How to Prepare Your Site for Google Shopping

Like it or not, Google owns the online search game. So when they announced the launch of a new pay to play model to replace their current free Google Product Search, it sent shockwaves through the ecommerce industry. Clearly this is huge news for all companies who rely on free searches to direct traffic and sales to their websites.

Alas, the free ride is over, with gratis listings in the Google shopping portion of search results ending soon. Instead, you will have to pay Google to appear in Google Shopping. No more free clicks.

In other words, if you’re not already using Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in Google AdWords, it’s time to get on the bus.

In order to have their listing appear on Google Shopping, ecommerce merchants will now have to provide data feeds through the Google Merchant Center and create product listings through Google AdWords, which will work similarly to today’s PLAs. Unlike in the past, merchants won’t bid on particular keywords, but rather on how much they’re willing to pay if their listings do appear and get clicks. Getting a top ranking will depend on relevance and bid price.

To get ecommerce companies started, Google is offering two incentives:

1. All merchants that create Product Listings Ads (PLAs) by August 15 will receive a 10% credit for their total PLA expense through the end of the year.

2. Existing Google Product Search merchants will get a $100 Google AdWords credit if they fill out a form before August 15.

Obviously, merchants need to begin making these changes now to ensure readiness for the full roll-out this fall–and to take advantage of the busy holiday season. Here are three tips to make it happen:

  1. Set up and optimize your data feed for Google Merchant Center.
  2. Set up a Product Listing account in Google Merchant Center.
  3. Segment and optimize your Product Listing Ads (PLAs).

Assuming you’re already submitting a data feed to Google, this step requires just a little more work. You’ll want to create AdWords attributes in the following categories:

  • adwords_grouping, which is used to group products in an arbitrary way. It can be used for Product Filters to limit a campaign to a group of products, or for Product Targets to bid differently for a group of products. This is a required field if the advertiser wants to bid different amounts for separate subsets of products. It can only hold one value, e.g., shoes.
  • adwords_labels, which is very similar to adwords_grouping, but it will only work on CPC. It can hold multiple values, allowing a product to be tagged with multiple labels, e.g. shoes, sandals, flip-flops, etc.

Google has recently reminded Merchant Center users that they need to setup Product Listing Ads (PLA) campaigns in Google AdWords. First, follow the steps to create a new PLA campaign in Merchant Center. Then choose a bid price and daily budget that you’re comfortable with. Once you’ve completed this step, you’ll find the new PLA campaign in your Google AdWords account.

Once you’ve setup your initial PLA, it’s important to begin segmenting your products. Similarly to PPC (pay per click), you’ll find that certain product types and/or categories demand different bid prices, say, leather shoes versus cloth shoes. So you’ll want to segment your PLAs using the product_type attribute, as well as the new adwords_grouping and adwords_labels fields you’ve recently added.

Within your Google AdWords account, also consider setting up a structure similar to your non-PLA ad groups, so you can better target your keywords and manage your budget. This will also help you compare how your PLA ad groups perform in relation totext or display ads.

Follow these steps and you’ll have a head start on the new Google Shopping–and be well prepared for the busy holiday shopping season.

Andy Dunn is the vice president of marketing for CommerceV3/Timberline Interactive.