9 April 2019
By Drew Smith
Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Volo and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.
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In 2019, you can get pretty much anything online.
What can still frustrate online shoppers, however, is product comparisons. Jumping between different labels and brands is a headache. This is exactly why sites like Amazon and eBay were created and are so popular.
With Google Shopping, Google has quickly become a powerful tool for shoppers and retailers alike. Its ubiquity as a search engine and ease of use makes it one of the easiest and most accessible ways to compare products online, used by shoppers of all kinds.
It's not an online marketplace in the same way that Amazon is. In reality, Google Shopping is mostly an ad platform. Still, it allows shoppers searching for a type of product (or even a specific item) to see a wide variety of relevant items linked to their specific search query, and then access these items from the retailers directly.
However, for many retailers, Google Shopping is simply one more platform that they have to think about, spend money on, and optimise to keep themselves relevant to consumers.
There are plenty of ways to optimise your Google Shopping presence, from improving your product images to smarter bid management strategies which improve your bottom-line performance in a very direct way.. Ultimately, relevancy is essential when it comes to how visible your products are to your customers, and the data you give Google is the only way the search engine can know how relevant you are. That makes it the real key to achieving strong ranking in Google Shopping.
There are many different tips and tricks to increase your sales through Google Shopping, as it is such a powerful traffic driver when your retail products show up high in search rankings. Here are our top 5 strategic tips when it comes to driving sales through Google Shopping.
Your search visibility is closely linked to the information density of your Shopping listings. The attributes that you use for your product, from the colour to the material, need to be included when sending your data feed to Google, and these attributes need to be formatted correctly, using the available filter options which Google offers shoppers.
Customers filter for the qualities that they are looking for when searching. Without those attributes, your product gets lost. If your product attributes don’t match the filter options for the channel, they won’t show up in results. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of how Google Shopping makes these distinctions. One to keep in mind is colour. Compared to other platforms, Google Shopping has limited filter criteria. Although calling your shirt cyan on your website might help entice customers, it needs to be called ‘blue’ on google shopping to fit in with customer filters and maximise search visibility.
All of your product content should be informed by your keywords, and should include keywords and phrases that link to shopper behaviours. When customers search for products, they are going to use your keywords without thinking about it. The more relevant you can be to your customers’ search terms, the higher your product will be displayed in the Shopping results.
Optimising your content to include these keywords is as important to Google Shopping as it is in optimising your website content to include search keywords for PPC and SEO purposes. . When you have keywords which are targeted to your audience, you then must regularly monitor the ad groups and campaigns that you've set up to ensure that your keywords are performing. Isolating low performing keywords and testing new keywords is time consuming but essential to stay on top of consumer trends.
The time you've invested in your keyword research should mean that you are adept at including search terms, brands, colours and sizes. This should help you to optimise your product content using relevant terms. Relevancy is essential to visibility and conversion, so getting this right will make a difference.
You can use keyword search tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to get an understanding of online traffic. You then need to combine this with your specific customer data and test different iterations to hit the sweet spot that matches your real-world customers. Intelligent product data platforms can automate the monitoring of keyword trends and test what works constantly, saving you the time of constant manual updates.
While you're ensuring your products have the right keywords in their descriptions, you also need to ensure that you are optimising your titles and images. These are the two biggest influences on conversion on your product listing ad, so it's vital to get them right.
The right image can catch the eye and pique customer interest, so don't just settle for the first available image of the product. It can be useful to try different angles and include different colour variations in your product data feed to allow Google to display variations independently in colour-specific searches. Use the highest-resolution images available – Google can accept up to 16MB images.
Online shoppers don’t have the opportunity to touch your product, try it on or see it up close in real life. High-quality and diverse pictures are critical to maximising conversions and helping customers to feel secure and confident in their purchase.
The title of your ad is as important as the image. It needs to be clear, easy to read and descriptive, but at the same time you need to front-load the most relevant keywords. Google allows a maximum of 150 characters in titles, but only 70 characters are displayed so ensure that the first 70 characters are legible on their own.
Best practice is to use the full 150 characters to help Google understand what your product is. Use your keywords, the key features and any specific style or defining information about the product to fill this space effectively. This should include variation information such as colour and size.
Once you’ve ensured that you’re sending Google the best quality data to work with, it’s time to manage your campaign targeting and spend. One of the best techniques to prevent overspend and make your campaigns more targeted and effective is to use negative keywords. These can be added at the campaign level and ad group level. This is effectively just what it sounds like, the reverse of keyword ad buy. Rather than selecting the terms for which you want ads to appear, you select terms for which your ads will not appear.
The idea here is to be able to make broad ad purchases based on high-volume keywords, but prevent your ads from showing up for specific and related searches that you deem a poor fit for your product. This reduces the chance of low-intent clicks and improves relevant search visibility, reducing your overall ad spend and maximising conversions.
For example, say that you are listing a tennis shoe. That means buying ad placement for “shoes” will get you the highest traffic results. Unfortunately it will also cause your ad to show up in search queries for a bunch of products that are clearly outside your target market -- dress shoes, or even running shoes. By adding those to your negative keyword list, you make sure that you don’t spend money targeting people that aren’t interested in your product.
When it comes to implementing negative keywords, you need to head over to the Keywords tab in your Google Ads UI in your account or campaign. This will tell you which keywords you're bidding on, but not the exact queries that will have triggered them in the first place.
To find that out, you need to look at the "Search Terms" tab. Here, you will find out the search terms, match types and anything you've added or excluded from your keywords. You can click the box next to any of your chosen keywords, and a blue query box will pop up with the option for you to add that keyword as a negative one. Expanding your bidding keywords while refining the ones that you already bid on should improve your relevancy over time. Automated solutions to capture keyword trends and changes in the way your customer shops can help you by proactively suggesting keywords to use and ways to reflect these changes in your product data feed too.
GTIN stands for "Global Trade Identification Number". This is the number that will identify each of your products as unique. It's very similar to the ISBN you'd find in a book, and there are different identification numbers in different parts of the world.
If Google knows that the identifying numbers for particular products exist, Google wants you to use them. Some products aren't submitted to Google Shopping with a GTIN, but without one, Google Merchant might disapprove of your product -- remaining on the disapproved list until you do add one.
Luckily, adding a GTIN is as simple as looking up your product identifier and matching it to the right GTIN, then including this in your data feed to Google.
Ultimately, you need a good technological foundation to base your Google Shopping growth upon. The right technology will allow your ecommerce team to get products onto Google Shopping with the right attributes, significantly faster than manually updating your product data feed. Automation allows you to spend more time optimising your campaign strategy. Having technology which can analyse vast quantities of data, looking at multiple relevant sources for insights, allows you to make the right decisions proactively, reaching more of your customers and converting at a higher rate.
You need to be confident that you can navigate changes in channel requirements, for example Google Shopping adding new mandatory fields to the product data schema; and you need to be able to do this for all of your channels, all of the time. The technology to do all of this already exists, which means you maximise the effectiveness of your team and your spending.
Ultimately, your success will rest on the shoulders of your ecommerce team, and the best IT solutions out there won't work without the right processes to keep them moving. Your brand needs the right technology, and you need to know how to harness it strategically and pragmatically with results-driven processes.
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