Think about your own recent experiences with shopping online. When you already know the exact name of the product you desire, you might go directly to the website of the company that sells the item.
However, if you’re not as familiar with the product or don’t know where to find it, you’ll probably start by doing some research with our reliable friend Google. In these instances, there’s an extremely good chance that you’ve come across Google Shopping results in your searches.
Google Shopping is beneficial for shoppers, but it can also be a valuable tool for ecommerce businesses. If you aren’t already using it in your marketing strategy, this guide will aid you in getting the ball rolling!
What is Google Shopping?
Put simply, Google Shopping is a comparison shopping engine that allows users to view products from multiple businesses simultaneously.
Online retailers capitalize on the visual element of this service to advertise their products to potential customers.
Released in 2002, Google Shopping was originally known as “Froogle” and was a free service offered by Google. Its initial release was rather uncomplicated and indexed product data according to specific search terms. Froogle users would search for a product, and links to related websites would appear.
However, in an effort to compete with eBay and Amazon, Google put several modifications in place, allowing for easier price and item comparison for consumers. The company then switched to a paid advertising model in 2012.
The high costs required for businesses to appear, though, began to discourage use in recent years. Then, along came COVID-19...
The devastating effects of COVID-19 have been felt by economies all around the world. To combat these effects and to better compete with Amazon, Google reintroduced free Google Shopping results in April 2020, starting with U.S. stores. This gives businesses and consumers more options, leading to increased utilization rates.
Google Shopping as we know it today is a platform that lets consumers search for and compare products on the internet. The results that consumers see in Google Shopping are from sellers who’ve opted to use the service to feature their products.
So, how does Google Shopping work exactly? When consumers search for a product, Google Shopping will display goods that most closely match the search terms used. These results are different from those that users will see in the organic search results.
Google Shopping results also feature thumbnail images of products, with each including information regarding the product’s price and seller. These results may show up at the top of the main search engine results page (SERP) as Google Shopping ads and under the “Shopping” tab.
Reasons to use Google Shopping for your store
Google Shopping ads offer a number of benefits for all kinds of online retailers.
Today, many people will turn to search engines when performing research on a product that they’re interested in.
Statista notes that as of July 2023, Google accounts for approximately 83.5% of searches around the world. It’s therefore advantageous to prioritize Google and its different services when determining how to best attract more traffic to your website.
With Google Shopping, your business can show up multiple times during a user’s search, increasing the chances that they’ll click on your listing and visit your website.
In addition, the use of product photos in your listings can put you in the spotlight. As consumers’ search results are often fairly text-heavy, a high-quality photo of your product can do wonders for helping your site to shine!
Finally, those clicks that you receive on your Shopping listings are generally from higher-quality leads.
If your product appears during a user’s search, the user will immediately be able to note several important things in the ad: the name of the product, the price, and a photo. When people click on your listings, they’re probably already quite interested in your product and are more likely to convert into paying customers.
How to use Google Shopping
Although it will take a little bit of time to get started with Google Shopping, it’s not super difficult to manage going forward. Let’s take a look at the steps required to begin!
Sign up with Google Merchant Center
The very first thing you’ll need to do when you decide to sell on Google Shopping is to create an account with Google Merchant Center. This is essential, as it’s the only way you’ll be able to get your products to show up in the Google Shopping results.
The sign-up process is relatively easy and begins with filling out a form with answers to simple questions pertaining to your business. You’ll then be prompted to read the terms and conditions and confirm that you agree to them.
Next, you’ll add your website URL. Note that you’ll want to be sure that you’re indeed the owner of that particular URL, as the platform will ask you to provide verification for this. You can verify your ownership through a number of options offered.
After you’ve completed the verification process, you’re ready to move on to the next step!
Ensure that your product photos are optimized
The importance of visual images in Google Shopping is undeniable. They help your listings to stand out from text-only ads, and they aid in making them more memorable to consumers during their searches.
Search Engine People describes studies with results demonstrating that people remember 80% of things that they see or do compared to 20% of things that they read.
Because photos play an essential role in the success of Google Shopping campaigns, you’ll want your product photos to be excellent. To index search results, the platform will use product feeds that you upload. However, the featured images it grabs will come directly from your site.
Bad-quality photos can not only deter shoppers from clicking through to your website but also get your campaign denied by the platform. Furthermore, Google often checks for quality and will even suspend your account if it deems that your photos aren’t up to par.
