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Top 50 eCommerce Tips – Part Six, Google Ads

  • Written By Marcus
  • Posted October 31, 2018
  • 15 minutes Read Time

When it comes to advertising an eCommerce store online, or anywhere, no platform can reach a larger audience than the Google Ads network. While most businesses know about the platform and may even be using it to advertise, few know how to use it to its full potential and get the most from it.

That’s where this article comes in. Hopefully, over the next couple of thousand words, we’ll explain a bit more about the Google Ads platform and offer some practical advice and guidance for those wanting to get the most out of it for the online retail business.

What Is Google Ads?

Google launched the previously named AdWords platform back in 2000 when the search engine was still in its infancy but already generating organic search results for more than 20 million search queries every day.

The search engine now generates results for a massive 4 billion search queries a day and according to eMarketer, the Google Ads platform will generate more than £80 billion in global ad revenue this year. That’s a 31% share of the total worldwide digital ad market with the mighty Facebook a distant second at only 18%.

Despite the networks’ growth being extremely rapid and transformative in many ways, at its core, Google Ads is a simple offering – the chance for businesses to advertise online across the Google search engine and its network of partner sites.

That’s the very simple explanation. So how does that process actually work, at least initially from a traditional text advertising basis on the search engine?

Well, every search query has the potential to trigger an auction in the Google Ads platform if there are advertisers interested in that query. An advertiser has the potential to be entered into one of these auctions based on previously identifying keywords that they would like to bid on. If these keywords are included in the search query, the advertiser may be entered into the auction.

The advertiser decides which auctions they would like to be entered into by selecting their keywords and bidding but Google decides which order these advertisers are displayed to the search user based on something called ‘ad rank’. Once entered into an auction, Google looks at two key factors that determine ad rank; the advertisers’ maximum bid and their quality score.  The maximum bid is pretty self-explanatory but the quality score is made up of a few important elements that all centre around user experience and how relevant the advertiser is to the users’ search query. Once the ad rank is determined by Google, the highest rank wins the auction and appears in position one for that search query. These auctions are taking place up to 40,000 times every second.

What Google is aiming to do here (other than just making a lot of money in ad revenue) is provide the best possible user experience to people searching so that the results they receive are as useful and relevant as possible, regardless of the advertisers’ bids and advertising budgets.

There’s an important difference in Google Ads auctions when it comes to display campaigns and shopping activity that’s worth mentioning at this point. The auction process works in a very similar way in both cases but in display campaigns, relevance is determined based on the placement (website) rather than the search query, and it is determined by product data in the case of Google shopping.

It is also worth noting that bidding is not limited purely to a CPC (Cost Per Click) model and Google allows other options including CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions) and CPA (Cost Per Acquisition). There are situations where all of these bidding strategies work well in their own right but the requirements of each business will differ and need to be taken into consideration.

Those are the basics of how the Google advertising platform works but there’s an extensive list of features and functionality that is growing all the time and will improve the performance of an advertisers account if monitored, managed and optimised properly. A well managed Google Ads account combined with a robust and comprehensive SEO strategy will stand an advertiser in good stead to compete effectively in the busy world of online search.

Chris Harrison

eCommerce SEO Specialist

Media Lounge

Paid Search is the perfect foil to SEO, instantly filling in the gaps on search engine results pages that are left vacant when an organic campaign begins. Because of its fantastic ability to deliver results quickly, investing both time and money into Paid Search can be the perfect way to market your business effectively, especially in its infancy. When combined with an organic search campaign, you can ensure all bases are covered in a controlled and measurable fashion.

We’re going to cover some important areas of Google Ads that are sometimes missed and need your attention to ensure the account has the best possible chance of success for your eCommerce business.

Settings

Although it may seem incredibly obvious, one of the most common oversights we see when auditing or taking over Google Ads accounts for online retailers is the lack of attention paid to basic settings and configuration. So let’s start by taking a look at just a couple of these simple settings to ensure a Google Ads account has the necessary building blocks in place before getting into a bit more detail.

Goals

If you intend to use any of the Google automation functionality for bidding, ad rotation and even delivery of ad extensions, you will be limiting how effective this automation can be if you don’t select a goal. You’re effectively asking Google to optimise parts of your account without telling Google what you want to achieve. For most eCommerce businesses, this goal will be online sales and selecting this goal takes seconds.

