June 4, 2013
Welcome to The New Age: Making The Most of Google's Paid Shopping Feed
Traffic from Google Shopping has been a major source of traffic for the eCommerce industry for over 10 years now. While it's gone by different names like Google Base and requirements have evolved over the years, the basics remained the same: submit accurate data, with product inventory, pricing, and links to images, and the world's largest search engine would send traffic your way.
This all changed in Q3 2012, sending shockwaves and panic through the industry as merchants attempted to grapple with the change amid a busy holiday season. Amazingly, despite all of the advance notice and forum buzz, many merchants were caught unawares and had to adapt quickly, sometimes haphazardly. Now that we have had a full 9-month gestation period to deliver the change, let's revisit the changes to Google Shopping and talk about how to get the most out of the platform!
October 2012: Conception
If you were one of the merchants affected by this change, or you've been interested in getting started with Google Shopping Product Listing Ads (PLA), but weren't sure how to get a good return on your investment, keep reading. Google Shopping's change from a free shopping portal to a paid shopping comparison engine was seemingly inevitable, as Google was one of the last shopping engines to embrace this model, albeit late in the game.
Though Google had been slowly adding more and more paid listing categories and benefits during the first part of 2012, the final cutoff of free traffic didn't come until late 2012.
What Has Google Shopping Delivered?
Here are the big differences:
- All Google Shopping is now paid search. There are no more freebies. Google claims that going the paid route will introduce more accountability to the shopping portal, which for years had been known to feature grossly inaccurate or misleading product listings. "Put your money where your mouth is" sums it up.
- Google PLAs now show up in traditional PPC spots (above organic listings and to the right side), whereas the traditional listings before intermingled with the organic results. This provides a vitrine for your products, rather than being tossed into the open market of organic listings.
- Shopping feeds are now managed both through the Merchant Center and Google AdWords. You feed your products to your Merchant Center account, but the real heavy lifting is done inside AdWords, where you control your bids, promotional text, and ad groups.
You Need This!
If you haven't leveraged Google Shopping to generate traffic before, now is the best times to get into it: the holiday rush is over, the metrics are in, and the new platform is still in its infancy, so you can jump in at relatively low rates and a high return on investment.
The holiday rush at the end of last year provided some opportunity to get hard metrics on Google Shopping's effectiveness, traffic generation, and cost, and man, are they impressive!
Many of the merchants and systems integrators we work with have confided to us that traditional PPC is too expensive to manage. We know from our own numbers that Google's PLA ads are much cheaper than the average cost of PPC ads, and these reports show even more compelling reasons to jump on the PLA bandwagon.
Google Shopping Rocks!
Product Listing Ad rates average a mere $.31/click, while PPC rates averaged $1.04 in 2011.
- Not only are they cheaper, they have a greater Click-Thru Rate (CTR): 73% higher than standard text PPC ads.
- Conversion rates for PLA ads are an additional 35% higher, meaning that prospects are finding the right products sooner, so you waste less money on clicks made by mistake.
- During Q4, Google Shopping was cheaper than Amazon Product Ads by an average of 32.5%, while driving 96.08% more traffic!
- Pricegrabber, usually one of the largest traffic-generating shopping portals, was absolutely dominated by Google Shopping, which sent participating merchants 62% more traffic.
- All other product comparison engines except for two increased their rates, making Google Shopping an even bigger standout success.
The gravy train of low cost, high ROI Google Product Listing Ads, however, will undoubtedly not last forever. At the 2013 Magento Imagine Conference in Las Vegas, several agencies reported that they were seeing increased competition and higher prices for PLAs. Even so, returns continue to be much better than keyword search pay per click rates. Taking advantage of this disruption in the marketplace is the main reason you should consider jumping in now to gain market share.
Making the Most of Google Shopping
In order to get set up, you will need to set up your Google Merchant Account (honestly, just Google it!) and connect it to your Magento Enterprise store. Razoyo has used several Magento Google Shopping feeds, but, we prefer Wyomind's solution for its ease of use and flexibility.
Once you've got the basics set up and you've established your first feed, you can explore ways to increase your CTR while reducing your cost. There are several tricks to remember when trying to optimize your Google Shopping strategy on Magento, so be sure to implement these tips.
1. First, make sure that your data is accurate. As mentioned at the top of the post, part of Google's impetus to move to paid listings was to force higher quality data standards upon their merchants, filtering out spam listings and over-bidding poor data quality into oblivion. If your data's not at the top of its game, it's time for it to hit the gym one more time and come back after a little more training! What this means is that you need to make sure all of your attributes properly match up with Google's required attributes list.
2. Make sure you get your Product Identifiers, Brands, and Conditions correct. Google uses these attributes to match products up in Google Shopping, and this can have a significant impact on your cost per click!
3.If a required attribute doesn't exist, create it, fill it out in your products, and map the attribute to Google Shopping. Failure to provide clean data means that your average bid rate could be higher, and your account will be at risk for suspension and eventually closure.
4. If you have different products that aren't of the same Category type, I would strongly encourage you to create new attribute sets to map to Google Shopping. You may need to do a product export, delete products from the existing Attribute Set that will be moved, then re-import these products into the new Attribute Set. Yes, this is a lot of work, but if you're not going to put the products into the proper Google Shopping Category, you might as well not even start, because you'll spend yourself out of business or get your account shut down for bad data (miscategorizing products is about as bad as it gets).
5. Make your ads stand out. Using alternative, non-supplier images that no one else has is a good way to get your CTR average up. PLAs can also use AdWord's promotion feature to highlight your special offers, like free shipping or coupon codes.
If you follow these steps and check out the resources above, you'll be well on your way to Google Shopping prowess! I truly hope this guide has been helpful to you.
Razoyo is an eCommerce consultancy that specializes in creating, optimizing and managing Magento web stores and has extensive experience working on Magento Enterprise Edition, Magento Go and Magento Community Edition.