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Google Shopping campaigns: preparing for the August 2014 switchover

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 22 Apr, 2014
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Less than 100 days until Google Shopping Campaigns Switch: 6 migration musts for Advertisers

Do you remember 2012 when Google switched Google Shopping over to paid ads, and merchants on Google had a collective pain attack? It's happening again.

This month Google announced they are switching the current version of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) over to the newer Google Shopping Campaigns format. Similar to the initial introduction of paid Product Listing Ads from (October 2012) , Google completely changed how Google Product Search functioned, and required merchants to make the switch within a certain timeline (July 2012). This time you can prepare in advance.

How is Google changing Google Shopping and how can you get ready? Below are the details of how Google Shopping Campaigns are different from current Product Listing Ads, Google Shopping Campaigns best practices.

Google Shopping Campaigns vs. Current PLAs

Google Shopping Campaigns are at their core a new version of current PLAs. Unlike the switch to paid PLAs from Google Product Search, Google Shopping PLAs are predominantly the same. The key elements which are changing from current PLAs to Shopping Campaigns are:

  • 1. Campaign Structure
  • 2. Inventory Data Format

1. Campaign Structure

Google Shopping Campaigns are a new way to create Product Listing Ads.  Shopping Campaigns create Product Ads in search which populate product images, lead to a merchants website and act off a Cost-Per-Click pay model. However, how advertisers create those Product Ads with Shopping Campaigns is fundamentally different.

Current PLAs allow merchants to create product ad groups based on the information in their product inventory. Advertisers can create nearly any product attribute combination using labels in their data feed (how you send product inventory information to Google).

Think of your product inventory as a box full of legos here. You can essentially make whatever structure your want with those legos- re-using pieces and connecting structures as you like:

Instead of working outwards, the Google Shopping Campaigns ad structure uses your inventory as a foundation from which advertisers whittle out ads based on product attributes.

Imagine those legos you have, but in this case you can only make something using the remaining pieces you have. So if start by making a structure with blue legos, your next structure can only be made from those blue legos, or from the remaining legos:

2. Inventory Data Format

In addition to how Shopping Campaign ads are created for Google Shopping, how those ad groups are selected from the advertisers product inventory is also different.

With current PLAs, Google advertisers identify product attributes from their inventory using labels from their data feed. Advertisers can use existing product labels (e.g Brand, Category), or create their own using the AdWords Label column (e.g Best Sellers, Items over $20).

Google Shopping Campaigns maintain the existing labels structure, but limit how many custom labels advertisers can create. Instead of the nearly limitless AdWords Label column options, Google Advertisers now have 5 Custom Label Column Options (0-4).

Google Shopping Campaigns Best Practices

1. Choose your campaign structure wisely

Google Shopping Campaign ad structure builds upon itself. If you start building out your campaign by Category- that's the basis of your ad structure.

  • You can change it but only by deleting the majority of your campaign.
  • Use your current PLA structure to plan how you want to build out Shopping Campaigns.
  • Keep in mind you won't be able to use all of your AdWords labels if you have many, and be careful not to delete any of your initial product ad groups as they contain all of the product ad groups below them.

2. Format your inventory data wisely

Shopping Campaigns limit Google Advertisers to 5 Custom Label Columns, 10 feed attributes total. If you have a built-out PLA campaign chances are you have more AdWords labels than this.

Delve into AdWords and Analytics data to determine which groups perform the best, and which one's you could live without. If you aren't using custom ad groups using the AdWords Label column, this is a good feature to test with Shopping Campaigns.

3. Slow down

If you're not using Product Listing Ads start building your ads out slowly. Begin with tour All Products Ad Group (your entire inventory), then build out product groups based on what performs (e.g category or brand).

If you're currently on PLAs, take your time to transition slowly so you don't delete anything or rush choosing your initial product groups. Keep in mind your PLAs can run at the same time as Shopping Campaigns so be sure to have only one campaign live at a time.

4. Use AdWords tracking

Google Shopping Campaigns feature more product information in the AdWords login such as ID and product title. If you use AdWords tracking you can view a lot of useful metrics all within the AdWords.  Shopping Campaigns also allows you to download reports, and features new tools such as Benchmark CTR, Max CPC, Impression Share, and the Bid Simulator.

5. Utilize advanced strategy

Shopping Campaigns allows Advertisers to monitor their Ad performance and optimize ads based on different variables. Consider using the following advanced Shopping Campaign strategies.

  • Exclusions- Decrease product visibility by excluding a sub-group of products.
  • Geo and mobile bids- Modify where your ads show up and on which devices.
  • Day Parting- Change your bid amount and exposure based on product conversions and clicks during the week (day and hour).
  • AdWords Alerts- Send yourself notifications to ensure you're not exceeding your budget, and to flag other campaign elements.

Google gave advertisers roughly 9 months to transition Product Listing Ads transition from Google Product Search. You now have less than 100 days until Google's August Shopping Campaigns transition - I hope this helps.

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