Google has been making changes to Product Listing Ads for quite awhile now, slowly moving people over from traditional PLAs to the new Shopping Campaign type. You may have noticed the “validate” button disappeared when you tried to create new product targets for your PLAs. And now the official announcement has come, Google will discontinue traditional PLAs in August, and only show product ads from Shopping Campaigns. For those who fear change, or are at least afraid of losing out on all of the valuable optimizations that they’ve been faithfully performing on their product listing ads over the years, I bring you good tidings! Once you start digging around in the new Shopping campaigns, you will probably come to the same conclusion as I have: “Where have you been all my life?”
OK, so it might not be that dramatic, but Google Shopping campaigns have some great advantages over traditional PLAs, many of which have been covered in great detail elsewhere. I’m not here to rehash those, but to help you prepare for the switch, so you can hit the ground running with your own Shopping campaigns.
Create Your Basic Segmentation Strategy
My favorite thing about Shopping campaigns is that I can segment on the fly, and immediately get performance data. Does one particular brand seem to get a lot of traffic? Well, let’s subdivide it further by product level, condition, or any of the other product targeting categories in AdWords and investigate. And if that level of granularity doesn’t prove useful, I can roll it all back up with just a couple of mouse clicks. But before you go segmenting willy-nilly, take some time to think about a basic structure that will work for the products you’re selling. It goes without saying that you’ll need a clean, well-structured, up-to-date product feed in Google Merchant Center – but you’ve been doing that since the days of PLAs, you savvy marketer, you. (Although I’m not covering it here, check out Google’s guide to creating and optimizing your feed if you need more information.) If you’re selling products that are broadly similar, consider brand as your top-level segmentation. If you have a wide range of products, then category and product type is probably your best starting point. For most of my clients, I have found “Category > Product Type > Brand” to be the best starting point for my segmentation strategy.
Get to Know and Love the Google Shopping Reports
The best thing about Google Shopping campaigns is the level of granularity you can get for reporting and tracking performance. You can get down information broken down by several layers of product type, and even report on individual products. To analyze your shopping data in-depth, you can create ad hoc reports, or schedule recurring reports, just like you do with any other data you want to analyze in depth. Both are created within the Dimensions tab of your Shopping campaign. Once here, click the “View” drop-down and choose one of the “Shopping” options. Now that you’ve chosen the Shopping view within the Dimensions tab, you’ll have a full range of Shopping attributes available as columns in addition to your usual performance and conversion options. Once you’ve determined the level of detail you want to report on and the metrics you need to see, you’ll want to get your data out of the UI, so you slice and dice it with Excel without all the pain and agony of reloading that data (and it’s a LOT of data) every time you want to see something new. Now, it’s time to take advantage of reporting automation within AdWords. You’ve got the dimensions and metrics you want to report on, you’ve determined the best time frame to look at, so save yourself the trouble of reinventing the wheel every time need to do in-depth analysis or reporting and schedule that report!
Pay Attention to Your Search Queries
With all the buzz about upcoming changes from Google, it’s important to know that this data will still be available. Since product listing ads aren’t targeted through keywords, this is vital information for optimizing the performance of your shopping campaign. Even if the changes to API access mean that PPC managers are about the feel the pain of (not provided) that the SEOs have been dealing with for some time now, there are still a few ways to get at this data. The first is the good old AdWords interface, but there’s a twist. If you’re looking for your trusty Details under the Keywords tab, you’re going to be disappointed. In your Shopping campaign, you’ll need to look in the Dimensions tab and choose “Search Terms”. If you are used to adding negative keywords directly from this report, you’ll need to know that it’s going to take a few extra steps now.
I’m a big fan of automating whatever I can, and just as with reporting, you can automate the task of checking your search queries – this time with a simple script. Using AdWords Query Language (AWQL), you can easily pull data from the SEARCH_QUERY_PERFORMANCE_REPORT, export it to a Google Document, and have it emailed to you. Every Monday, I get a fresh Shopping Search Query report delivered to my inbox. From there I can easily stay on top of any negative keywords that I should add, and it’s a great supplement to my regular keyword research for other search campaigns.
Run a Smooth Campaign
The new Google Shopping campaigns offer a lot in terms of segmenting and targeting products within your feed. With a bit of forethought into your setup, and good use of the available tools, your Shopping campaigns should be running smoothly in no time. What about you? Do you have any favorite tricks for running a Shopping campaign? Do things a little differently? Please share any insights you have in the comments, and happy selling!