As Google has scaled up its Shopping products in recent years, there has been a growing consensus in the retail search marketing space that Shopping ads are one of the most effective ways to win valuable consumer clicks.
This is especially true of the non-branded, broader search terms that are typical of the early stages of the customer journey.
During this phase, Google Shopping ads – commonly referred to as Product Listing Ads, or PLAs – are considered to be a key means of engaging consumers early, and boosting new customer acquisition.
If the trends that we are currently seeing continue, 2018 will be a year of increased investment in Google Shopping ad formats across product-based search.
While text ads are still the most popular advertising format in many categories, retail-specific categories tell a very different story, with spend on Google Shopping ads far outstripping text ads in retail categories.
A new study by AI-powered search intelligence platform Adthena, analyzing 40 million search ads from more than 260,000 retailers, has shed light on the extent to which Google Shopping ads have come to dominate retail search marketing.
In this piece, we will look at some of the key findings from the report, explore the causes of Google Shopping’s phenomenal expansion, and consider what retailers can do to “future-proof” their search marketing strategy against upcoming shifts in the market.
Content produced in collaboration with Adthena.
The growth of Google Shopping
The Google Shopping ad unit has evolved considerably over the past few years, with increased attention and prominence afforded to Shopping ads in the search results page. This has resulted in a rise in clicks and impressions that has fueled the growth of Google Shopping ads in retail categories.
As of Q1 2018, Google Shopping ads are driving 76.4% of retail search ad spend in the US, and 82% of retail search ad spend in the UK – an overwhelming majority in both instances.
Adthena’s research found that in the US, this 76.4% of search spend was responsible for 85.3% of all clicks on AdWords or Google Shopping ads between January and February 2018. In the UK, the 82% of retail search ad spend invested in Google Shopping ads was responsible for 87.9% of clicks.
These figures confirm that Google Shopping ads are still offering good value to retailers in terms of spend/click ratio, and suggest that the value of Google Shopping ads has not (yet) reached saturation point, with room for growth in some key areas.
Mobile is one of these: according to Adthena’s research, although shopping ads on desktop generate a slightly greater share of clicks, Google Shopping ad spend on mobile now matches that of desktop, supporting evidence that mobile search is serving as a crucial touchpoint for product purchasing decisions.
Presently, Google Shopping ads on mobile are driving 79% of device ad spend in the US, and win 87.9% of clicks. With Google shifting more and more emphasis onto mobile search, this is likely to become an increasingly important area for retailers to invest in, and we may yet see these numbers grow further.
However, how much longer can Google Shopping continue its rise before the market eventually becomes saturated? To answer that, we need to understand what has fuelled Google Shopping’s dominance of the retail search market in the first place.
What is fueling Google Shopping’s retail dominance?
Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena, believes that prominence and reach are the two key factors that have driven the rise of Google Shopping ads in retail search marketing.
Google’s introduction of a carousel for desktop Shopping ads in October 2016 was the first major change which gave increased prominence to Google Shopping ads. Since then, the ad unit has only developed further, with even more different formats for advertisers to benefit from.
“The unit has evolved both in terms of prominence on the page and in terms of ad features,” says Fletcher. “It’s also very rich in content – particularly on mobile – with multiple variants of the unit available to advertisers.”
In the US and the UK, the number of ads in the desktop carousel has even doubled as of February 2018 to surface 30 paid listings. This may go some way to explaining the particular dominance of Google Shopping ads in the US and UK – as we saw from the statistics in the previous section.
Then there’s reach: as Fletcher explains, in the past year, Google Shopping Ads have begun influencing users higher up the purchase funnel through far broader terms, appearing for much more generic product searches than before.
“In the last year, Shopping ads have started to trigger on a lot of the upper-funnel, generic terms – like “red dress”, or “black dress”. This is really driving users into a brand experience around those generics: it encourages the user to start drilling into those terms, and conduct longer-tail keyword searches off the back of that.
“These are very high-volume terms, keywords with a lot of traffic – so mastering that could be a challenge for search marketers, but you now need to be present at the top of that funnel, as well.”
While these developments have spurred a huge surge of growth in Google Shopping ads over the past two years, Fletcher believes this expansion won’t continue for long.
“In 2018, we’ll get closer to saturation point,” he says. “I don’t think there’s much room for further growth.
“Then I think we’ll get into the space we were in with text ads, where advertisers will be limited on spots, margins are going to be squeezed – meaning CPCs are going to increase – and it will come down to marginal gains: how can you optimize performance, as growth slows down?”
What can retailers do to get the most out of their ad spend in that environment?
“First and foremost, being able to manage at scale is a must-have,” says Fletcher.
“Secondly, master your categories. If you are a retailer, then knowing that you’re winning in – for example – men’s board shorts, and getting down to that level of knowledge with your categories, is essential.
“If you don’t do that, then you’ll have a very blinkered view of what’s going on.
“If you’re a department store retailer, for example, and your products reach more than 200 different categories, there is a dependency on knowing how well you’re performing in each of these categories. You’re going to have different competitors in each one: the challenge is knowing that, and making sure you are still winning there.”
