The Complete Guide to Google Shopping

Get an inside look, complete with tips and tricks from industry experts, and all the latest feature updates.
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INTRO
What is Google Shopping?

You’ve certainly seen Google Shopping Ads, and you may have even used the services without realizing it.

As part of the Google Shopping platform, ads are displayed at the top of user search results, as a sidebar on YouTube, and within the Google Shopping tab for price comparison. When users click on a Google Shopping Ad, they’re directed to the merchant’s product page.

Today, 82% of retail queries that don’t include a brand go through Google Shopping. This means that for every search like “red dress” or “blue couch,” brands have a significant opportunity to acquire customers. 

Let’s take a look at how Google Shopping fits into the digital landscape, and how your brand can benefit.

Table of Contents
01
Everything You Need to Know About Google Shopping Ads
02
Why Google Shopping is a Compelling Opportunity for Brands
03
Google Shopping Best Practices
04
The Future of Google Shopping
01
Everything You Need to Know About Google Shopping Ads
02
Why Google Shopping is a Compelling Opportunity for Brands
03
Google Shopping Best Practices
04
The Future of Google Shopping
Everything You Need to Know About Google Shopping Ads
Chapter 01
Everything You Need to Know About Google Shopping Ads
By Loren Baker, Founder, Search Engine Journal

Not all shoppers realize that Google Shopping is a collection of paid listings. Initially, Google Shopping launched as the platform Froogle, with product listings that were indexed by a web crawler. Its functionality was similar to website indexing for products. 

Since late 2012, however, merchants must pay Google to have their products listed on Google Shopping, making it a type of visual advertisement.

How Are Products Matched With Shoppers?

Product relevance to a search query is important, but organic SEO plays less of a role in Google Shopping’s search results. Instead, visibility is driven by a merchant’s bid amount when they purchase the product ad. As a retailer, the bidding process is one of your most important decisions. 

A higher bid will increase your visibility but reduce your profit margins. The opposite is also true, requiring some math and experimentation to find the sweet spot for your brand.

The Benefits of Google Shopping & the Opportunity for eCommerce Brands 

Google Shopping Ads present an engaging photo, customer rating, price, sale price, and more, all at a glance. Not only does this data-rich visual format drive quick decision-making, but it also has a strong influence on consumer behavior.

Another key advantage of Google Shopping is the placement of product listings. Located immediately below the search field, the carousel of sponsored products may have more impact than Google’s text-based ads. Known as “above the fold” or “above the scroll,” this placement is especially critical for mobile users, where visual real estate is at a premium.

 

The benefits of Google Shopping cannot be understated. It has become a critical eCommerce channel, and brands are responding to this opportunity by shifting their advertising investments from Google Search to Google Shopping.

Three New Google Shopping Features That Pack a Punch

In the past few months, Google Shopping has announced three new features that can give merchants a significant advantage. 

1. Customer Photos

Non-promotional customer photos continue to drive shopper decision-making, and Google is rolling out a new tool — available only through certain third-party platforms like Yotpo — to display customer photos in Google Shopping.

User-generated photos published through Yotpo will be automatically fed to Google. They will then be featured alongside customer reviews on the product detail page, where users will be directed once they click on the star ratings on a Shopping Ad. The photos add authenticity, trustworthiness, and a layer of social proof to your ads. 

2. Personalized Homepage

This past summer, Google Shopping’s personalized homepage launched, taking direct aim at the predictive product recommendations within Amazon. Merchant access to these homepage recommendations is only available through Google Shopping Actions. Using this feature can help your brand connect with your targeted consumer, as shopper recommendations are driven by shopper history, search history, and location.

Personalized homepages also provide local shopping info, a key differentiator between Google and Amazon. With two billion Google products already mapped to local retailers, a personalized homepage can tell shoppers if a specific coffee pot is available at their local Target, or if they can stop by the nearby Macy’s to try on a certain pair of shoes.

3. Showcase Shopping Ads

Showcase Shopping Ads embed a product purchase feature within a lifestyle photo. For example, a broad search for “backpacks” could be met with a Showcase Ad which displays a group of students, with clickable links for each one of their backpacks. 

