for poor performers too. Splitting out a product type or brand and then reducing bids can make sure less traffic is brought in through these products.

Try Different Combos

Occasionally, you may find the product type and brand attributes are too broad a target. For instance, your nike (brand) trainers (product type) might not all be performing well and only a couple of models are standing out. In this case, you can use adwords_labels or id targeting to push specific products. Labelling products as “high performer” or “high margin” or “sale” means you can effectively categorise and bid separately on performance or promotional based items. Alternatively, you can create a “High Margin” ad group and fill it with individual product ids (numerical values unique to each product) as the targets. The latter method however, can be time consuming if a feed is continuously updating with new products on a daily basis. It can be useful for targeting a very small number of products with a certain bid though. Remember, you can use up to three product targets per ad group, so use them wisely.

Regularly going through the search terms reports and excluding irrelevant queries will prevent wasted spend. Google will match queries to products pretty accurately, but queries not performing or not entirely relevant should be cut out. Furthermore, once you begin splitting out your feed into different ad groups, you will want to reduce your bids on “All Products” to ensure traffic for specific products goes through the correct ad groups and performance can be easily analysed. Eventually, your All Products ad group will become a “safety net” to pick up anything you aren’t specifically targeting, ensuring your entire feed is getting exposure. The bid can even be set as low as 1p for this group if necessary.

Be Specific...

Finally, test your promotional line (up to 45 characters) with different copy and see what works best for your CTR’s and conversions, different ad groups may want different USP’s displayed. For example, if you’d created an ad group targeting products labelled “Expensive” and your free delivery only activates over a certain threshold, you could legitimately put “free delivery” in that ad group, knowing those products surpass this limit. On the other hand, if you target the full range of a particular brand, use the USP “huge/full range of (brand) available” in that brand targeted ad group. Try to avoid general ad copy such as “Best Shoe Shop Online!” and instead highlight specific USPs like “10% Off When You Spend Over £30” for example.

Overall, the potential of the new Google Shopping for merchants is massive and with all traffic being paid for, never has there been a better excuse to optimise your feed and PLAs for maximum ROI. Splitting out your products into narrow, tightly defined ad groups and product targets will ensure you have maximum control over bidding strategically on your stock. An All Product group and target will provide a “safety net” to ensure full coverage, going through the search term report to exclude irrelevant or poor performing queries will reduce wasted spend & promotional line testing can give your PLA the extra edge over a competitor.

Finally, good luck! You may now be paying for Google Shopping traffic, but never before have you had greater control over it. We’ve had positive experiences with PLAs here at Periscopix, let us know about your experiences with the new platform and whether it brings you the ROI you’re looking for!

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