Paid Product Search is Here
As of October 17th, free Google Product Search is no more. The king is dead, long live the king. That new king is Google Shopping, a paid version of Google Product Search that utilizes your product feed from the Google Merchant Center just as with Google Product Search but is managed and paid for through AdWords’ Product Listing Ads.
It’s not hard to see why my former employer would move in this direction. Officially, the reasons cited include “having a commercial relationship with merchants [that] will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date. Higher quality data—whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability—should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants.” Unofficially, the reason is money. Retailers who have already seen the customers that Google Product Search attracted will probably not scoff at the idea of throwing some ad spend at a proven revenue generator.
If you’re already using Product Listing Ads and/or Product extensions, this shift won’t affect you as much as it will other retailers. However, there will likely be increased costs from continuing to pursue Product Listing Ads in Google Shopping. The reason for this is twofold. First, there will be increased competition from companies entering the AdWords marketplace who were previously content with just a free Product Search presence. Secondly, these Google Shopping ads will presumably take up a greater portion of the search engine results page (see image below), thus potentially driving up costs for top positions.
What Should You Do?
If you decide you want to pursue this type of advertising (and if you are an online retailer with a product feed or the resources to create one, we’d recommend you do) there are several steps required in order for you to take advantage of Google Shopping. First, create and/or update your product feed to ensure that all necessary attributes are in place and all product data is accurate. Some attributes are required for all items, some are required only for certain types of items, and others are simply “recommended.” Failure to provide a required attribute will prevent that item from showing up in Google Shopping results and could lead to your feed being suspended, whereas failure to provide a recommended attribute could result in your items showing up less frequently. Different products have different required attributes, for example, all shoes must include a size parameter. For all products, though, an “AdWords grouping” parameter should be added to separate products by category in accordance with their respective campaigns and ad groups in AdWords. I.e. if you sell both jackets and shoes, they should be identified as either/or so that different ad groups can be created for different products.
Additionally, since promotional text can be added to these ads, it’s a smart idea to have a plan for utilizing this space with offers and promotions e.g. “free shipping” or “holiday sales” etc.
Required steps for transitioning over to Google Shopping:
- Link your AdWords account to your Merchant Center account
- Make sure you are including all required and recommended attributes in your data feed
- Eliminate any data quality problems that are listed in the data quality tab of the Merchant Center
- Eliminate any processing errors in the feed status summary
- Create Product Listing Ads, preferably in their own campaigns and ad groups
Strategies Out of The Gate
An important step to consider when entering Google Shopping is to become a Google Trusted Store (GTS). GTS’s are selected to help users “easily find retailers offering a superior online shopping experience.” A GTS badge will be shown on all ads for merchants who are participating in this program. Additionally, after certain criteria are met, becoming a GTS allows star ratings to appear on ads that have this extension enabled. There are four steps to becoming a GTS, each of which includes multiple tasks. Broadly stated these steps are as follows:
- Enter your business information
- Sign program agreements
- Set up shipping and cancellation data feeds
More information on becoming a GTS can be found here.
What’s Swellpath Doing?
Should any clients want to pursue Google Shopping opportunities, Swellpath will work with them to ensure that their product feeds are up-to-date with necessary, full, and accurate information. Most importantly, Swellpath will be creating and managing the Google Shopping ads and adjusting bids as performance data becomes available. We’ll look at things like quality scores to make landing page recommendations and help determine if the images used in your product feed are having a positive or negative influence on click-through rates. As details start to roll in for the latest developments in Google Shopping — either through the Google Commerce Blog, the Google AdWords blog, or third party sources — Swellpath will keep our clients up to speed with the latest strategies and methods to capitalize on these changes and opportunities. Good luck and godspeed.