The rollout on this feature has already happened within Google Images, as the company seeks to provide an Instagram-like experience that’s frictionless and visual. Expect to see this Showcase Shopping format on YouTube soon.

Why Google Shopping is a Compelling Opportunity for Brands
Chapter 02
Why Google Shopping is a Compelling Opportunity for Brands
By Josh Duggan, Co-founder, Vervaunt

Google Shopping has become a key channel for our clients at Vervaunt. On average, about 60 to 75% of our clients’ ad spend goes through Google Shopping. This investment is yielding big results, as Shopping is typically one of the most cost-efficient channels to drive net new customer acquisition.

This major opportunity has led to steep competition, with two main factors now shaping the landscape:

  • Major retailers are stepping up
    Amazon’s impression share year-over-year has doubled. We see them competing with almost all of our clients, regardless of industry — even in luxury, where Amazon typically has a weaker offering. This increasing competition will drive up costs and CPCs within the auction, while challenging retailers to find opportunities to compete.
  • Newcomers are getting in the game
    Brands of all sizes can now use Google Shopping because automated feed technology has become scalable and accessible. There are APIs from Shopify and Magento to the Merchant Center to facilitate the Google Shopping set-up, and the introduction of Smart Shopping is providing retailers with easy access and simple day-to-day management.

The Game-Changing Growth of Google Shopping

From 2014 to today, Google Shopping has risen to hold the majority of Google Paid Search clicks within US retail. While it accounted for less than 30% in 2014, it’s now at 62%.

The market share of Google Shopping is most significant for non-brand retail searches, such as when users search for “t-shirt” rather than “H&M t-shirt.” For these non-brand queries, Google Shopping Ads now account for 88% of paid search clicks.

How to Optimize Your Shopping Campaigns and Increase ROI

With Google Shopping, as opposed to text ads, brands bid at a product level, and cannot dictate the searches they appear on. For example, the bid amount is the same for “sneakers” as it is for “Nike Air Max sneakers.”

This means that in general, you should bid higher, for a more specific term, which is the most likely to convert the most often.

By using priority settings and negative keywords, you can indirectly filter search terms into specific campaigns where you adjust the bids, such as branded and non-branded queries. To take it to the next level, you can use scripts to automatically add in negative keywords if they are triggering your ads, so long as they’re not in a list of pre-defined terms you want to appear on, and aren’t driving performance.

What Trends Are Driving Google Shopping’s Evolution?

As we drill down into the numbers, we see that Google Shopping growth is underpinned by these two trends:

  • Apparel
    The clothing industry captures 37% of the market share on Google Shopping, and it’s still growing. Across the fashion industry, annual growth has averaged 3.5%, with athletic wear seeing a growth rate as high as 7.5%. This is positive news for fashion brands, but competition is fierce.
  • Mobile
    Google Shopping Ads on mobile fuel 79% of device ad spend, and win 87.2% of clicks (US). Mobile Shopping Ads now make up 38.6% of retailers’ total search ad spend, with these campaigns receiving 41.8% of the share of clicks across all search (US).

Understanding the Returns Curve of Google Shopping Investments

When it comes to Google Shopping, it’s easy to assume that spending more of your budget would yield even better results. The reality isn’t so clear cut.

If brands were to double their shopping spend, they would only drive around 50% more traffic. Instead, you need to carefully monitor your impression share and bid simulator tool to understand how much more value you can drive with additional spend.

In addition to the exponentially increasing costs, there’s also a diminishing returns curve. Generally, you can maximize coverage on branded and lower-funnel queries, which typically convert well. Then, as you expand to broader queries, your conversion rate will drop, and as you spend more, you’ll be challenged to maintain ROI. For these reasons, it remains important for retailers to implement a diversified marketing program across the major channels.

Google Shopping Best Practices
Chapter 03
Google Shopping Best Practices
By Craig Somerville, Managing Director, Reload Media

In an ever-evolving search landscape, it’s not always clear what you should be doing to get the most out of Google Shopping. Let’s dig into the five best practices that can help you optimize your Google Shopping results.

1. Steer Your Campaign Strategically

A smart Google Shopping strategy starts with asking the right questions.

What are the KPIs for your campaign? Would you like to maximize click-through rate, conversion rate, or cost-per-conversion? Are you looking to boost brand discovery?

