20th August 2021
How To Create A Successful Google Shopping Campaign: Part 1 - Product Feed Setup
As an online retailer looking to market your product range beyond your website, few things are as worthwhile as setting up a product feed and importing it into Google Merchant Centre.
Once your product feed is set up, you can use your products in a variety of online formats:
- Google Paid Shopping Ads
- Google Organic Listings
- Microsoft Bing Paid Shopping Ads (via Google Merchant Centre Import)
- Microsoft Bing Organic Listings (via Google Merchant Centre Import)
- Facebook & Instagram Paid Shopping Ads (using the standard XML feed file)
To create the most effective structure for your Google Shopping campaign, your work needs to begin in your product feed. In part one of our two-part series, we’ll walk you through the best practices of your product feed data setup to ensure your products are well-named, organised and ready to be used in Google Shopping campaigns.
We’ll be using the fictitious company Tees4All, an online retailer providing sustainable clothing, for our walkthroughs and examples throughout this series.
Creating Effective Product Names For Google Shopping Campaigns
Remember Shopping campaigns don’t use keywords, they use your feed to determine which search terms should show your products. Therefore, it’s crucial that your product details, especially the product title, clearly indicate what your product is.
Your clothing company Tees4All provides sustainable clothing from ethical sources. You’re looking to generate product names to use in your Google Merchant Centre feed, which will be later used in Google Shopping campaigns.
What’s important to know is that product title character limits are 150 characters, but will be truncated (i.e. will trail off like this….) after 70 characters. That’s not to say you should stick to 70 characters though - you can be smart about it. Get your customer-facing features in the first 70 characters and let Google crawl the remaining characters for relevance.
Let’s take a look at a couple of product naming options:
Tees4All Men’s Medium T-Shirt In Black
This title isn’t bad on the face of it:
- It shows the brand, which will help in branded product searches
- It covers the target gender
- It covers the product type, size and colour
What if we expanded it more to cater to our target audience though? Take a look at this:
Tees4All Men's 100% Organic Cotton T-Shirt In Black - Size Medium | Ethically Made | Sustainable Materials
This covers the features of the previous title, with a few changes:
- 100% Organic Cotton - this addition not only shows the material but also its sustainable features, giving it the potential to stand out in search results
- Ethically Made - again this shows the ethical credentials that will be important to a socially conscious searcher
In this example, the key product features “Tee4All Men’s 100% Organic Cotton T-Shirt In Black - Size Medium” are contained within the 70 characters for searchers to see, whilst ethically made and sustainable materials will be crawled for relevance by Google. They are small differences, but if they are the difference between your products showing for “ethical t-shirt” or “sustainable clothing” then they’ll be worth the effort.
Using The Right Google Product Category
This is often the first level of categorisation for your products in Google Shopping campaigns, and consists of a predefined list of taxonomies from Google for you to categorise your products at their most basic levels.
Unsure where to start? Don’t panic - Google’s Help Centre provides a complete downloadable list of taxonomies for reference.
In our article example, Tees4All would list most of their products under the category
Clothing & Accessories > Clothing > Shirts & Tops.
Creating Useful Product Types
Imagine the Google Product Category, but with complete flexibility in how the products are categorised - that’s how Product Types work. For example, Tees4All has the following sections on its website:
- Everyday Wear
Product Types can be organised in the same sections, with the ability to add subtypes for further specificity. Examples for Tees4All could include:
- Activewear > Running T-Shirts
- Activewear > Running Hoodies
- Activewear > Base Layers
- Collaborations > BBC Earth > T-Shirts
- Collaborations > BBC Earth > Vests
- Everyday Wear > T-Shirts > Long-Sleeve
By breaking it down to this level of detail, you will be able to organise the products by product group in Google Ads - enabling you to see their performance at a glance and set specific bids for the groups as well.
Getting The Most Out Of Custom Labels
The final feature of product data used for effective campaign structures is custom labels. This provides you with up to five labels (custom label 0-4 in the data) which you can use to label your products. What you label them with is up to you of course - but here are some suggestions of ideas you could use for your custom labels.
Profit margin can be a great way to split products, especially because of the financial aspect of advertising. If margins are low then there’s no point bidding aggressively if you’re selling at a loss, whilst high margins offer scope to set higher bids whilst still coming in on target.
Once your profit margins are set via custom label, you can use inventory filters to split your products by product margin at campaign level - giving you the chance to set specific budgets and bids for each margin group.
