Google Ads

5 Steps to Prepare for Google Shopping

In “Cheaper Clicks from AdWords Coming?,” I encouraged merchants to try Google’s Product Listing Ads because they produce exceptional results. They are the paid version of Google’s free product listings, which for many merchants are a major source of sales. Google recently announced, in this blog post, the transition of both Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and free product listings into Google Shopping, which will operate using a “purely commercial model.”

We have addressed Google Shopping here previously, at “Google Shopping: Preparing for Paid Listings” and “Google Shopping’s Impact on SEO.”

Google announced that it will transition away from its free product listings.

Google announced that it will transition away from its free product listings.

My team and I have debated the potential of Google’s commercialization of Google Shopping. We see it as a game changer for merchants who rely on Google for traffic and sales. In the short-term it has the potential to substantially increase the percentage of revenue merchants generate through paid as opposed to organic listings. In the long term, it may set the stage for Google to build out a marketplace of its own, to compete with Amazon.

We know how Product Listing Ads work, and once the transition is completed this fall, a lot more paid traffic will be flowing through it. Since Google Shopping has not launched, it’s too early for us to offer best practices for merchants. Based on what we know, however, and what we anticipate, there are five things we believe every merchant must do to prepare.

1. Create a Product Feed and Link It to AdWords

Create and submit a feed of your products to Google Product Search, and then link your AdWords account to your Google Merchant Center. This will flow your product data into AdWords, which then allows you to create your PLAs.

Set your product listing ads up now, before August 15, 2012 to receive a 10 percent credit, each month, through the end of the year on your total PLA expenditures. Even if you create a simple campaign that targets “all products,” you will qualify for the discount. Also, if you had an active feed setup in Google Product Search before May 30, 2012, use this Google form to receive a $100 credit.

2. Populate Your Feed with as Many Attributes as Possible

Google has required fields, but the more attributes you add, the more ways your product can potentially appear in Google Shopping results. Common attributes include product type, brand, best sellers, color, size, and price. Google’s explanation of required fields is here.

3. Organize your PLA Ad Groups Intelligently

When you submit your data feed to Google, you have the opportunity to specify a “Product Type” for each product in your feed. A Product Type could be “Footwear > Shoes > Blue Shoes” for example. Merchants with thousands of products can automate the process of creating Product Types by creating a formula that derives it based on where that product is located within their site’s navigation hierarchy. You can also create Product Types for bestsellers or high margin items. Each product can have multiple Product Types.

Once you have created Product Types in your data feed, create Ad Groups in AdWords that are synched with those Product Types using Google’s “Auto Target” feature. When you do this, name your Ad Group to reflect the Product Type — or other attribute like brand — that it will target to make your Ad Groups easy to manage. Your Ad Groups, and the Product Types they target, may look something like this.

Ad Group Auto Target
Blue Shoes Footwear > Shoes > Blue Shoes
Red Shoes Footwear > Shoes > Red Shoes
Green Shoes Footwear > Shoes > Green Shoes

4. Set Appropriate Ad Group Level Bids

If group your Ad Groups by Product Type, it should be easier to determine the value you place on a click for those products. Bid accordingly. Ad Groups that target high-priced, high margin products, for example, may result in higher bids. While it takes a lot of time to set bids for each of your Ad Groups, it’s worth it. It will pay off as more traffic begins to flow through PLAs this fall.

5. Write Appropriate Promotional Messaging

When your product thumbnails show up in Google’s search results — at least now — they includes common attributes like the name of your store and prices, all dynamically generated by Google. You don’t have to supply anything else. You do have the option, however, to write promotional messaging for each Ad Group that will appear when shoppers hover over your PLA.

Most merchants have generic promotional messages like, “Free shipping on orders over $100.” You can stand out, however, by tying your messages more specifically to the product that is being shown. For example, your promotional message may be, “Buy one pair of shoes, get 50% off the next pair.”


While we don’t know everything Google has in store for its launch of the new Google Shopping in October, Google has left us many clues. By following the five steps listed above, you can put your store in the position to immediately benefit from Google Shopping, just as holiday shopping begins. Make sure to monitor your Google Shopping and PLA campaigns when the switch is made in October, and continuously optimize your targeting options and bids to find those that generate the highest return on investment.

Most importantly, do not treat PLAs and Google Shopping as an afterthought. Yes, organic listings and paid text ads remain critically important. PLA ads, however, provide the opportunity to diversify your sources of revenue within Google.


Scott Smigler
Scott Smigler
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