Google Shopping is an invaluable tool for driving exposure for your business, as customers are usually in a comparison shopping mindset, and open to exploring what you have to offer. 31% of shoppers were driven to a brand’s website via a Google Shopping product listing, and, despite not buying the product originally clicked on, purchased similar products within the same category. The remaining 35% of shoppers purchased a product in a completely different category.

Another great way to promote brand discovery is through Google Shopping Actions, a tool which allows shoppers to buy your products directly on Google instead of on your brand’s website. Early data on this program shows shoppers increased basket size by 30%, and merchants achieved cost-effective conversions.

2. Make Product Pricing a Top Priority

Pricing strategy is critical to success, and the impact is twofold. 

First, there’s the consumer side. Products on Google Shopping that are below market average receive up to 135% more clicks. Pricing also influences the Google algorithm. In one analysis, researchers found that when average product price increased by 43%, total impressions decreased by 70%.

Many users clicking on your Google Shopping Ads are still in the research and evaluation phase of the buyer journey. Consider advertising your Hero Product to these shoppers at a lower price, to stay competitive and increase conversion. Using Merchant Promotions in Google Merchant Center can also increase the appeal of your ads by clearly showcasing your special offers, helping your product stand out among competitors.

Both bidding and pricing will affect your ROI. If your product is priced higher, you’ll have to bid higher to maintain the same level of impressions. Conversely, if you lower your product price, you’ll have lower profit margins.

To help you get your pricing right, Google Shopping’s price benchmarks (currently in beta) provide insight into the competition with real-time data about average product price, as well as weighted price data based on click-throughs.

3. Make the Most of Product Data 

Each field within Google Shopping is an opportunity for your brand.

Make a focused effort to use high-quality product data. Fields such as title, description, and other structured data markups can dramatically improve Google’s ability to match your product with a shopper’s search query.

Best Practices

  • Use your keyword in your product title
  • Make sure you’re using the best product category
  • Provide helpful descriptions that include details, such as color or specs, and highlight price reductions with the “sale price” tag
  • Use custom labels, which allow you to sub-divide your products with labels like “seasonal,” “on clearance,” “best sellers,” and more 

Making sure your product data is up-to-date and optimized to capture users’ searches is essential to the success of your Shopping campaigns. 

4. Use the Right Tools

Depending on your eCommerce platform, you should look to see if there’s a native plugin or extension that will help keep shopping feeds up-to-date automatically. 

You should also make sure to use the full suite of services within Google for Retail. For example, local inventory can help shoppers know what products are available nearby, and smart shopping can display your products within YouTube or Gmail.

In addition to tools that help your visibility, consider software that helps with shopper decision-making. For example, make sure you’re showcasing customer feedback, like reviews and ratings.

Yotpo helps you stand out on search using this social proof. It enables you to leverage star ratings and written reviews within your Google Seller Ratings, Rich Snippets, and Google Shopping Ads.

For Google Shopping specifically, you can sync your reviews from your website with your Google Shopping feed, and populate your Google Shopping Ads with star ratings and reviews. This user-generated content is especially important for building credibility, authority, and demonstrating customer satisfaction. Yotpo customers see a 24% increase in CTR from displaying reviews and ratings in Google Shopping Ads.

There’s also an opportunity to showcase customer photos within Google Shopping, since research shows that 77% of shoppers prefer customer product images to brand photos.

 

5. Optimize Your Site for Conversion

Click-through is just the first step of the customer journey. To lower customer acquisition costs and develop your sales funnel effectively, you also need to ensure your website is ready to support a Google Shopping campaign

  • Google Shopping Average Click-through Rate: 0.86%
  • Google Shopping Conversion Rate After Click-Through: 1.91%

When a high-intent shopper lands on your website from search, you have the opportunity to convert them into a customer by crafting an ideal buyer experience. 

By showcasing social proof — like customer reviews, customer photos, star ratings, and other forms of UGC — at key conversion points across your site, you’ll build trust and drive conversion. With a platform like Yotpo, you can ensure that your UGC display fits your brand’s voice and tone, with customizable review widget options.

Finally, adding a Loyalty & Referrals program to your site will engage existing customers, help you reach new ones, and maximize overall LTV.

