Product Listing Ads in Google Adwords Are Cheap (So far)

product listing ads girl cryingOver the past month Google shopping has been transitioning from a free service that allowed advertisers to submit a XML feed of their products to the Google Merchant Centre and then benefit from a good amount of free traffic to a paid service through Google Adwords called product listing ads. Not surprisingly a lot of marketers are mourning the end of Google shopping for free as it has been a great source of free traffic for years. But split milk and all that….

For the past 10 years you will have intermittently noticed specific products being returned for some of your searches on Google; previously this was pulled from Google Shopping into the natural search listings. The products that were shown in these listings were based more on relevance factors such as the data in the feed as well as number of reviews etc.

Now though the Google shopping results are being switched for paid listings that are driven more by bids and keywords/feed data. The listings are shown at the top of the page where the premium Adwords text ad spots usually are or sometimes mixed in with the organic search results somewhere in the top 6 listings.

Over the past few weeks I have been testing this with some clients data feeds and trying to get my head around it: it is not straight forward unfortunately, which is just how Google like it, making me a tad nervous but so far the results have been pretty good although to date I have kept things relatively low key.

First; a quick overview of the Google product listing ads set up process.

1) Firstly, you will need an XML feed of products submitted to Google Merchant Centre.

If you do not have a developer in your team then get an expert to help on this as it needs to be done properly and preferably by someone who has done the same thing a number of times before and is familiar with Google’s quirks.

Here is the Google Merchant Centre feed spec.

2) Link your Adwords account to your Google Merchant Centre account.

There are 2 steps to this as you have to link both ways for some reason.

First of all log into your Google Merchant Centre account

  1. In your Merchant Center account, click Settings, then AdWords.
  2. Enter your AdWords Customer ID (CID). You can find your CID at the top of your AdWords account when you’re signed in.
  3. Click Add.

Once you have linked this up go into your Adwords account and set up a new campaign for your product listing ads – you need to ensure that in the campaign settings you put it on Google search rather than the display network as Google product listing ads only run under Google search.

Now when you create an ad group you will see an additional type of ad group appear called “product listing ad” – this is shown in the screenshot below. Tick off the “All products” option and then just enter a max CPC bid and save.

product listing ads set up 1

Once you have created an ad group you will probably be feeling a little lost on how exactly to match up the feed to your new ad group.

If you go into your ad group now then you will notice a tab called “Auto targets”

auto targets tab

Under this tab you will see the green button “Add product target” – click on this.

Now this is where you need to link back to your merchant centre account – you should see the account listed on the page, just click the button to link it up. If you do not see the account listed then you may well not have linked up successfully in the Google Merchant Centre so go back and check that side once more.

Mapping your Google merchant Centre product feed to your Product Listing Ads

Once you are all good then you will see that you have a few options to set up which products in your feed are tied to this ad group. This is basically a process of mapping the products in your feed to an ad group so that you get the correct products matching to users searches; you need to be prepared for quite a bit of work to get this right.

Unless you are feeling suicidal with your marketing budget then do not just select “Add all products”. I suggest that you start by adding an ad group for each of your product categories/sub categories. In order to have good control over the product that Google chooses to show in the product listings you should try and limit the ad group to a potential of only about 5 or 6 products.

There are a number of ways to do this; as shown in the screenshot below:

product listing ads feed mapping

So far I have only been experimenting with 2 of these options: product_type and brand.

First of all I created ad groups for each category of product in the clients product feed and then mapped them here by selecting product_type = xxxx product group from the feed – you need to get the naming convention exactly right so it is a good idea to ensure that your product category naming is consistent between your website, your product feed and your Adwords account.

You simply match the ad group to a product type and you are done – the ad will start running after a few hours.

However; you will need to be on your toes and ready for some swift optimisations after a few days. As Google are matching user searches to your products they can match them quite broadly. This means that if for example you have a product category called “ladies blue sweaters” and another one called “ladies blue woolen sweaters” and even if you create 2 separate ad groups and match each one to it’s respective grouping in the feed you could still get cross over.

i.e. a person searching for “ladies blue woolen sweaters” could still be shown a product from the feed that is tied to “ladies blue sweaters” even thought the product is less relevant. this is simply because Google look at them as separate instances and see that both are eligible and they in fact compete against each other to show.

But there is a fix!

Using negative keywords to control your product listing ads

Google have been kind enough to allow search query reports on product listing ads – this means that you can see the exact terms which are triggering your product ads to show for each ad group. Therefore in this example you may see a woolen sweater get shown for the non woolen ad group. You simply need to ad the word “woolen” as a negative phrase or broad match keyword to the non-woolen ad group.

As shown in the screenshot below you simply need to go to the “Keywords” tab in Adwords and then under keyword details select “All”. You can run this for all campaigns at once or just your product listing ad campaign.

If you are not familiar with search query reports then read this post on running a search query report.

search query report for product listing ads

This example may sound a little confusing but when you run a search query report for your product listing ads you will start to see the cross over and it will be apparent as to what negative keywords you need to add where.

Narrowing down the eligible products in your feed for each ad group

You really want to become a control freak around which products show for which searches as that is ultimately what will get you the sales – if Google keep fishing out slightly irrelevant products for the users intent then you will never get great results.

Therefore there are a few ways that you can create narrower ad groups that allow more control:

1) Use negative keywords as explained above

2) Add additional attributes in your targeting. When we talked about adding the product targets earlier I simply suggested using product_type initially but you can combine these attributes. for example you may want to set up additional ad groups that are brand + product type so that you are relevant on branded searches relating to your product types.

3) Target single products using the product id option – you could simply have an ad group for each of your top 50,100,1000 selling products and set bids on them at an individual product level at a rate that is suitable (margin wise) and then exclude all of your products which are not popular.

Additionally you can create Adwords labels and grouping on the products in your feed – perhaps splitting by high, medium and low cost for example so that you could match the right products to the user based on the intent in their search e.g. if they search terms like “luxury”, “designer” etc then you may want to show them the products that are of a higher cost whereas for searches containing “cheap” or “discount” you may want to show the lower cost products.

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