Google doesn’t release the exact number, but is willing to tell us that over two trillion searches are made every year.
- That means somewhere around 5.5 billion searches per day, or about four million searches per minute.
- Retail ecommerce is growing steadily. It’s estimated that annual global ecommerce sales will top $4.5 trillion by 2021.
Those two facts, taken together, really underline how important it is to have a presence on Google Shopping if you sell products online.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll provide you with a complete guide to Google Shopping from start to finish. In this instalment, we’ll explain what Google Shopping is, what it can do better than other PPC, and why Comparison Shopping Services (CSSs) can be the best way to handle your online marketing.
Future instalments will cover:
- Setting Up Your Account
- Setting Up your Product Feed
- Search Terms & Google Shopping
- Optimising your Product Feed
- Campaign Structure
- Bid Management
- Ad Extensions
- Afterword: Making Google Shopping Work for You
What Is Google Shopping?
Google Shopping is the service supplying paid ad links to sell products following a Google search.
It is exclusively designed to sell products; you cannot advertise your business directly on Google Shopping. Instead, you advertise the products you sell at the price you offer, plus any active promotions.
History of Google Shopping
Google Shopping has gone under many names in its history, starting out as Froogle, which launched in late 2002.
At that time, Google Shopping was built to solve a simple problem, which was that Google’s search engine, as it was in 2002, wasn’t up to the task of helping shoppers find products for sale online. (This wasn’t helped by the comparatively low number of eCommerce businesses.)
As Google’s search capabilities have improved, Google Shopping has developed to stay relevant. It now has a focus that is difficult to duplicate through standard search ads.
Froogle would be rebranded to Google Products, then to Google Products Search. In all of these incarnations it provided a dedicated search platform listing products and prices submitted by merchants.
Eventually, however, the basics of the current Google Shopping system were developed. Wanting more than just prices to be submitted (there’ll be more on this later on – see Setting Up Your Product Feed and Optimising Your Product Feed), Google made the site a direct partnership with merchants, who would pay to be shown on the service, but would be able to customise their product listings to encourage more sales.
When a user searches on Google Shopping today, the results they see are selected by a combination of product relevance and the amount the merchant bids to be shown.
Today, too, Google Shopping is available directly through Google Search as well as the Google Shopping tab. If you make a search on Google which the algorithm identifies as high buyer intent, you will be presented with the opportunity to shop for relevant products.
Future of Google Shopping
Google has announced plans for future refinements to the Google Shopping service. In future, it seems likely customers will be able to browse and buy without ever leaving Google to visit your website.
Google will handle payment, and for participating merchants, will provide “Guaranteed by Google” security.
This system seems perfect to encourage impulse purchases. It should also improve first-time-buyer confidence, in the same way that buyers automatically trust Amazon Sellers.
The downside of the system for eCommerce businesses is that it will make it trickier to create return customers. We recommend that merchants who take return customers seriously look into ways to promote their branding through shipping packaging and/or free branded items inserted into the package (bookmarks, keyrings, etc.)
Google Shopping Placement
Google Shopping has spent a long time as a tab in Google Search, which opens to a wide selection of related products with excellent filtering tools:
However, reports indicate that the Shopping tab accounts for just 10% of all Google Shopping clicks. Much more popular – and therefore, more effective for sales – are options on main search.
You probably know Google Shopping adverts are available on the main search page, as shown below:
As well as the Shopping tab, those highly detailed search listings with images, prices, and even reviews are all part of Google Shopping. They’re often called Product Listing Ads or PLAs.
These listings may be paid advertisements, but they’re highly effective adverts.
As long as your Google Shopping account is well-managed, these listings provide great visibility and a strong return on ad spend (ROAS).
Google Search Ads vs. Google Shopping
It can be easy to get confused between Google’s paid Search ads and Google Shopping, especially as adverts from both can appear on the standard search results page.
- Google Shopping PLAs include information built around an image, and search targeting is done by a Google algorithm.
- Google Search ads are text ads targeted against keywords you define.
So, Search ads for trainers will only appear on searches using specific phrases the marketer set. PLAs for trainers might appear on any search the algorithm identifies as having purchase intent.
Google Shopping ads must lead to a specific product listing page on an eCommerce platform (your own or a marketplace like eBay). Google Search ads do this, but can also promote brand listings, category pages, or any other content on your website.
