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How to get your products noticed on Google Shopping

Posted on 6 Sep 2013 at 10:40

Kevin Partner provides practical advice for those looking to sell products via Google Shopping

Google is particularly fussy about the unique product identifier, so if you don’t have a UPC, EAN or ISBN for a particular product, make sure you add the brand and manufacturer’s part number. Failure to do this may send Google into a hissy fit and disqualify your entire catalogue. The final step is to link your Merchant and AdWords accounts together by going to Settings | AdWords and entering your customer ID.

Now that you have your shop, Merchant Center and AdWords all talking to one another, you need to set up a Product Listing Ads campaign. Fortunately, this is also incredibly simple – far easier than text-based campaigns – largely because you don’t need to specify keywords for Product Listing Ads. Instead, Google works out which of your products it should show for a particular search term.

Your product must appear among those four to eight thumbnails

You read that right: with Product Listing Ads, the keyword research and optimisation skills you’ve earned by years of sweat and toil have become redundant. Well, almost, because it isn’t quite that clear-cut, as we’ll soon see. Essentially, though, setting up a product listing campaign is a simple matter of selecting which Merchant Center feed you want to advertise, setting a budget, and then optionally creating ad groups for specific products, brands or categories, each with their own bid price.

Getting your products on the front page

There’s little point in going through this rigmarole if potential customers never see your Product Listing Ad. Your product must appear among those four to eight thumbnails (Google alters the number depending on the search phrase) or it might as well be invisible. In practice, this means doing your level best to appear in one of the first four slots.

As usual, Google doesn’t reveal details of how it decides in which order to present products, as if it did the system would be wide open to abuse. However, it seems to me that at least six factors influence your rank position:

1. Relevance – the closer Google thinks your product matches the intentions of the searcher, the higher your ranking.

2. Bid price – the more you bid, the better your chances of appearing in the top window. How much the bid price affects your position within that window is less clear. Google suggests that you can expect the bid price for a Product Listing Ad to be higher than for a text ad, but that this will be compensated by a higher conversion rate, since clickers have already selected their product visually before arriving at your site. We’ll see...

3. Location – if I search for scooters, for example, Google will tend to boost the ads of shops near to my physical location.

4. Completeness of data – while there’s a relatively small number of mandatory fields in a valid product feed, providing all the optional data makes it more likely Google will match you.

5. Data freshness – Google will reward more recent data, which it expects to be more relevant. This is another reason why it’s so important to automate this through your shopping platform.

6. Merchant credibility – the longer you’ve had your active Merchant account, the happier Google is. Google also uses various independent review sites to establish your reputation, so now might be a good time to sign up.

Relevance is by far the most important of these six factors, and requires a different approach from text-based ads, an approach that has much in common with SEO techniques for boosting organic Google rankings.

While effective SEO was important for a text ad, since it affects the page’s Quality Score (which in turn influences the amount you must pay to achieve a particular position in the sponsored listings), for a Product Listing Ad it determines whether you’ll appear anywhere at all. So where for text ads you’d spend most of your time polishing keywords in the AdWords interface, for Product Listing Ads you’ll concentrate your effort within your e-commerce package, working on the product page itself.

Let’s take the example of an online retailer with a couple of hundred products. Using text ads, it’s unlikely they’d want to invest the effort to create a separate ad group for each product, so in practice they’d bid for keywords that suggest a customer is interested in a whole range of products.

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Kevin Partner

Kevin Partner

Kevin is a contributing editor to PC Pro. He's managing director of NlightN Multimedia, a Milton Keynes-based company specialising in web application development and internet marketing.

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