Location Location Location

Depending on the requirements of an online retailer in terms of the target audience and their location and shipping capabilities, the location and language settings will vary but often these settings are selected at the point of creating a Google Ads account and never looked at again. One of the most common issues we see is wastage created by ads appearing outside of the country the advertiser is targeting. This can be stopped in a lot of cases by ensuring that the location targeting is set to only people in that location rather than people showing interest in that location. A very simple fix.

IP Exclusions

Excluding the IP address of your business is not always a priority if you’re a smaller retailer or a startup but for larger businesses with lots of employees and multiple locations, it can really make a difference and is such a simple setting change that it’s a no-brainer!

Google Shopping

Although officially launched in 2012, the concept of Google shopping was created almost a decade before as a basic price comparison service for all types of products from multiple vendors or merchants, displayed in Google search results.

Google shopping is often seen as a separate service from Google Ads but in fact, is managed (mostly) in that platform and could be described as the integration of Google Ads, Google Merchant Centre and in a lot of cases, a merchants eCommerce platform. For an online retailer, Google shopping will often outperform traditional search ads and leaving this part out of your Google Ads strategy, could cost you.

As an online retailer, Google shopping will often outperform traditional search ads and leaving this part out of your Google Ads strategy, could cost you.

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The setup process can be a little time consuming to get right but ultimately a merchant needs to create a Google Merchant Centre account and populate this platform with their product range which can then be fed into Google Ads once the two accounts have been linked. A product feed from an eCommerce platform like Magento is a great way to push products to Google Merchant Centre because it can be automated to run on a regular basis and keep the feed fully up to date, it can filter out products that are out of stock or which shouldn’t be advertised and it can dynamically map product categories to the Google category structure.

Once a merchant’s products have been fed from their eCommerce store into Google Merchant Centre, they are checked and approved by Google before they can be made available in the Google Ads platform for shopping or dynamic remarketing campaigns.

Apart from the obvious tip of ensuring Google shopping is part of your Google Ads strategy, we thought a few pointers on general setup would be worth including…

Granularity

A common mistake when setting up Google shopping is building a structure that is too simplistic at campaign level and not granular enough to offer clear visibility over performance and management of budgets. Spend levels can only be controlled at campaign level so simply feeding all your products into one campaign can result in some products being given more budget than others and a limited understanding of performance. Setting your Google shopping activity up to reflect the category structure of your website is always a good starting point.

Labelling

The importance of labelling products that are being fed into Google Ads through the merchant centre shouldn’t be understated. All of the required attributes for your product range should be included and if they aren’t, products may be disapproved but consider including other labels in addition. Think about how you might like to optimise your shopping activity in the Google Ads platform. Perhaps you could add a custom label to all of your highest margin products, group them together in one campaign and then adjust your budgeting and bidding strategies accordingly?

Filtering

If you’re automatically feeding products into Google Merchant Centre directly from your eCommerce platform, setting up filters is a great way to dynamically control which products are visible in your shopping campaigns at any given time. A simple ‘Yes/No’ shopping attribute to exclude specific products is one that is often overlooked but adds a nice level of control for a merchant and coupled with more standard, stock availability filters can make for an efficient automatic feed.

There are so many ways to improve the efficiency and performance of Google shopping activity but hopefully, these tips give you a starting point from which to build.

Audiences

The success of Facebook advertising in recent years has highlighted the importance of audience data and the impact targeting can have on advertising performance. This is no different when it comes to your Google Ads account.

Whether using audiences to create specifically targeted search campaigns or applying audiences to your campaigns for observation and bid management, they should always be included in your tactics in one way or another.

The most simplistic way to use audience data is to create a basic remarketing list made up of users that have visited your website. This can be done using a Google Ads remarketing tag or by importing the data from your Google Analytics account. Once you’ve created a remarketing list and there is enough data collected to be usable, it can be applied in a number of different ways. Campaigns can be created to target this group of people specifically with a tailored message or you can simply bid more aggressively for this group of users across your existing campaigns. You could also create display campaigns to target these users with image-based creative across the entire Google Display Network.

So that is your whistle-stop tour of basic remarketing. A word of caution when it comes to all remarketing activity though, they can sometimes be a little intrusive if overused so frequency capping is worth considering, particularly if you have a substantial budget or a large collection of creative formats.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using audience data to improve your Google Ads account, there are many other options to consider and test. Once basic remarketing audiences are in place consider extending your reach with similar audience data, affinity groups, keyword targeting and in-market groups. These targeting options, coupled with dynamic remarketing, smart display and a whole host of opportunities to be creative, can add to your arsenal and help build a very hard working Google Ads account.