Adapting for the future of search marketing
The rapid uptake of Google Shopping ads as the most significant part of retail ad spend budgets reveals how quickly search marketers adapt to new formats and opportunities.
As search advertising practices continue to change and new formats are introduced, advertisers will need to maintain this agility in order to keep ahead of the game.
“Google Shopping can be quite daunting for some advertisers when they take their first steps into it,” says Fletcher. “But if you do that with enough research, and enough context about what’s going on in each of your retail categories, you’ll have a far better chance of surviving.
“If you don’t follow the trends, adopt early, and understand these channels, you will get left behind.”
Amazon Shopping, for example, is a growing force in the retail search landscape which Fletcher believes will only play a bigger role in years to come, threatening to erode the dominance that Google Shopping currently enjoys.
Even as they take steps to future-proof their search marketing campaigns in the realm of Google Shopping, search marketers should investigate the opportunities presented by Amazon, in order to ensure the longevity of their search marketing strategy going forward.
When it comes to selling online, pay per click (PPC) advertising provides one of the quickest solutions to drive sales online. Unlike SEO that can take months to see results, running a PPC campaign can generate results overnight.
One of the main platforms for this type of advertising is Google AdWords. AdWords will enable your website to be in front of potential customers looking for products like yours in real time.
However great, AdWords comes with its challenges. Campaigns have to be constantly reviewed and optimized to produce the best results. This can be time-consuming and overwhelming, but, using the right techniques, you can manage to save a lot of time and wasted budget.
After managing hundreds of AdWords campaigns, we have compiled a comprehensive mix of basic and advanced tips to help you take your eCommerce site to the next level. Discover how to apply them to your campaigns below!
1. Create a Google Shopping Campaign
Google Shopping campaigns, also called product listing ads (PLA), are AdWords campaigns designed for shopping. They allow advertisers to display product images, pricing, and even special offers in listings.
Also, they show up before search ads or organic listings, which gives them a prominent spot in search results. They particularly stand out on mobile, where they cover a great part of the screen.
PLA ads are key to get your products right in front of your customers and take up a bigger portion of the results page. The key is to combine search and shopping campaigns to occupy most of the listing space—see how Shopbob accomplished this below:
And, if you rank organically, even better! You can have three consecutive listings on the first page of Google.
Advanced Tip for Shopping Campaigns
You may already be running Shopping campaigns, but are you making the most of it? Use the advanced tip below!
Prioritize & Use Negative Keywords Wisely
By assigning campaign priorities, you can tell Google which campaign to choose first, if the same products are multiple campaigns, targeting the same area. The key is to give high priorities to best sellers, finely narrowed campaigns, and new arrivals, which can provide the biggest return on investment.
Let’s say I sell Levis jean shorts, which have been added to three different campaigns in my Shopping ads: campaign 1, 2, and 3. These three campaigns were set up to attract people with different levels of intent, so I could bid higher or lower accordingly. Campaign 1 is for super targeted searches, campaign 2 for medium targeted, and campaign 3 for more general searches.
Then, using negative keywords, I can exclude keywords to the desired level of intent I’m looking to target. For instance, for campaign 1, which is meant for high intent searches, I can use negative keywords like “shorts.”
In that way, I can prevent campaign 1 ads from showing for general searches. At the same time, I would give campaign 1 a high priority to show up first. This process would be done with the rest of the campaigns, to allow higher bid flexibility and increase ROI.
2. Adjust Bids Based on Location & Device Performance
If your campaigns have enough impressions and clicks, you’ll be able to tell after a couple of weeks which locations are performing the best. This data may be key in optimizing your campaigns to bid higher for locations that are generating the lowest cost per conversion. Alternatively, you can bid lower for lower performing locations.
All you have to do to find this data is visit the “Dimensions” and select “Geographic” view from the drop-down menu.
Then you can sort the results by conversions to see the locations with the highest conversions to determine your best performers. To find your low performers, sort the view to show locations with the highest clicks and impressions.
After that, see if there are any high clicks that don’t match with conversion quantities. For instance, if you get 200 clicks from Florida, with no conversions, something may be off.
You can get more details by analyzing your search terms, but, for now, the best decision may be to lower the bid for Florida. Do this by applying a bid modifier to the specific location. Just go to the campaign, then click on Settings> Location, and click on the bid adj. column.
Similarly to how you used geographic dimensions to analyze location performance in the last point, you can also use device data to determine which device works best—desktop or mobile. You may be surprised to find out that one of them performs much better than the other.
For instance, if your mobile conversion rate is low, it may indicate that your mobile presence is not optimized. To find this data, go to settings, select Devices, and compare clicks vs. conversion rate.
3. Optimize Your Campaigns Based on Search Impression
If you’ve been running campaigns for a bit, and you’re getting results, you’re probably wondering how much more you can invest to get more conversions or how many conversions you may be losing due to performance. Search impression share and search impression lost are the metrics that can provide you an answer.
Search impression share is the impressions you’ve received divided by the number of impressions you were eligible for. This metric can help you identify how many more impressions your campaigns can get. To find out why you’re losing impressions, look at Search Lost IS (rank), and Search Lost IS (Budget). These two metrics show you the percentage of impressions being lost due to rank and budget, respectively.