Create your product feed
After optimizing your images, you’re ready to get to work on your Google Shopping feed. This is where you’ll provide the system with important information about your products. Google will then use these details to locate and show your products when consumers search for keywords related to those items.
To begin, first head to Merchant Center and click on “Products,” which you’ll find in the menu on the left-hand side of the screen. Then, select “Feeds” and click on the blue “+” button in the Primary Feeds area.
Next, you’ll need to pick your country, which is simply the main country from where you sell your products. You’ll also select your language, which is the language in which you’ve written your product data. Be careful here, as Google uses this information to decide what demographic will be able to view your products.
The next step is to select a name for your primary feed. Pick something descriptive that will assist you in identifying the feed when you need to, but note that you can easily edit the name later if you’d like.
Then, you’ll decide how you want to input information for your products. The options include uploading a Google Sheet with your data, allowing Google to pull the details from your server via a scheduled fetch, uploading your files to Merchant Center, or having Google perform a website crawl.
If Google Sheets is your method of choice, you can either use the template provided by Merchant Center or start a new Google Sheet and fill it out with the required details. The list of Google’s product data specifications is rather extensive, so this step can take a little while to complete.
While Google Sheets will give you the most control with data input, it might not be a feasible option if you sell a lot of products.
Once you’ve uploaded your product feed, don’t worry if the system tells you that there are some errors. Because Google is super exact about what kind of information you add and in what order it’s arranged, product feed errors in the initial upload are common.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to clear the most critical errors (those in red) as soon as possible. If you leave them unattended for too long, you run the risk of Google suspending your account!
Link your Google Ads account with your Google Merchant Center account
Before you can begin a Shopping campaign, you’ll need to have a Google Ads account connected to the one you’ve just created with Merchant Center.
After doing so, the campaign that you set up will be able to use the product data that you’ve added to Merchant Center. For this step, you can either create a new Google Ads account or connect to an existing one.
To start, click on the three vertical dots that you’ll find on the top right-hand side in Merchant Center. Select “Account linking.” If you need a new Google Ads account, you can do so here by selecting “Create Account.”
You’ll have to choose your time zone as well as your currency here. The system will automatically fill these in according to your current location, but you can change them to any of the selections that the dropdowns offer.
A word of caution, though...you won’t be able to edit these sections later and will need to establish a new Google Ads account if you need to make any changes to these settings in the future.
If you have an existing account, select “Link Account” and provide the customer ID for the one that you want to link. To complete this step, you’ll then have to click “Send link request” and sign into Google Ads to approve the request.
Design a Google Shopping campaign
First, make sure that you’re logged in to your Google Ads account. Head to the menu on the left-hand side of the page, select “Campaigns,” click the blue “+” button, and pick “New campaign.”
At this point, you’ll be able to choose your campaign goal or develop a campaign without a specific goal.
The goal options for Shopping campaigns are sales, leads, and website traffic. To determine which of the available goals you want to use, consider which is best for your business at this point.
The aim of sales campaigns is to boost sales or conversions, which can be achieved in various ways, such as online, in app, in store, or by phone. This type is used with shoppers who’ve already shown an interest in your product and are likely almost ready to buy.
You may alternatively select leads campaigns, which are used to encourage people to provide their contact details or sign up for your newsletter.
The objective here is to get consumers to show interest in what you’re selling.
The third option is to go for a website traffic campaign if your aim is to boost the number of potential customers visiting your website.
If you’re not sure which one to go with, you can select “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.”
Select “Shopping” for the type of campaign and then determine the subtype: Standard Shopping or Smart Shopping.
Standard Shopping gives you more control, is more transparent, has higher optimization potential, and allows for automated and manual bidding. However, your ads will only appear in the Google Search Network, so your reach will be limited.
In contrast, with Smart Shopping, you can achieve a much wider reach. Your ads can appear in numerous networks, including the Search Network, Display Network, Gmail, Search Partners, and YouTube. Keep in mind that this subtype comes with less control, less transparency, lower optimization potential, and automated bidding.
For now, let’s say that you’ve chosen the Standard Shopping option, though. Next, you’ll select your campaign’s general settings.
Start by giving your campaign a name—something that allows you or any member of your team to easily identify it. You can change this later if needed, so no need to spend a lot of time on this part.
Under “Merchant,” be sure to designate the Merchant Center account associated with the products that you want to promote. Then, for “Country of sale,” select the country where you’ll be selling and shipping your products. Be careful here, as you won’t be able to change this setting after you’ve finished creating the campaign.