Ad Copy

When creating search campaigns in Google Ads, the ad copy couldn’t be more important. Not only is it the ‘shop window’ of your eCommerce store in the sponsored Google search results, but it also contributes to your quality score which determines your ad rank. A well crafted and extensively tested ad can make all the difference to an ad groups performance and efficiency.

Keep Up To Date

Firstly and very simply, it’s important to keep up to date with Google product announcements and enhancements. If a new and improved ad format is released and goes unnoticed, your competition may beat you to it and this is something that is more common than you might think. The announcement to improve ad copy with the expanded text ad format release last year was unnoticed by many advertisers and no doubt, some accounts will have still been running the old format when it was entirely discontinued earlier this year.

Recently, responsive text ads were launched and if you’re not using them across your account in some way, you should be. This format which is still in beta at the time of writing this allows an advertiser to create an ad with as many as 15 headlines and up to 4 descriptions which will then be displayed based on Google predicting the best possible combination. This is similar to how ad extensions work now and as long as these ads aren’t being used in isolation in one particular ad group, they’re a great addition to the platform. Be mindful that each of the headlines and descriptions should be created to work independently in terms of language and grammar as Google may show them out of sequence. It is also worth noting that this format is not yet available for all languages, unfortunately.

Keyword Insertion

Inserting the user’s search query in ad copy seems like a basic thing to do and although it has been around for a long time and feels that it shouldn’t work any more, ads that use it often outperform those that don’t. Having said that, applying this functionality with reckless abandon is something advertisers do far too much so be mindful about how it might look, what your keyword matching types are and always review historic search query data thoroughly to avoid issues.

It is also worth exploring the other elements that can be inserted into ad copy, not just search queries. For example, including stock levels or time limit insertions for promotional ad copy is a great way to create urgency and keep your ads relevant and up to date for the user.

Including stock levels or time limit insertions for promotional ad copy is a great way to create urgency and keep your ads relevant and up to date for the user.

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Test And Test Again

The work of creating and running search ad copy is never done. Never. If someone tells you they have the perfect ad copy running, they don’t. There is always more to be learned from continual testing and iteration. This may seem the most basic and obvious tip but it’s something that is so frequently overlooked that it still deserves a mention. Testing everything from general language to the inclusion of pricing or mentioning of the competition is important and useful so always think about the next version of the ad copy you’re reviewing and what to test next.

Ad Extensions

Extensions for Google Ads are extra snippets of relevant and useful information about a business to provide more clarity to a user before they click on an ad. These can include all sorts of information and can be generated automatically by Google or manually by the advertiser.

Automated ad extensions are generated dynamically by Google based on data provided through your website or third parties. The best example of an automated extension is the seller rating often displayed with eCommerce website search adverts as a star rating. While automated extensions are very useful, manual ones are far more powerful due to how tailored and customised they can be and as many as possible should be created and monitored across a Google Ads account to improve ad performance.

Ad extensions are important for two main reasons. One is that they provide more information and context to the user before they click and so reduce wastage and often improve overall click-through rate. The second is that they take up more space on the results page for an advertiser in position one, pushing other advertisers and natural results further down the page and sometimes even below the fold which can also increase click volume. Businesses often think that ad extensions will also help improve their quality score and ad rank and while this is true in that an improved click-through rate will have a positive impact, the copy used in ad extensions will not impact ad relevance from a keyword perspective. Worth knowing.

There are lots of manual ad extensions to include across your account and listing each of them here and the individual benefits of each would take another thousand words but do take the time to go through them all and create as many as you can with your target market firmly in mind because the main objective of them is to offer the user context and encourage the click. Google will not show all of an advertisers extensions at once and may show none of them on certain occasions but will show the best possible combination for a particular search query based on various data points.

If you’re still unsure of the value of ad extensions and how they are shown by Google, consider the example of an eCommerce business with a physical location. A user searches for products that the merchant stocks on a mobile device nearby and Google shows the merchant’s ad copy along with the call extension and location extension to drive footfall and calls as well as clicks. Assuming the ad copy and product offering are good, this combination of extensions provides a compelling advert to the user.

So there you have some of our top eCommerce tips for Google Ads. Over the coming months, we’ll be publishing our top 50 tips for your eCommerce business, grouped together into manageable parts like this one focusing on one important area at a time.

The next instalment will be here soon and don’t forget to keep your eyes open for the final white paper later this year that will include all of these tips with additional recommendations, actions and resources in each of the areas we’ve covered in this series.

If you feel we’ve missed anything or you have any comments, please feel free to let us know!