The Future of Google Shopping
Chapter 04
The Future of Google Shopping
By Linda Yonemoto, Tinuiti

Ultimately, as shopper behavior and buying priorities change, so too will your Google Shopping strategy. In this final chapter, we’ll dive into four key trends shaping the future of Google Shopping usage.  

1. The Shopper Journey is Omnichannel and Omnidevice

Today’s shoppers are not limited by single devices or platforms, and the customer journey can be both longer and less predictable because of this. 

Buyers start at multiple entry points, including paid search campaigns, Google Shopping Ads, email, or social media. Successful brands optimize their content by channel to make sure it resonates with the given audience. For example, on mobile, savvy brands are presenting potential shoppers with product information and UGC in an easily and instantly accessible format to help drive conversion.

Desktop

Despite the trend towards mobile, desktop usage is still strong — especially during the weekdays. Desktop shoppers convert at a rate of 3.9%, while mobile users, despite accounting for over 50% of eCommerce traffic, convert at a rate of just 1.6%.

Mobile

Mobile offers expansive growth opportunities for advertisers. Traffic volume on these devices is higher in the mornings and evenings when people are researching products in their down time. However, both conversion rate and AOV (average order volume) are still slightly lower on mobile, even as search volume continues to increase.

Voice

With a range of devices at hand, shoppers can now initiate searches through Siri, Alexa, or Google.

Approximately 48% of consumers are using voice for early-stage searches that do not necessarily lead to conversions. However, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are all currently exploring how voice search can be transformed into a real channel for purchasing. 

IRL

When shoppers don’t want to wait, 40% say they’ll go to the store instead of buying online. According to the Google/Ipsos Global Retail Study from March 2019, 83% of US shoppers who visited a store in the last week said they used online search beforehand. The online/offline shopping journey is further influenced by local inventory ads, which help online shoppers to know what products are available nearby.

2. Shoppers Are More Demanding

Your potential customers are seeking specific product information that directly answers their questions. They want high-quality reviews that tell them what others think of the product. They’re also increasingly interested in visual content during early-stage discovery, as is evident in the launch of Showcase Shopping Ads. 

One way for brands to meet these needs is to populate their Google Shopping Ads with informative and helpful content. For example, rather than hosting product reviews solely onsite, brands should feed their reviews into Google Shopping, displaying powerful social proof across a wider search landscape, and driving both CTR and CVR.

Brands can additionally benefit from opting in to Google’s latest merchant opportunities and beta testing. As algorithms and online features continue to evolve, using Google’s latest developments can strengthen your marketing funnels and help you stay ahead of the curve when capturing shopper interest.

3. Prime Day Affects the Entire eCommerce Landscape

Amazon Prime Day continues to have a significant impact on all areas of eCommerce. 

During the lead-up to Prime Day 2019, Amazon increased its average impressions in the home goods category to 50% throughout April and May, and in the second half of June, it was as high as 70%.

There are several strategies for managing the changing advertising landscape during the lead-up to Prime Day. While some brands choose to bow out amidst the steep competition, others choose to run their own promotions to embrace the halo effect. 

During Prime Day 2019, even as Amazon’s search traffic was up 184% as compared to the previous two days, Walmart saw a 130% increase, and Best Buy had a 255% increase. To succeed, it’s important to stay competitive with your bids, make sure availability information is up to date, and extend your promotions a week before and after Amazon’s push.

4. Holiday Spikes Are Less Dramatic as Shopping Patterns Level Off

The constant evolution of consumer behavior means that now is the time to modify your approach for holiday planning. 

Five years ago, Black Friday was the single biggest shopping holiday. However, consumers have gotten savvier. Rather than waiting for a single day to make their purchase, they’re looking for deals earlier, and are spreading out their spending across a longer timeframe. 

There is a parallel trend among retailers to lengthen Black Friday deals into month-long sale events. Smart brands are starting their advertising campaigns early to maximize presence across the extended holiday shopping window. Shoppers are starting their research early, so it’s important to spread out budgets, build remarketing lists, and stay connected with customers throughout their purchase journey.

By the final week of October, searches for “gifts for” and “gifts from” really start accelerating. Expect Google Shopping bids to ramp up in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving, as shoppers search for early deals. 

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