What a Paid Search Marketer Needs to Know About Google Shopping

Froogle, Google Product Search, Google Shopping- whatever you call it, it’s integrated with AdWords – now more than ever. And if you think Google is going to stop there…yeah, right.

This just got a bit more competitive is all. Oh yeah, and less free. If you’ve been following along with the recent announcement that Google AdWords will be discontinuing the free product listings through Google Product Search, then you’re with me already. If you haven’t- then breaking news for you!

In a nutshell- Google is making product feed submissions and displaying products a paid thing. So if you upload a product feed through Google Merchant Center (or Google Base as it’s sometimes called), then you care about this. You also care about this if you use Product Listing Ads (or PLAs) in Google AdWords in conjunction with a product feed in Google Merchant Center. You really care about this if you have only been using Google Merchant Center and NOT AdWords.

Let’s break it down, because in the end we’re talking about FIVE different Google products that could come into play for you.

Google Product Search– the section of Google.com where displays results come from product feeds and through Google web crawls. This was free to show your product feed in.

Google Merchant Center/Base
– the interface where you upload your product feeds, view statistics of the same and get all your info on what’s accepted, what’s not and where you can “optimize” your product feeds using attributes provided by Google. Still technically free- but no one will see anything unless you pay.

Google AdWords– I think you know what this is. What you care about here is the auto targets tab in the AdWords user interface. More on that later. Also, never free.

Product Listing Ads (PLAs)– these are ads that are shown through linking Google AdWords with Google Merchant Center. Using attributes for AdWords like adwords_labels or adwords_groups, you can filter and control which products show with which queries or groups of products. These show one image only, show the price, display URL and an option line of promotional text you enter in through the AdWords interface. Performance is viewed on the Auto Targets tab.

Product Extensions Ads- these ads also show products from your Google Merchant Center feed, but instead require a click of a “plus box” to expand and show up to 4 products with your AdWords ad text. You can also use Google Merchant Center attributes in your product feed to group products by product type, brand, condition, adwords_labels and adwords_groups. Performance is viewed on the Ad Extensions tab. (Well, what you can see of it anyway.)


Google Shopping- The product formerly known as Google Product Search. The results in this search result area will all be paid inclusions, drawn from product feeds submitted through Merchant Center, as well as organic listings.

Google Trusted Stores- a Google Trusted Store is a merchant that has applied to be in the program and passed a shipping and customer service check by Google. It requires a piece of javascript code and an additional order code on shipping/receipt pages as well as a tab-delimited data feed that is submitted daily.

Google collects shipping data (length of time to ship, speed of shipping) over the course of 28 days and 1,000 orders. During this “monitoring mode” an error free month will get you into the program, after which you get a nifty Google Trusted Stores badge to show alongside your AdWords text and product listing ads. Be sure to check out the implementation requirements and integration before signing up. The program just got opened up more from the “submit and hope for an email” – see how you can get started here. You care about this in connection with Google Shopping because of the badge it’s going to “bling” your ad out with.

Google Analytics- When uploading feeds to Google Merchant Center, you used to tag the back end of destination URLs (I hope you did at least) with the designation of utm_souce=google+products or something similar so that when you looked in your GA stats you could separate Google organic from Google Product Search. You really should do this if you haven’t been.

What this means for you and managing PPC

  • Get to work now, so you have extra time to get ready for holiday. If you’re not already taking advantage of product feeds, you should. The absolute best way to manage this going forward? Create a new campaign and ad groups just for product listing ads.
  • The new system isn’t keyword based, so don’t mix it with your keyword based ad texts. (If you add keywords to the campaign or ad group with your PLAs and no text ads, they won’t do anything but sit there.)
  • Review and possibly use all the available attributes in AdWords now: product type, brand, condition, adwords labels, adwords groups.
  • Figure out a taxonomy before you upload on how you’re going to group products- use your existing AdWords account structure to make life easier on yourself. (If that’s a mess, fix that first.) For example: say you have a housewares campaign that houses ad groups for utensils and blenders. You’re going to want to create a grouping or group for utensils (spatulas, whisks, spoons) and another for blenders. Auto Targets are set at the ad group level, so you’ve got a lot of flexibility here.
  • The difference between groups and labels? Groups can be arbitrary. Name the group and assign products that same group name – they are now a “group.” But- it can only be one value. So “blenders” or “utensils” not “blending utensils” or “down comforters.” Labels can have multiple values like “kitchenware, blender.” See the Google Merchant Center Help article for more on this.
  • Review the required attributes for product feeds and get them in there.
  • Name your products descriptively. Stick to 70 characters or less. Put a keyword in there and put it up front. For example: “King Down Pillow Feather Core” not “Down Pillow” or “240 Thread Count Reversible Hypoallergenic Siberian Goose Down Pillow Set”.
  • Watch out for special characters like & % or < to avoid encoding errors, especially when using XML format.
  • Fill in the product description uniquely and descriptively, 500 to 1000 characters. Writing the same thing for 80 products isn’t going to help you on relevancy to Google or searchers. Remember- you’re paying for these clicks now.
  • Don’t use the first 100 characters for instructions, shipping info or overly descriptive “fluff” – you might get 500 characters, but not all 500 are going to show. Get the important sales info in up front.
  • Find a way to automate an upload if possible through your cart. Get out-of-stock items out, new stuff in, don’t let your feed expire.
  • Get familiar with the auto targets tab, it’s about to become very useful to you. You’re going to use it to filter, group and see what is going on.
  • Advertisers that start using PLAs now get a 10% discount from AdWords. More details here.
  • The Google Merchant Center Help Area with sample product feeds, lists of attributes and troubleshooting fun is sticking around and staying right where it is.
  • If you can’t edit the feed for AdWords attributes or don’t have access to the product feed, your best filters are going to be product type and brand, which are hopefully at least provided to you. Otherwise, PLAs aren’t going to do much for you as you’ll be at the mercy of what Google finds “relevant.”

The most important thing? Just get your house in order now. Don’t wait till October. Sign up for updates from the AdWords or Merchant blogs to see when the official release will be – late summer is the current target.

Does this mean that you’ll now start seeing questions about the product feed program on the AdWords Advanced or Fundamentals exams? Probably.

Perhaps we’ll even see a new track of advanced to choose from: search, display, analytics and shopping!

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  1. Great information Elizabeth ! Just goes to show that Google is constantly changing, and you either change with it or get left behind. The changes will definitely make individuals with online stores, change their process of marketing, to get the most out of Google.

  2. Awesome summary Elizabeth! Thanks for putting this together and keep us updated on your early results/strategies when Google starts to transition to paid traffic on July 1st.

  3. You forgot one thing… If you sell wine or any type of alcohol online then you have until July 1st to get your wine products out….
    “According to this policy alcohol products and content are currently not allowed to run on Google Shopping.”
    They let Wine in the free version, why not the paid??? WTF Google!
    It’s a no-wine situation!

  4. Excellent update on the changing shopping landscape for search marketers. Time to get started on optimizing campaign ad groups and product attributes.

  5. Not sure that this is a good move on Google’s part. Google Shopper is a great product and useful for getting that little bit of extra exposure but quite frankly it’s not a pervasive enough product to justify charging for it. Not too familiar with the ROI on uploading a catalogue, so I may be wrong, but for me and most small businesses this is a major deterrent.

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