Setting up your first google shopping campaign

A Guide To Setting Up Your First Shopping Campaign In Google Ads

If you sell physical products online, running a Google Ads shopping campaign (sometimes known as PLA, product listing ads) can be one of the most cost effective ways of increasing sales through digital advertising. 

With a reported 30% increase in conversion rates over a traditional search ad, it makes sense why businesses are pushing more of their advertising spend through this channel – it’s reported that over 75% of money spent on the Google advertising platform goes through this shopping comparison service. 

Below, we’ll go through what a shopping campaign is, why you should create one and the steps on how to set one up from scratch. 

Ready? Let’s go. 

What Is A Shopping Campaign? 

Google Shopping Ads are the products shown on Google after a search has been completed by a user, that offers the product name, product image and price. It’s usually presented in a row at the top, or sometimes to the right of the page, depending on the context of the search. 

Google shopping ad top row example
Google shopping ad right column example

They offer a way for customers to compare products across multiple retailers without having to visit each businesses website, making it very convenient for users to see the vital information in a quick snapshot.

Google also has a dedicated shopping tab, which increases the amount of products available to scroll through and offers increased filtering options, such as price, colour or product type. 

Google shopping tab on google search

When a user decides they want to find out more or purchase the product, they click on the item and are taken to the merchant’s product page to complete the checkout on their website.

Why Use Shopping Campaigns? 

As we’ve already mentioned, Google shopping campaigns are highly popular with E-commerce retailers. It’s not difficult to see why – with all the vital information presented before clicking, users taking action on a shopping campaign ad are much more likely to make a purchase than a basic text ad as they have already seen the product and understand the price.

Even by the very basis of the shopping ad being delivered, Google is making an assumption the user is ready, or close to being ready, to make a purchase. Therefore, the users arriving onto your website from a shopping ad have much greater purchasing intent than those arriving from other forms of digital advertising. 

It’s also a great way to expand your customer base – with a reported 36% of product searches starting on Google, a shopping ad is much more likely to connect you with a new purchaser than any other method of promotion. 

So we’ve established what Google shopping ads are and hopefully convinced you to get started, let’s dive into the setup stage. 

Step 1 – Set Up A Google Merchant Center Account

Google Merchant Center is where your product data and store information is kept. At this stage, you’ll need to provide all the detail you can on your business and products, so Google can serve the right ads. At the set up stage, you’ll be asked key questions like what countries your business operates in and what your company website is. 

You’ll also need to verify your site (otherwise anyone could set up an account!), but if you have Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager already set up this should be nice and easy. If not, speak to your web developers about the verification options at this stage. 

Once you’ve signed up and verified your website, your homepage will look something like this; 

google merchant center homepage

We won’t go into all the available options in Google Merchant Center (this guide from HubSpot covers it in much more detail), but now the account is created you’ll need to add your first product data feed. 

Step 2 – Data Feed

Product listing ads are reliant on a product data feed being supplied. A data feed is how you tell Google about your products in a structured layout, so they can understand the key information (such as category, price, colour etc) and deliver the shopping ad results to the right people searching for that particular item. 

Below is an example of a data feed taken from a popular bike brand; 

example product data feed

These are just some of the options available – the more data you can provide to Google, the better the quality of the product listing will be. 

Now for the actual creation of the feed – if you navigate to ‘products’, then ‘feeds’, you’ll see a page that looks like this; 

google merchant center feed set up example

Hit the ‘plus’ button to start a new feed. Next, you should be presented with a couple of basic information options, like the country of sale and language. For this, we’ll assume the country of sale is the UK and language is English, but amend it to suit your business as needed. 

google merchant center feed set up step one

 Lastly, tick ‘shopping ads’ under select destinations, then hit continue. 

In the next section, you’ll need to name your feed. Once that’s done, you’ll then need to choose how to present the product data to Google. Under this section, there are four options available; Google Sheets, scheduled fetch, upload or content API. 

google merchant center feed name

Now this is where it can get a bit tricky, depending on your level of technical expertise. For most smaller businesses, we would recommend either a manual option using ‘Google Sheets’, or ‘upload’ through an automated XML feed. 

Creating an XML feed would be our first option, as this would make the process automated once set up. This is even more important if you have a huge number of products on your website, or your products are constantly changing. 

You can either speak to your developers about creating a feed, which shouldn’t be too much time, or if you run a WordPress site there are plenty of paid or free plugins available that can do the job for you – I’ve used this one from ElexExtensions which works with Woocommerce, but take a look at the different options avalable and see which one works best for your site. 