The “Additional settings” section contains several settings that don’t require adjusting to finish setting up your campaign. For instance, you can use the “Inventory filter” to limit how many products your campaign features. Other settings allow you to limit the locations where your ads will be displayed and include products sold in local stores.
Finally, if you’re running multiple campaigns simultaneously, you can adjust the “Priority” setting to either high, medium, or low. This informs Google if one of your campaigns takes higher priority over another and therefore gets first dibs with your budget.
Select your bid strategy and budget
In contrast to how you bid for Google Ads, there are no keywords involved in bidding for your Google Shopping campaigns.
First, you’ll need to decide what kind of bidding you’d like to use for your Shopping campaign. There are a number of options available, and you’ll want to consider which networks you’re going to target and your specific goals to determine which bid strategy is optimal.
Manual cost per click (CPC)
This strategy allows you to establish the maximum price you want to pay on the cost of whenever a consumer clicks on your ad. A major advantage of manual CPC bidding is that you’ll only have to pay when somebody has enough interest in your product to check out the ad.
Enhanced cost per click (ECPC)
An automated option, ECPC bidding can assist in increasing conversions. With this strategy, the system will adjust your manual bids automatically depending on the likelihood that a click will earn your website a sale. Although ECPC bidding will attempt to keep your average CPC less than the highest level you’ve established, it’s not a guarantee.
Target return on ad spend (ROAS)
Conversion tracking is involved in this strategy as well. Google will automatically determine your bids to get you the most conversions possible while meeting an average ROAS that you set. Your target ROAS is how much money you want to earn for every dollar spent on your campaign.
Maximize conversion value
Another bidding strategy that focuses on conversions, this option first has you designate a budget. Then, the system will automatically place bids for you based on how you can maximize your conversions with that amount.
If your aim is to increase the number of visitors to your website, this may be the best strategy for you! The strategy allows you to get the most clicks possible according to the target spend amount that you stipulate.
To complete this step of the setup process, you’ll also need to specify a budget for your campaign. This is how much money you’re okay with spending on average per day. Google uses this number to determine the maximum amount that you spend each month.
For instance, if you allocate a daily budget of $10 (USD), the system considers that you’re willing to spend up to around $300 in a month ($10 x 30 days). While your bid spending might go over $10 in a single day, it won’t surpass $300 for the month.
If you’re new to ecommerce or Google Shopping, you might want to start with a relatively low budget and see how your campaigns do. Then, you can make adjustments later as you gain more experience and find out what works well for your business.
Decide where you’ll target your campaign and schedule it
In this step, you’ll be determining who will see your campaign and the timing of when they’ll see it.
Under “Networks,” the default settings will depend on whether you’ve chosen a Standard Shopping campaign or the Smart Shopping option. Next, you’ll come to the “Devices” setting, which will allow your ads to appear on both computers and mobile devices by default.
You can likely leave the default settings unchanged for both of these, but if you don’t want your ads showing up in certain networks or devices, be sure to uncheck those boxes.
When you get to the “Locations” setting, consider where you’re based and/or where you’re able to ship your products. This setting lets you limit the areas where your ads will appear to these locations only to avoid disappointing consumers or providing them with misleading information.
To finish, you’ll select the start and end dates for your campaign. No worries if you’re not sure when you want the last day of your campaign to be. The scheduling, along with the settings for networks, devices, and locations, can be modified after you’ve launched the campaign.
Construct ad groups
Once your settings are complete for your campaign, you’ll be ready to set up ad groups.
These groups help you to structure your campaigns and organize bidding. You’ll be able to divide groups of products according to your business goals or other aspects, which allows for easier management and optimization of the items.
For Shopping campaigns, you can choose between two different types of ad groups.
Product Shopping ads
This option promotes an individual product and is the type most frequently used by retailers on the internet. If you’d like to choose a Product Shopping ad group, simply provide an ad group name and determine the maximum CPC that you’d like to pay.
Showcase Shopping ads
Relatively new to the Google Shopping scene, this option lets you advertise multiple related products together in one ad. These ads are a little more complicated to set up, so you might want to wait until you’ve gained a bit more experience in Google Shopping to learn if they’re right for you.
If you decide to go with this type, enter a name for the ad group and determine your maximum cost per engagement (CPE). In this context, “engagement” is when an internet user clicks on your ad to expand it and stays there for a minimum of 10 seconds or clicks on a link in the ad. To finish, you’ll select the products that you want to promote.
The very last thing you need to do is click “Save,” and you’re all set! Congrats!
Your first Google Shopping campaign is well on its way!
