Google Shopping: How We’re All Totally & Utterly Screwed
Elizabeth Marsten Sep 26 2012
Well OK, I’m being a tiny bit dramatic. But Google Shopping could totally and utterly screw you over if:
- You’re not a major brand with an AdWords rep to spoon feed you
- You’re not familiar with how shopping feeds, shopping engines & AdWords works
- You haven’t started thinking about this and you’re an ecommerce retailer currently using Google Shopping feeds
There are some big changes to Google Shopping rolling out in October. After interviewing CPC Strategy’s CEO and interrogating multiple companies (engines, carts and CSEs), I’m finding out just how unprepared many people are for this massive change.
As our CEO, Ian Lurie, said to me after my rant, “Think about it. This is their (Google’s) biggest revenue generation possibility since AdWords. They just added a billion dollars to their bottom line.”
He’s right. There are some folks out there that are going to have to start paying for tons upon tons of what was previously deemed “organic” traffic. Granted, it’s Google’s engine. They’re one of the last of the major players to offer this kind of online shopping market for free. It was really only a matter of time. And now it’s time to pay the piper.
So where do you need to focus your attention now that these Google Shopping changes are right around the corner?
Within Google AdWords
When it comes to how unique AdWords attributes are going to play with feeds that may have been created for other platforms – it’s still unclear.
If you have 3,000 products and not a lot of time or revenue to be spending on product feed creation with 3rd party developers, you’re either going to blow a three day weekend on this or try and muster without. It’s those that muster without that concern me.
My internal monologue: This whole situation has shades of an early Content network where advertisers were opted in automatically on new campaigns and left to run wild on MySpace and YouTube. Right now, an advertiser throws up a feed from a cart without any AdWords attributes filtering and it looks eerily similar. Granted, not that bad, but history does like to repeat itself.
I totally GET that this is supposed to eliminate the “riff-raff.” But it is totally eliminating the smaller guys as well. And for a company that touts how friendly AdWords is, and created a small business center and that awful AdWords Express program and sends out countless $100 coupons to get started, this sure puts the bar in an unfriendly place.
Pay Attention to Your Shopping Cart Provider
When I interviewed CPC Strategy’s Rick Backus, I asked what the two hardest carts are to use when breaking into product listing ads (PLAs) – Magento and Volusion won (read: lost).
So I asked the reps of both at the Shop.org tradeshow in Denver earlier this month and found that Magento uses 3rd party “extensions” for pretty much everything. If you want an extension it could cost you anywhere from free to $500 to get that feed going. If you don’t understand how to navigate an API or don’t have any development help, this is where the price tag gets steeper. If you have a more advanced version of the cart (not community), you get more bells and whistles and this might not even be an issue.
Volusion has the info for setting up the basic feed, but you have to pull multiple reports to “cobble” them together to create a full feed. For example, you’ll need to pull one set of attributes from the product info table and another set from the shipping table. Mix together, sort and add columns for AdWords (manually), and populate at will.
Again, you could find a 3rd party person to help you out for a fee. A gold level or higher cart merchant could get some internal Volusion staff help, but if you’re at a lower level, you’re going to need to do some heavy lifting yourself.
If you’re API savvy (or have someone that is), and if you happen to have a higher level of cart access/functionality (like Yahoo stores), you can leverage feed creation and submission much more easily than trying to pull together reports for less cost.
What do other carts do? You should really find out if you don’t know already. Maybe you did and you could have skipped this whole section… but if not, you might think about the cost of extensions and add-on support when calculating how much that ecommerce platform really is going to cost you.
Look to the Google Merchant Center
OK, you know your client has a feed (or should), but you haven’t seen it yet. Nor do you have access to their Merchant Center account. Or maybe you have access, but in order to see categories, brands or anything at all, you have to drill down to each individual product or pull some annoying report.
You know that bidding by “all products” in AdWords is like opting into the display network, automatic placements and then doing nothing else. Not a great idea. Just like you know that bidding the same for all categories, brands or any AdWords attribute, isn’t right.
If you have not been granted access to their Merchant Center – get in (all they have to do is add a user, though you’ll need a new email or to set up a multi-user account first). Get a copy of the feed. Find out what you can and can’t use. Don’t procrastinate on this. Multi-user accounts have been a bit glitchy though, I’ve gone through the whole process a couple of times with different clients/accounts and still not gotten the “access” part of a multi-user account to work, so be prepared to call the 1-866 line and have them tell you that the feature doesn’t exist. (This has happened twice now, with two different reps.)
Get familiar with the Merchant Center reporting as well. Go into the Performance area and run some reports by brand and product type to see what’s going on. You can’t export these reports and sometimes it’s like watching paint dry for them to generate, but it still helps you understand what you’re working with.
You Must Get Ahead of the Game
Yeah, I’m talking to you. Need a crash course in Google Shopping? Go read CPC Strategy’s free ebook.
Do not diddle around on this. Be prepared. There’s no definitive date in October for when Google is flipping the switch, but assume it’ll be at the most annoying time for you. Get ahead of the game and start talking to clients about this. Hound them for that feed. HOUND THEM I SAY!
You don’t have to listen to me, but don’t get all indignant when November comes around and your feed disappears or your budget is wasted on the mysterious category of “all products.”
My Free Google Shopping and PLA Webinar
If you really want to avoid being totally and utterly screwed by these massive changes to Google Shopping, you can join me for a free webinar on Google Shopping & PLAs. Thursday, September 27th at 11am PST.
Sign up here. Even if you can’t make it, I’ll still send you the recording and you can watch it later.
Vice President of Search Marketing
Elizabeth supervises the overall search division at Portent, which includes PPC, SEO, Social Media and Analytics. If you really want to know more about her check out her bit.ly bundle. Elizabeth has written several ebooks, is a ClickZ columnist, a Lynda.com course author, a Dummies book author and speaks on PPC across the USA at various conferences including the SMX shows, mozCon and Hero Con. Read More