Google Ads

Google Shopping Ads can be great. But getting them to the point where they can make money can be a real PITA.

They look pretty simple from the outside, but once you get started things quickly get technical.

Knowing how to navigate around these tougher parts is essential to get started as fast as possible.

So in this article, I will show you how to set up Google Shopping, what you can do to make it easier on yourself and how to print money with them. ?

The Only Way To Rank on Top of the Google Search Results

If you want to make sure your products are visible when potential customers search for them, you can no longer ignore Google Shopping Ads.

Shopping and text ads in the google search results in 2018
A typical Google search results for a product search

As you can see from the screenshot above, there isn’t much room anymore for organic results.

But also the Search Ads are getting pushed further down the page.

Because let’s face it, Shopping Ads look a lot more appealing.

The product photo, the title, and a price allow a potential customer to see at a glance if a retailer has the product they are looking for.

And showing them to users with a high-purchase intent results in a lot of clicks.

This is great for retailers, but also great for Google.

This has resulted in more and more retailers moving ad budgets from text to Shopping Ads. And in Google giving these product listing ads more prime real estate.

Google Spending by Ad format 2018 data
Google Spending by Ad format

So if you’re ready to jump on board of this trend, let’s have a look at how to set up Google Shopping Ads for your products.

Putting Together The Google Shopping Puzzle

Google Shopping truly is the future of advertising.

Instead of spending time on keyword research and coming up with clever advertisements, Google Shopping will do all of that for you.

If you supply the information about your products, Google will:

  1. Match the right product with the right search query
  2. Create the advertisement

Unfortunately, that sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

That’s because there are two difficult parts: figuring out what you need to do and then actually doing it.

This is why I call it the Google Shopping Puzzle.

Here is what you need:

  1. Your store platform
  2. Product feed: to send all your product info to Google Merchant Center
  3. Google Merchant Center account
  4. Google Ads account

It’s not rocket science, but there are a lot of little details that you trip you up and get in the way of launching an actual Google Shopping campaign.

In what follows, I’m assuming you have #1 covered. If not you should be busy doing that before reading on ?

Step 1 – Create a product feed

A product feed is a file you need to provide to Google that contains all of your product information.

It is the hardest part of the Google Google Shopping set up the process.

That’s because that product feed needs to be accurate and exactly according to the specifications of Google.

If you’re missing some data or didn’t 100% follow Google’s guidelines, your products won’t get approved and you won’t be able to move forward.

A good way to visualize a product feed is as a big spreadsheet where the rows are all of your products and the columns are all those fields that Google requires.

product feed spreadsheet example
An example of a product feed in spreadsheet format

Most of them are pretty straightforward: product title, price, description, SKU, link, brand, image link, etc.

But there are also a couple of fields that you might not have by default: google product category, GTIN, MPN, etc.

You can find the full list in Google’s help docs.

The ease with which you can put this file together depends on the quality of your product data and on the e-commerce platform you are using.

Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento or Bigcommerce all have apps, plugins or extensions available to make the feed creation part easier.

The specific tool that you need depends on your specific situation, but the ones mentioned below should be enough to get started.

Google Shopping on Shopify

Plenty of choices for Google Shopping apps in the Shopify app store:

shopify google shopping app store overview
Overview of Google Shopping apps on the Shopify app store

After neglecting their homegrown Google Shopping app for a couple of years, Shopify has made a lot of changes at how they integrate with Google Shopping in 2018.

I believe the app they have today is a really good fit for most Shopify merchants, especially those starting out.

best shopify google shopping app

The great thing about the app is that as soon as you’ve installed it, it takes you through a setup wizard that will help you get everything configured.

google shopping in shopify
Here what the Shopify app looks like for my own store

In the end, it will also help you to identify any errors and make suggestions for fixes.

One thing I want to warn you for is to stay away from the “Smart Shopping campaign” that Shopify & Google are promoting.

I’ll outline in Step 4 what it is, and why it’s not ideal if you want to get good results for your business.

Google Shopping on WooCommerce

If you’re using WooCommerce, there are two plugins I recommend to create your product feed.

  • WooCommerce Product Feed PRO – link
  • WooCommerce Google Feed Manager – link

Most WooCommerce plugins will offer similar functionalities:

  • Add extra products fields
  • Field mapping
  • Category mapping
  • Generate the actual product feed (an XML, CSV or txt file)

Some of these plugins will also double to generate product feeds for other channels like Facebook Dynamic Ads. So if that’s also on your list, make sure you select a plugin that can do both.

WooCommerce Google Feed Manager plugin
Screenshot of the WooCommerce Google Feed Manager plugin

Google Shopping on Magento

If you’re running your store on Magento, there are plenty of extensions available to generate a product feed:

  • Google Shopping Feed – M1 (paid – Magmodules) – link
  • Google Shopping – M2 (paid – Magmodules) – link
  • Simple Google Shopping – M1 (paid – Wyomind) – link
  • Simple Google Shopping – M2 (paid – Wyomind) – link

If you’re not happy with any of the above, a lot of the more complex data feed management software tools also have their own Magento extensions: Channable (M1)Channable (M2)DataFeedWatch (M2).

Google Shopping on BigCommerce

If you’re running your store on BigCommerce you have plenty of apps that will support Google Shopping:

  • Sales&Orders (BigCommerce partner) – link
  • DataFeedWatch – link
  • GoDataFeed – link

Google Shopping on other e-commerce platforms

If you’re running your online store on a different platform, you might have a little bit more work cut out for you.

Your goal is to get a .CSV, TXT or XML file with all of your products that you can upload to Google Merchant Center.

If all you can get is a product export, you’ll need to make additional tweaks to this file.