Important Google Shopping policies to know
When you create and upload your product feed, you’ll discover that you must provide the system with quite a bit of data to get started. Google has a long list of detailed information that it requires.
You’ll also need to supply this specific data in the format that Google wants to ensure that your products are accepted.
Note that the data required is dependent on what country you sell your products and what kinds of products you offer.
In addition to the various product attributes that you must provide, you should pay close attention to several critical policies that the system has.
If you’re not careful and end up violating any of these policies either by mistake or on purpose, you could find your Merchant Center account suspended.
Linking to functioning landing pages may seem like a no-brainer when you create your Google Shopping campaigns. Nevertheless, you might be surprised by how often the links provided by businesses lead to a broken landing page or another type of error.
Perhaps you’ve noticed this yourself when doing your own shopping on the Web. You might be able to still locate the product on the store’s website, but the extra time it takes to do so can be frustrating.
Another way to irritate Google is if the link you’ve included for a product brings visitors to your site’s homepage rather than an individual product page. In addition, remember that pop-ups that take up the entire page can be annoying for users. If you decide to add pop-ups to your site, ensure that it’s not difficult for visitors to exit out of them and return to the page.
As Google aims to give users the most enjoyable experience possible, you could get penalized for these types of errors. You might find that the particular product that you’ve added or maybe even the entire feed may not get approved. To avoid this, be sure to take a look at the full list of landing page requirements for Shopping ads.
Prohibited or restricted products
These days, you can find just about anything you can think of on the internet. However, if you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur, it’s important to know that some products are going to be more strictly regulated than others.
Furthermore, restrictions on products sold online will vary depending on the country in which you’re selling.
This is also something you’ll need to keep in mind if you decide to expand to international locations, as the rules could be completely different.
With Google Shopping, there are certain product categories that are not allowed or at the very least come with heavy regulations. If you’ve the slightest doubt about whether your products are allowed, be sure to review Google’s list of banned and strictly controlled items.
Some of the products you’ll find on this list consist of adult-oriented items, alcoholic beverages, counterfeit items, and dangerous goods (e.g., drugs, weapons, etc.).
Refunds and returns
To protect users making purchases via Google Shopping, Google is pretty strict about information regarding a store’s refund and return policies. It suggests that businesses include these policies in their Google Shopping ads to improve the user experience for consumers.
However, you should also have your refund and return policies clearly stated and easy to find on your website. These policies should explain to visitors how and under what circumstances they can return items and obtain a refund for their orders.
In addition, they should mention how long customers have to return a product and when they can expect to receive their refunds.
Shipping is a crucial facet of any ecommerce business.
Online shoppers don’t get to see the item they’ve purchased in person like they would at a brick-and-mortar store. For this reason, fast shipping times are key to allowing them to enjoy their orders as soon as possible.
Beside speediness, customers also appreciate shipping that’s inexpensive or even free. In fact, many consumers are so used to free shipping that if a website doesn’t offer this, they might be quick to leave and find a competing shop that does.
While it may not be feasible for you to provide free shipping, what’s most important is that your shipping is reliable and consistent.
Make things easier for your customers by supplying accurate, detailed information about the service and costs of your shipping for Google Shopping. Don’t forget to consider any custom fees that customers may be charged if you offer shipping to other countries outside of where you’re located.
Finally, you’ll also want to be sure that you set up your tax settings properly in Merchant Center. This lets customers know the exact price that they’ll be paying when they purchase your products.
How you organize your taxes will depend on the country that you’re targeting.
The price you enter for a product in your feed will already contain sales tax for most countries. However, things get a bit more complicated if you’re planning on selling to customers based in the US.
If this is the case for you, you’ll have to spend some more time configuring your tax settings. To start, you’ll need to have a good understanding of how states charge taxes in the US and verify the states in which you must charge taxes for your store.
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to manage this in Merchant Center. Here, you’re able to establish tax rates for individual states. As with anything else related to taxes, it’s best to work with a tax professional to determine what steps you should take to make sure that you’re on the right track.
Google Shopping is an excellent way to expand the reach of your ecommerce business, helping you to increase site traffic, gain leads, and ultimately boost sales. With the platform’s emphasis on high-quality photos, it offers shoppers a respite from a SERP full of text, making your store stand out in a sea of competition.
As you develop the marketing strategy for your business, you’ll definitely want to strongly consider using Google Shopping if you aren’t already.
Use the tips in this guide to assist you in launching your first Shopping campaign, and you’re sure to see the benefits in no time!