You couldn’t create a PLA to advertise your loyalty scheme page – that’s better suited to Search ads.
The two services have several similarities, but they’re not designed to compete with each other. Instead, they do different but similar jobs.
Why Use Google Shopping?
A Google Shopping ad will probably get more clicks from people looking to buy, which can make them more effective as an eCommerce tool. A good rule of thumb (and we’ll touch on this again in the section discussing Ad Extensions) is that Google Shopping ads are intended to be for the product, not the vendor. There are no places to sneak in promotion for your brand as a whole.
Shopping ads are designed to market directly to motivated buyers. And, of course, many motivated buyers will happily add more items to their cart once they start the buying process.
Why Use Google Ads?
However, Search ads are usually considered much more effective at raising brand awareness. This can make them very powerful tools for long-term business growth.
Search ads can be better for catching customers who want to buy multiple items and start out looking for a shop that sells them all. This makes them excellent for many hobby or craft shops.
Marketing a loss-leader on Google Shopping is a high-risk proposition, but if you know your market and your industry is right for it, you may be able to make that strategy work. Our recommendation? Don’t try it if you’re not confident – and even if you are, proceed with caution.
Depending on your website’s needs, you might get better results from Search or Google Shopping – or from running both simultaneously.
What Is a CSS?
A Comparison Shopping Service (CSS), is an agency that can list adverts on Google Shopping in the European Economic Area (EEA) and in Switzerland. You can tell which agency has made a given listing by looking at the bottom of the listing.
In the example below, the two products listed are listed through a Google subsidiary (Google Shopping Europe) and through Cloud Seller Pro (CSP).
If you’re listing products to be sold outside this area, you’ll deal directly with Google.
Why Are CSSs on Google Shopping?
In an antitrust hearing, the EU courts ruled against Google, saying its control of these adverts was an unfair advantage, denying other companies the chance to compete on their merits. Facing a significant fine, Google opted to allow other CSSs access to the Google Shopping platform in the EEA.
The intent behind the ruling was to encourage competition and improve the service available to EU customers. But one result is that businesses marketing to the EEA don’t have to use Google Shopping Europe (GSE). They can choose a different CSS.
So… why do that?
Why Use A CSS?
At first glance you might assume that GSE will be the best option. After all, they used to be part of Google and may still have an inside line. They certainly have a clear understanding of the system. But that doesn’t make them stand out as much as you might think.
While the Cloud Seller Pro Partner Program was in final development, Cloud Seller Pro became a Google Technical Partner. We achieved full Premier Partner status not long after. This gives our customers the same advantages Google offers as well as the benefits of our proprietary system.
GSE is a self-managed CSS, and it’s a separate company from Google – it has to turn a profit on its own accord.
So, should you use GSE or go with another CSS?
That depends on what you want out of CSSs in general, so let’s look at the range of options.
CSS platforms vary, so you might want one which simply gives you the tools to make product listings, one which offers a fully managed service, or one with options for either.
Broadly speaking, CSSs fall into three categories:
- Managed Service
In a managed service, the CSS takes your product data, optimises and cleans your feed, and then manages your campaign going forward.
Charges associated with this model vary according to your agreement with the CSS, usually either a charge set according to your total budget level or on some form of commission model. Cloud Seller Pro chose a results-driven pricing system; 3% of your sales revenue, and no other fees.
Depending on your agreement, you may have full access to the accounts associated with your Shopping feed, or to tools provided by the CSS.
You’ll usually also receive regular performance reports from your CSS with a managed service.
The self-managed model sees the CSS provide you with control over your Shopping Feed.
Google Shopping Europe is this kind of CSS, and charges a fixed-percentage mark-up on each click. Other self-managed CSSs may offer better rates, perhaps offset by a minimum fee.
Some CSSs in this style simply ensure you have access to the Merchant Center and Google Ads accounts used. Others may provide you with an additional set of tools or just an alternative set, using an API (Application Programming Interface) to create their own controls for the Shopping Feed.
We’re using ‘Hybrids’ here as a catchall term for all CSSs which handle some but not all of your services.
Typically, hybrid CSSs were developed by marketing agencies who already handled some other form of PPC advertising. As their clients started looking into Google Shopping, the agency wanted a way to support that. This reduces the risk they’ll lose the client, or miss out on spend if the Google Shopping budget comes out of their current marketing budget.