You can either do that manually in Excel or use a Google Sheet that automatically syncs with Google Merchant Center. These are really last resort options. Because it means that any change you make to your products: a price, change a title, a new product, etc; will also need to be made in these different documents.

Instead, I would use a tool that sits in between your product export and Google Merchant Center.

Step 2 – Create a Google Merchant Center account

Next, you need to set up a Google Merchant Center account.

If you don’t have a Google Merchant Center account yet, you need to create one first.

Setting up this account usually is pretty straightforward. You’ll need to claim your URL which proves to Google that you actually own the domain you want to advertise on.

If you have access to Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager, you can use those to verify ownership. If that doesn’t work, try the meta tag option, where you’ll need to add a small meta tag to your website’s HTML code.

Configure Shipping settings

Google Shopping often displays the shipping price right in your product ad.

So you have to provide them with the correct information about shipping rates, minimum order limits, etc. That happens in the Shipping section of Google Merchant Center.

google merchant center shipping settings

You first have to create a Shipping service, which covers a specific area. Then within that service, you can define specific shipping rates:

google merchant center shipping rates

Google Merchant Center also supports more complex shipping calculators like those that depend on carrier rates from logistics providers like FedEx and UPS.

You can even mark up the prices with a flat fee or percentage:

google merchant center carrier rates

Configure Tax Settings (US only)

Configuring the right tax settings in Google Merchant Center is only necessary if you’re selling in the US.

If you’re selling outside the US, you’ll need to check the regulations on collecting sales tax. But you don’t need to provide those to Google.

For example, my fulfillment provider has a facility in North Carolina, therefore I need to charge sales tax for orders in North Carolina. Here is what that looks like:

google merchant center tax settings

Upload your product feed to Google Merchant Center

Then you’ll be able to connect/upload your product feed that’s hopefully in good (enough) shape.

Note that some tools like Shopify connect to Google Merchant Center via its API. Which means that the data is sent through automatically so you don’t need to upload any feeds.

Then Google Merchant Center will process the data, let you know what’s wrong so you can start troubleshooting your feed.

Google Merchant Center Diagnostics
Overview of Google Merchant Center Diagnostics

This is when the trouble often starts.

If things aren’t 100%, you’ll start seeing a lot of errors and disapproved products.

These errors and warnings indicate that there is missing or incorrect information, or that the information is not according to Google’s product data requirements.

Some of these errors and warnings are easy to fix, but others require you to look up (and add!) product identifiers to every one of your products.

This can quickly get very time-consuming.

So start with the most critical things: fix the account and feed errors as fast as you can. If not treated, these can result in an account suspension.

Then tackle the item-level errors. They are necessary because they will cause your products to be disapproved, which means they won’t show up in Google Shopping.

To tackle any problems, have a look at this post that is dedicated to helping you fix the errors in your google shopping feed.

To make bulk changes to your product feed, like adding product categories, you can use Feeds Rules in Merchant Center or tools like the data feed management software providers mentioned in the product feed section.

Google Merchant Center Feed Rules
Using Feed rules to add a custom label to the product feed

Going through all of these problems might seem tedious now but it will help you to get better results and increase the visibility for your products.

Step 3 – Create a Google Shopping campaign

As soon as your products are approved in Google Merchant Center, you can finally set up a Google Shopping campaign.

If you don’t have a Google Ads account yet, go sign up for one.

Go through the configuration wizard to enter your business and payment details.

You’ll also be prompted to start setting up a campaign. Just fill in random data to get out of this menu. Then make sure to pause that dummy campaign you’ve just created.

Before you can start promoting your products in Google Shopping, you’ll need to link Google Merchant Center to Google Ads.

Go back to Google Merchant Center, click the three dots in the top right corner and select Account linking.

Google Merchant Center and Google Ads Account linking

There you are able to add a new Google Ads account. Just enter your 10 digit Google Ads customer ID and you’re done.

google ads customer id

Now you’re all set to create a new Google Shopping campaign. Just click the big blue plus sign.

google ad shopping campaign set up

That will take you through all the steps to create a new campaign using the product feed we’ve set up in the previous section.

Most important in that process is to pick a small budget ($5-10/day) to start with, set a low cost per click (not above $0.5/click) and select Manual CPC as your bidding strategy.

After that, your Shopping campaign will start showing ads!

google ads live campaign

Improve your campaign structure

If you’ve followed the approach above, all of your products will have the same maximum cost per click (or CPC).

Since not all of your products are equally valuable, you’ll need to create separate product groups and set different bids depending on margin, profitability or popularity.

By default, you can split your product groups based on brand, category or by item ID.

google shopping product groups item ID
Creating different product groups based on Item ID

But if you want to set the bid according to margin, you’ll need to use custom labels to add that information to your product feed.

Step 4 – Optimize your Google Shopping campaign

After you’ve gone through the whole Google Shopping set up process, clicks (and hopefully some sales) should start to roll in.

To make further improvements, give the campaigns a couple of days to gather data.

Then usually you’ll see one of two things happen:

  • Nothing (not even spending your budget)
  • Most of your budget is being spent on one product or product group

Your goal is to make sales with Google Shopping, and at the start, you probably don’t know which products are going to do well.

So you want to make sure all of your products get some visibility in the search results before making decisions.

To do that, play around with budgets and CPCs. Increase CPCs for items that no or few impressions and clicks and decrease CPCs for the ones that get a lot of clicks.

To further improve your results, there are a lot of different things you can do. Here are some starters:

  • Look through your Search Terms report to find irrelevant search queries and exclude those from your campaigns
  • Check if your products are appearing for generic rather than product-specific search queries.
  • Improve your product feed to make sure the most profitable products get the budget they need
  • If you’re running multiple Shopping campaigns, make sure you get the campaign priority right

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