eCommerce Guide to Google Ads

Google Ads Overview

For any business selling products online, Google Ads is one of your greatest marketing tools and opportunities. Within the Google Ads umbrella, we have different ad formats, including Google Shopping, Google Search, Discovery, Display, YouTube & Gmail.

In this guide, we are focusing on eCommerce and are therefore interested predominantly in Google Shopping Ads (or Product Listing Ads [PLA]). This is (when done properly) the fastest & most effective way of getting your products in front of potential customers searching for what the product or solution that you provide.

When we say the fastest, we use that with a caveat. Read through the below and remember that whilst you will be serving the market within minutes of completing your set-up,  the set-up shouldn’t be rushed as it provides the foundation on which you’re building your shopping empire (and your bottom line).

Google Shopping: What is it?

What is the first thing you do when researching information, finding something, or looking to buy something? We hedge our bets that you “Google it”. 

That’s what your customers are doing too. Google Shopping & Search ensures your products show up at that moment of intent. 

Google Merchant Centre & Alternative CSS Partners

The Google Merchant Centre is the area in which you’re able to upload the products that you sell via a feed. Think of the Merchant Centre as the intermediary formatting platform that takes your product information & formats it into a language that the Google Ads platform can understand.

Within the Google Merchant Centre, you will need to verify your business, website, branding, shipping (and more) in order to serve these ads. The Google Merchant Centre is a CSS platform.

One important element to mention is that whilst the Google Merchant Centre CSS may appear to be a “free” tool to set up; you do pay a premium of 20% on cost-per-clicks when serving through Google Ads. 

There are many alternative CSS (Comparison Shopping Service) providers on the market that will instead charge you a flat fee for their services. These providers are what populates the “By XXX” under each Shopping Ad so it’s worth doing your research on which pricing model & support fits best with your product portfolio. You have to have a CSS partner in order to run ads so the cost is inevitable.

For more detailed information on CSS’; read this blog by Redbrain (also a CSS provider!)

Feed Setup

If you’re using out-the-box eCommerce solutions such as Shopify, WooCommerce (or competitors) then it is highly likely that there’s a plugin for you that will automatically generate a feed based on the information that’s already on your website. Even better, you can set up scheduled updates so that any changes you make on your website i.e. prices or descriptions, will then update your feed. 

Search on Google for {CMS Name} to {CSS Provider Name} + “plugin” i.e. Shopify to Google Merchant Centre plugin to find the best fit.

An alternative method would be to create a Google Sheet that includes all of your product information. If this is the route you choose, we highly recommend having a read through these articles before getting started and if in doubt, YouTube will be your new best friend too (if we can’t be!).

Creating a feed.

*For now, just start with setting a Primary Feed!

Product Data Specification (I.e. what information your Google Sheet will need to provide):

If you made it this far – congratulations! Please, let’s keep going because it is going to be worth it. There’s a lot of set-up in Shopping and the rewards are worth it. 

The majority of our eCommerce clients rely solely on Google Shopping to drive new users to their website & generate high volume sales at their target ROAS so you really can’t afford to miss this out.

Optimising Your Feed

Your Google Shopping performance as a base standard is only as healthy as your feed, so once set up, we’re sorry to say – there is plenty more work to do. A healthy feed = healthy performance. 

Google Shopping Ads trigger based on keywords that are identified through your product titles. Unlike search, where we would specifically target which keywords we want to work with, Shopping Ads will do this work for you. 

Why is this important? To make sure that your ads are being served to the relevant market! If a consumer uses the term “Men’s Red TShirt M” but your product title says “Polo TShirt”, then you’re not going to win their attention and also, you’re going to waste a lot of budget for those users that are clicking your advert but are not in the market for your particular product.

If we break down the basics of what a Shopping Ad is; image, title, price point, and business name, you can see that if the image is sub-par or the title doesn’t give enough information then you’re losing an opportunity.

Think of your feed health as the digital version of window shopping; what’s going to attract the right audience to visit your shop?

Within the Google Merchant Centre (or CSS alternative) there is also the option to provide supplementary feeds. These are additional feeds that you can set up in order to overwrite the primary feed information. For example, say you have a minimalist, chic website design that cannot accommodate the 5,000 character description line that would optimise the performance on Ads then in this scenario we can use a supplementary feed.

Setting Up Google Ads

So you’ve got your website, got your CSS partner, got the feed set up – what’s next? The setting up of Google Ads (& also consider the 10% market share mate; Microsoft Ads). The “Ads” platform itself is what serves the ads to the general search market. (Remember, your CSS partner formats the feed but doesn’t serve the ads themselves).

To set up the Google Ads account; start here. Once set up, follow this how-to on linking the platforms.

Be alert. When setting up; we suggest that you do not follow the guide that Google Ads takes you through but click through to Expert mode (which essentially means Manual set-up). We have heard some horror stories of the auto-guide set-up that doesn’t quite make clear what you’re setting up, to the detriment of your bank account!

Be alert (again). Tracking! How do you prove that Google Ads is benefiting your business & bringing in a Return on Investment (we use Return on Ad Spend or ROAS)? Through tracking. 

Measure & monitor what each click brings to the account in terms of order numbers and order value. Now I wish I could give a brief summary on how to set up eCommerce tracking for your online store but rarely is this straightforward (unless you’re with an out-the-box solution with a plugin!). 

My advice? Consult with your web developers (or us) on the best route forward for tracking website sales in both Google Analytics, Google Ads & Microsoft Ads as it is critical in ensuring you’re getting value for money.

Performance Max vs Standard Shopping Campaigns

Performance Max is the newest campaign type (written July 2022) to become part of the Google Ads Shopping family. This is a fully automated campaign set up whereby ads will serve across YouTube, Discovery, Shopping, Search, Maps, and Gmail all with the objective of reaching your Target ROAS. You upload your feed, text ads & images with which Google then goes to the digital market to bring you the results to meet your objective. (Read; Google has the control and you are flexible in how you attempt to reach your target return on ad spend).

The alternative is to run Standard Shopping which we suggest if you’re just starting out. You’ll be able to see what search terms are triggering your ads & get more insight into the performance which will infer how you need to optimise your feed.

Summary

When tasked with writing a quick eCommerce guide, you will have to forgive us for going into detail – we want to support you in running ads effectively without overwhelming you (did we get the balance right?).

If we’ve plunged you further down the rabbit hole in which you were already falling; stop. 

Get advice & understand the costs involved in an agency providing set-up & management for 3 months to get you started. The time you’ll save in trying to understand each facet of running ads will benefit you, leaving you to concentrate on setting up the rest of your business.