As a retailer, you know what your best sellers are - and highlighting your best sellers in your product data can be a great way to organise your products in Google Ads. You could set up separate ad groups, or even a campaign, for your best sellers to provide specific bids and/or budgets for them, ensuring that they aren’t constrained by either.
The last thing you want is for your best sellers to stop showing because your other products are spending all your shopping budget!
Adding a temporary custom label such as “Summer Sale” can help you identify products that are on promotion. Doing so allows you to separate your products by this label in Google Ads, giving you the opportunity to target Sale item products with specific bids to drum up interest and push for sales rather than simply relying on a flat bid across your products.
You could even go as far as setting up a standalone Google Shopping campaign, using inventory filters at campaign level, to focus solely on products that have Sale-related labels and then excluding these products in your regular Shopping campaigns.
Doing so provides a dedicated budget for the sale items, as well as the option to simply pause the entire campaign once the promotion ends. However, be sure to include the products back into your normal Shopping campaigns or they won’t be eligible to show!
Sometimes known as end of line, clearance, or even dead stock, discontinued products can be the hardest to shift for retailers. The upside, however, is that because the products would be written off or go to waste otherwise, sales may be considered 100% profit. This provides a higher bidding ceiling for advertisers to push the products in Google Shopping, reaching wider audiences and growing sales in the process.
Adding a Discontinued Label is also useful because, as the name suggests, when it’s gone it’s gone. Whilst some products may be expected to be in and out of stock during their lifetimes, the sale of all Discontinued items will lead to them being no longer available in future. This is useful in terms of planning product strategies in Google Shopping campaigns and knowing where to focus your efforts.
Datafeed Watch’s excellent article on Custom Labels provides more examples - you can read it here.
Improving Your Google Shopping Product Data With Feed Rules and Supplemental Feeds
You may be reading this and thinking “that’s all well and good, but all my feed changes need to go through my extremely busy web developer; I’ve got no chance of it being done this year”. Fear not, for there are some tools available for you to get the job done yourself!
Feed rules are a quick way to add or modify product data in bulk, using predefined conditions set by you in Google Merchant Centre. You can append, find and replace, set a single value and much more using Google Merchant Centre’s interface - with no development work needed. You can find out more about creating feed rules in Google Help Centre.
So what could Tees4All use this for in their Google Merchant Centre account? Examples could include:
- Setting the brand attribute to “Tees4All” on all products
- Standardise the value “men’s” with “male” in the Gender field on all products to ensure it meets Google Merchant Centre requirements
- Set the Product title to pull in from our Supplemental Feed (see below) and overwrite the existing product title data
Of all the Google features I’ve learned and used recently, Supplemental Feeds has become my new favourite for its practicality when dealing with product feeds as a marketer. Here’s how Google describes it in their Help Centre:
“Supplemental feeds add data that's missing from your primary feed. They are used only to update product data that already exists in one or more primary feeds. You can have multiple supplemental feeds, and each one can supplement data in any number of primary feeds.”
Put simply, they’re perfect for when you don’t have access or capability to update the feed yourself. By looking up against the Product ID, Supplemental Feeds can be used to add or even replace data in the standard product feed within Google Merchant Centre - allowing you to make improvements without development changes.
How could Tees4All use it? Example uses cases could include:
- Replacing the default product title with our newly improved title from the section “Creating Effective Product Names For Google Shopping Campaigns”
- Adding and Updating Custom Labels for sale products
- Setting custom Product Types to better organise products before setting up Google Shopping campaigns
- Adding missing information such as Material (Natural Cotton, Bamboo) and Brand (Tees4All)
You can then use feed rules to make Google Merchant Centre look at your field value first, using it if one exists, and then falling back on the original product data if the supplemental feed is blank. You can find out more about creating Supplemental Feeds for Google Shopping in Google’s Help Centre.
Let’s take a minute to recap all the work you’ve done on your Google Shopping product feed:
- Your product names are in good shape and will appear for the right search terms
- Your product types are set up to enable sensible and simple product group categorisation within your Google Shopping campaigns
- Your custom labels are set up to give you further filters for your products
Now you're ready to create your Shopping campaigns in Google Ads - but how should you organise them? Join us for part two of this series where we take our newly-optimised product data feed and use it to set up our Google Shopping campaigns, as well as importing them into Microsoft Ads to showcase Tees4All’s product range across two search networks.