Google shopping ads are a great way to promote your physical products and your online shop. They offer a range of flexibility depending on how much time you have to work on them, and the amount of knowledge and experience you have. You can even advertise for free!
Today we’ll take a look at how beginners can get started with Google Shopping Ads, and some of the different options available to you.
- What are Google Shopping Ads?
- How to set up Shopping Ads: Google Merchant Centre
- Integrating with Google Ads
- Creating a Shopping Ad
- Optimising Your Google Merchant Centre Listings
Google Shopping Ads are those advertisements that show up at the top of Google search and include details of items for sale, including an image, price, and other relevant information. You’ll see them in regular search pages as well as on the Shopping pages and Image Search. You may also see them on the Google Display Network, Search Partner sites, YouTube and price comparison apps. They appear when a user searches a phrase that indicates they may be interested in purchasing an item – either now or in the near future.
You’ll notice that they often stand out more than other ads because they include images, unlike many other types of ad you’ll find on Google.
Although mostly used for online sales, Shopping Ads can also be utilised for sales at brick-and-mortar stores too. So wherever you sell, this guide will be useful.
1. Create an account
The first thing you need to do to start using Shopping Ads is to set up a Google Merchant Centre account. This is where you will add all the product details that Google can then use to create your ads and display them to the right people.
To start, head to Google Merchant Centre. If you already have an account with any other Google services, such as Gmail, select ‘Sign In’ and enter your login details. If you’re completely new to Google, click ‘Get Started’ and create an account. Either way, follow the simple instructions for the initial set up.
2. Add business and shipping details
Although you will have entered some basic business details when you first signed up, you’ll need to enter some more information now, including business address and contact number. You should also provide information about shipping.
3. Verify and claim your website
You’ll need to confirm that you own your website by adding your web address, and then adding some code to your site. You can ask your developer to do this if you’re not sure how.
4. Add products and product feeds
There are several ways you can add products to Merchant Centre. The one that requires the least amount of techie skills is to simply create a Google Sheet with the information and integrate it directly with Merchant Centre. This is best used only if you have a small number of products, and be aware that you will have to manually update the listings every time there is a change. That means every time your stock decreases, or a price changes, or an image needs updated.
The better way is with direct API integration. This is where Merchant Centre plugs directly into your store and takes the required information, updating as your site is updated. If you use a popular store like Shopify, then this functionality is likely already built in.
Keep in mind that, if you want to have the ability to edit as much information as possible across Merchant Centre, you may need to purchase a different app or plugin. Many of the popular ones will only allow limited editing capabilities.
When you select ‘Add products in the left menu’, you will see three options: ‘Add products from your website’, ‘Add 1 product at a time’, and ‘Add multiple products at once’. The first option will only be available if your website has schema.org markup and Google is able to take information directly from there. Otherwise, select the third option and follow the instructions to add your products.
Once this is integrated, you have your primary feed, which is where, in most cases, all of your products will be stored. You should only need additional feeds if some of your products don’t meet Merchant Centre’s data and eligibility requirements.
After setting up your Merchant account, you’ll need to link with Google Ads. If you haven’t already, set up an account with Ads.
From Merchant Centre, select Settings (a cog symbol) at the top of the page, then ‘Linked accounts’. Navigate to Google Ads on the sub-menu where you should see your Google Ads account details (you will need to be using the same credentials in Ads and Merchant Centre for this to work).
Select ‘Link’ and then hop over to ads.google.com, check your notifications and accept the pending Merchant Centre request.
You can take advantage of both paid and free listings with Shopping Ads, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each option.
Free ads don’t cost you anything. They’re perfect if you’re just starting out and want to get to grips with the system and learn a few things before committing to any kind of spend. However, you will get limited visibility and paid ads will get the prime positions.
Paid ads obviously include some kind of spend – and this can vary vastly depending on your budget. If your ads aren’t well set up, then you could end up losing a lot of money without much gain. However, if you optimise your listings and make good choices, you can benefit from better ad positions, a wider range of advertising locations, and higher click-through rates.
1. Set up tracking
Before you start using Shopping Ads, you should set up tracking on your site. Use the code provided by Google Ads (not Google Analytics). Without this, you won’t be able to see how well (or badly) your ads are doing, and so you can’t adjust to improve them, or demonstrate their success.
Without tracking, some advertising options won’t be available in Shopping Ads.
2. Set up a free Shopping Ad
To sign up for free listings, you just need to enter the data as described in How to set up Shopping Ads: Google Merchant Centre. To double-check you’re fully signed up, click Settings (the cog symbol), and then select ‘Free listing setup’. If your Free Listing Status is marked as Active, you have nothing more to do. If it’s not, check again that you’ve entered all the required information.
3. Set up a paid Shopping Ad
Paid ads need a little bit more work, but exactly how much will depend on your preferences.
Head back over to Google Ads and click ‘+ New Campaign’, then select your main goal. Sales, Leads, and Website traffic goals all allow Shopping campaigns, or you can select ‘create a campaign without a goal’s guidance’.
Select Shopping as your campaign type. Then select your linked account and country (this should be the same as you selected in your product feed, i.e., where your company is based).
Follow the rest of the instructions to set up your campaign.
There are a couple of options for creating your ads. If you want the easiest, most hands-off approach, select Smart Shopping. After you enter some basic information, Google will do the rest, using its advanced machine learning to create and serve your ads. The advantage here is that Google may know more than you and so you might find that results are better. On the flip side, you’ll have less control over your ads, and won’t be able to tweak them to get better results. You also won’t have access to as much data.
Alternatively, you can choose a standard shopping campaign, which gives you much more flexibility to adjust your ads. This option requires more work on your part, as you will want to keep an eye on the results of your ads, and make updates and changes as you go.
Select where you want to advertise, and then select ‘Single Product Ads’ and decide how to segment your adverts. You can choose All Products or subdivide by certain attributes such as category.
Keep in mind that Shopping Ads don’t allow you to pick keywords like more conventional Google Ads. Google instead uses the information you’ve provided for your products via Google Merchant Centre, which is why it’s important to optimise your listings.
Because Google Shopping Ads don’t allow you to choose keywords, you need to rely heavily on the data you provide about your products in Google Merchant Centre. So that Google knows when to show your ads, and to who, you need to give the search engine all the details it needs.
From the very beginning, you should fill in as much information about each of your products as possible, optimising each entry for the best results. But the work doesn’t stop there. Continual monitoring means that you can adjust for changes in user behaviour and test alternative combinations.
Do some keyword research to discover the kinds of phrases your customers use to find your products, then implement those keywords into your title and descriptions. Make sure you’re providing the user with all the information they would need to make a decision. That includes price, special offers, high-quality images, and informative descriptions.
I’ll be writing a blog on how to optimise your listings, which will go into more detail of the available options, and how best to use them. You can sign up to my newsletter to be notified when this is published, or follow me on Instagram.
In the meantime, take a look at my blog on Product SEO – How to Optimise your Product Pages for Maximum Impact to get started on making the best of your products for SEO.
Google Shopping Ads help place your products in a prominent position in front of users who are actively looking for what you’re selling. The flexibility of options means that you can spend as little or as much time as you like on the ads, and a free option is even available if you have no budget or just want to experiment.
Whether you have an online store or a bricks-and-mortar shop, if you sell a physical product, you can reap the benefits of Google Shopping Ads.