So, if your Search Lost IS rank is high, you’ll need to increase your ranking by doing things like increasing your quality score. Alternatively, if your Search Lost IS budget percentage is high, you’ll need to increase your budget to avoid losing impressions.
To get these metrics, go to “customize your columns” by selecting “competitive metrics.”
4. Create a Dynamic Remarketing Campaign
Only a percentage of your website visitors will convert into customers upon visiting your store. Remarketing campaigns will allow you to target these previous visitors to encourage them to come back and make a purchase. Even if your previous visitor is already a customer, you can get him or her to come back for a repeat purchase—so it’s a win/win situation from any angle.
Even better than simple remarketing campaigns are Dynamic remarketing campaigns. They will take your retargeting to the next level by showing previous website visitors the exact products they were viewing before leaving your store. Start by creating a display-only campaign and selecting the “Buy on your Website” option.
Then, under “Additional Settings,” select “Use Dynamic Ads” and select “Retail” under business type.image: https://cdn.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Retail-900×392.png
Once that’s set up, you’ll have to submit your product feed and install the remarketing tag on your site.
5. Bid on Competitor Keywords
Do you have an eCommerce store that’s an authority in your niche? You can leverage its reputation by targeting related keywords in your ads. For instance, if you notice that people are searching for Levi’s jeans, and you’re a new jeans store, you can target “levis jeans” in your campaigns to bring awareness of your brand.
Is this legal? Yes, but you have to be very careful not to violate Google’s Trademark policies. They basically state that you cannot use the trademark in your ad or confuse the user to think it is your brand. However, you can include an appealing value proposition to encourage users to click on your ad instead of clicking your competitor’s ads.
Hopefully, with these 5 tips, you can take your eCommerce store to new heights. Either you can start implementing these with new campaigns that you build, or you can check your previous campaigns to make sure they are following these tips.
Doesn’t it seem like shopping for the holidays arrives earlier and earlier every year? When purchasing a Halloween costume, Christmas decorations are already for sale. But this isn’t anything new.
During the last few decades, consumers have become accustomed to the mania that surrounds “Black Friday,” arguably the most popular shopping day of the year. More recently, online shopping has evolved and taken on a life of its own in the form of Cyber Monday, which falls on November 30 this year.
Since 2010, Cyber Monday has repeatedly been the biggest US online shopping day of the year. In fact, last year’s sales surpassed the $2 billion mark, with mobile traffic accounting for 45% of all online traffic. Online retailers – you better be prepared.
My tenure in the SEO space has given me a large amount of experience helping online shops prepare for the holiday onslaught. As we all know, SEO is key to any campaign, including holiday-centric ones, and is an ongoing and time-sensitive practice that cannot be ignored. Incorporating a SEO strategy into your Cyber Monday efforts this year is crucial and must be done well in advance.
How in advance? You should have already started.
1. Don’t get stuck in rush hour traffic
I would begin by putting a comprehensive plan in place prior to the season. Determine the products or services that are most important to your business and begin to research specific metrics such as keyword traffic, competitive analysis, and possible long-tail keyword options. The last thing you want to be doing before the big push is scrambling last minute to understand these key audience indicators.
Remember, if you are targeting keywords that have high traffic and lower competition, you have a better chance to move up the SERP in a timely manner.
2. Give yourself a boost
There are several tactics for an advertiser when it comes to boosting organic rankings as the holiday season arrives. Once you have crafted your plan, you can begin building rich and engaging content.
Rich content can come in the form of a comprehensive blog post about a specific product, or even additional text on your site’s product page that better informs a potential buyer and assists them in making a quicker purchasing decision. Adding to existing product pages tells search engines you are actively seeking traffic for specific products.
In terms of content that incorporates graphics, I suggest infographics as they enable you to display a substantial amount of pertinent information visually and can be shared on social media channels.
The richer and more comprehensive your content is, the better your ranking potential is.
3. Attract the right crowd
Another proven strategy I suggest is utilising your engaging content to attract influencers and other similar authoritative sites that may be interested in linking to your content. There has been a debate in the SEO space over the past few years on the importance of link building and the impact it has on organic rankings. Most seasoned experts in this field would still agree that building a high-quality and diverse backlink structure will have a significant impact on your organic rankings, especially if you are linking quality off-site content to quality on-site content.
Content marketing and rich content, such as the aforementioned infographics, are both popular and effective practices in building these links. The more engaging and creative your content is, the more sites will pick it up and help send link juice and authority signals to your site.
The end result
Once results are in, ongoing analysis and development is the best next step. Analyse what was successful and what didn’t work so well for next year’s Cyber Monday, you are armed with knowledge that will increase your chances of success.
To put it simply, in order to have a good SEO plan for Cyber Monday, and the holidays in general, you must plan ahead as best possible. SEO is a long-term commitment not just specific to any given holiday, and one that can provide and optimise ROI when practiced correctly. Be sure to close out Q4 on a high note, with SEO on your side.