If creating an XML feed is not an option, then it has to be done manually. For Google sheets, it can be a time consuming process unfortunately. Google offers a free template which you can populate your products with, or you can create your own sheet using Google’s product data specification list (we told you there were a lot of data options!). 

Whatever you choose, once your feed is ready, select the correct option from the settings above and hit ‘continue’. 

If everything has worked correctly, your first feed should be set up and ready to go. 

Step 3 – Set Up A Google Ads Account and Link Accounts

Now your products are ready in your merchant center account, you’ll need to set up a Google Ads account to start running the shopping ad activity. If this seems a bit confusing then we agree – Google isn’t always the most user friendly when it comes to their processes, but we promise it will be worth it. 

Once your new Ads account is set up, you’ll need to link your merchant centre account with your Google Ads account (so Google knows which products to serve for the ads). 

On your merchant centre homepage, hit the gear icon for settings, then click ‘linked accounts’. 

google merchant center linked account

Once in, you can link the account from this page. Simply grab the Google Ads customer ID which is shown on the top right hand side of your Google Ads page, then you should be good to go. 

Step 4 – Create A Google Shopping Campaign 

With all the fiddly technical set up out the way, we can focus on the fun part – starting your first shopping campaign. 

Head to your Google Ads account, then on the left hand menu select ‘all campaigns’, then on the lighter inside menu, click on ‘campaigns’ with the home icon, then select the blue plus option. 

Google ads homepage

Choose ‘new campaign’, then it will take you through the set up process. From the next page, select ‘sales’ then on the next dropdown, select ‘shopping’. It will then ask you to select your linked merchant centre account that we just sorted in the previous step, then country of sale. 

You’ll then be asked to choose between a smart shopping campaign or a standard shopping campaign. For this guide, we’ll focus on a standard shopping campaign as it offers much more control and adjustability compared to a smart campaign, however that’s not to say its better – once you have a better understanding of the Google Ads platform, its worth looking into smart campaigns later down the line. 

Next, you’ll be asked to enter all the settings for the ad campaign itself, such as name, bidding strategy and budget. 

Once you’ve named the campaign, then you’ll need to decide how to bid on your ads. The pre-selected option is manual CPC, however if you select the dropdown option you also can choose between ‘target ROAS’ and ‘maximise clicks’. 

Google ads shopping campaign bid examples

For manual CPC, you’ll be required to set a maximum cost per click for each product – this is useful if you know exactly how much you want to spend on bringing a customer to your website for each product. 

For target ROAS (return on ad spend), the bids will be automatically set to help achieve the target you enter. Indicated as a percentage, it’s how much revenue you want to get back for your ad spend, so a £1 spend for £5 return would be a 500% ROAS. 

This is great if you have an idea on what return your advertising usually brings, but you need to be careful not to make it unrealistic – a 2000% ROAS just isn’t achievable in most circumstances, and will harm your shopping ad performance. 

If you don’t know how much you want to spend per bid, or have an idea on your target ROAS, then maximise clicks is the best option. Google will simply try and achieve the most clicks it possibly can for your budget, which brings more customers to your website therefore increasing the chances of a sale. 

Once you’ve selected the right bidding strategy, then you’ll need to enter your daily budget. It’s important to note that while Google asks for this in a daily figure, it actually spends it over the course of a month. So if you enter £5, Google will take that as £150 per month, and will make sure that you spend no more than this in a month, but some days may be more or less depending on how the ads get allocated. 

We’re nearly finished, just a few more easy options to round it off. You’ll be asked to set the campaign priority, just keep this on low as default. Next, you’ll need to select the networks where the shopping ads will appear. 

Google ads shopping campaigns network selection

Both are selected by default – if you just want your ads to appear on a Google search, then untick these. If you are happy to run your product ads across other networks, then leave them activated. 

Finally, you can select a location to target with the ad campaign – it does feel like you’ve entered this information a number of times, but this relates to where the ads show, not where the products are sold. So for example, if your immediate location is in Leeds, you could narrow down your ads to target only this location. 

Last but not least, enter a name for your ad group, then hit ‘create campaign’, and you are all finished! As long as your items are in stock, then the product listing ads will start running based on your campaign set up.

That may have felt like a fairly lengthy process, but now the technical side is all set up, it’s much quicker and easier to set up new ad campaigns going forward. 

Want some help setting up your Google shopping campaigns, or PPC help in general? Why not get in touch and see if we can assist your business.

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