Shopping Ads Strategies

Google Shopping campaigns are the driving force of majority of the eCommerce brands out there in existence today.

And it makes sense; shopping ads contribute to 76.4% of retail search and spend and win a whopping 85.3% of all clicks. Pretty impressive – huh?

What’s more impressive – or rather disappointing – is that 95% of eCommerce store owners fail to properly implement strategies with their shopping campaigns. And as a result, they have all sorts of things running within their ad account.

Not only does this lead to little to no sales or profitability, but it actually harms the Google ad account by feeding it improper data. 

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Believe me, I made this mistake myself when I first began using shopping campaigns. Jumping from strategy to strategy was the norm for me and at any given time, I would have random campaigns running on random bidding strategies.

It’s no surprise that initially, my own eCommerce brand suffered heavily.

But over the years, my view on Google shopping campaigns entirely changed. The strategic approach I was taking when launching and scaling them also began to alter as a result.

From this, I found out one thing; regardless of what niche or industry the brand is in, shopping ads can be deciphered down to a science. In order for shopping ads to properly work and drive results, they need to be created with a goal in mind.

In fact, all of the steps starting from the product selection all the way to the campaign creation should be thought through properly. After all, success with Google ads as a whole is merely a combination of all the working parts put together.

I’ve compiled a list of 13 powerful Google shopping campaign strategies that’ll force you to think about things on a broad, strategic level while giving you actionable steps to take. At a high level, you’ll see how your eCommerce brand should be approaching shopping ads and at a narrow level, you’ll see how actions influence strategy.

These strategies are certainly not the only ones every Google shopping campaign operates from but they cover most of the common scenarios. The best kinds of results can come when you combine many of these together as a strategic whole.

Testing Campaigns

The first step of any powerful approach to Google ads begins with the testing phase. In essence, this is where you get to know what works and what doesn’t.

But most eCommerce store owners get this wrong.

They launch one campaign or multiple campaigns with varying different bidding strategies and styles hoping something sticks. This does nothing but confuse the algorithm even more.

So what should be done with the campaigns to ensure they properly test all the products your brand sells without sacrificing quality? After all, the worst case scenario would be missing out on a possible winning product due to incorrect campaign types.

One easy way we launch testing campaigns for all the brands we work with is via the 2:1 launch method.

This method was designed by me directly back when I was running through strategy after strategy figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

With this method, it’s as simple as launching two testing focused campaigns with one branded search campaign to get back lost sales.

And to prevent overlap, each campaign gets launched with its own varying bid. I prefer to call one campaign the high bid campaign and the other the low bid campaign.

While the high bid campaign might have a bid ranging from $0.45 to $0.65, the low bid campaign always has a bid set at around $0.10.

Not only is this the ideal approach when it comes to testing based on personal experience, but it also helps get all sides of the audience. The high bid campaign goes after the broader audience that has varying different interests while the low bid campaign is all about a directed approach.

Plus, due to the varying bids, the lower bid campaign only begins to run after the initial high bid campaign has exhausted its budget.

The branded search campaign is perfect to capture that part of the audience which saw your shopping ad and decided to purchase later while noting down your brand’s name.

Although this strategy might seem too simple, it just works because of all the angles it hits.

Optimize Your Feed

There are many strategic approaches you can take when it comes to the campaigns but one thing you should ALWAYS do first is begin with the feed.

And most eCommerce store owners get this wrong. They end up over focusing on their Google ads dashboard while their feed’s health declines day by day.

To me, how healthy the Google ads feed is within an eCommerce brand is determined by the number of errors it’s dealing with. And this value can be seen from the diagnostics section of the Google Merchant Center account.

In simple words, the lower the amount of errors, the healthier the feed. And the optimization process starts with these errors.

There are many resources out there that can help you work through each of the errors but it’s crucial to minimize those red errors completely. Google’s algorithm notices this change in the feed quality and begins to push your ads more because it deems your brand as trustworthy.

But the optimization of the feed doesn’t end there.

Any powerful feed also has all of the select attributes provided to further enhance feed quality. Depending on what platform and app you use, the optimization process might be a bit different.

For the Shopify stores out there, using a feed app can be extremely useful when it comes to submitting all of the required information for the feed.

Normally, I recommend going through each of the attributes and providing the information that’s essential, such as Google product category and any of the custom attributes or the detailed product characteristics. However, this can definitely become a bit tedious if your brand has thousands of products.

One easy way to deal with this is to only fill out this information for the products showing the best results. Alternatively, you can set certain default characteristics which the feed app submits per product.

Regardless of what you do, skipping this part is not recommended as these additions can help Google’s algorithm pinpoint the perfect audience target for your brand.

Include Your Brand Name In Product Titles

As your eCommerce brand starts to grow and get traffic via Google ads, you’ll begin to notice many shoppers are searching for your brand. Simply put, this is a side effect of the perfect strategies you may be running.

At this point, most eCommerce store owners would simply look at this and feel satisfied with their growth. However, it’s crucial to use this to your advantage.

One easy hack I’ve found a lot of success with is the brand name hack. Not only has this hack helped explode my sales across multiple brands, but it has also helped separate my brand from the rest.

Implementing this hack is as simple as adding your brand name to the very end of every product title. This allows Google’s algorithm to rank your products directly when someone searches for your brand and it increases authority overall.

The easy way to do this is via the feed rules section of the Google Merchant Center. It’s as simple as adding a piece of code that automatically inserts the brand name at the very end only on Google’s side of things.

This leaves your actual eCommerce brand and the product pages fully untouched.

In terms of how it should be laid out, if the product I was selling had the title “3D Printer”, the added brand name would make it “3D Printer | Brand Name” or something similar.

The brand name can be separated from the actual title with a simple line or hyphen.

Broad Into Narrow

One thing most eCommerce store owners struggle with is the ability to pass of control. Whether it be with what a team member does or with how ads run, we want to be in full control.

But this is a character trait that simply hinders positive growth more than benefits it, especially when it comes to Google ads.

One easy way to apply this trait with Google ads campaigns is to set strict bids or TROAS values. Our eCommerce brands work on certain margins and it seems like the perfect choice to provide that number to Google’s algorithm as well.

However, there are many flaws with this strategy.

The first and most major flaw is that setting strict bids or TROAS limits the overall growth of that campaign. It signals the campaign to ONLY spend the budget IF there are audience members who match the criteria set.

And one thing to keep in mind is that keyword search volume fluctuates heavily on any given day. On one day, it might be 50,000 for your product and the very next, it might drop to 37,000.

With that drop, however, comes a new problem. With a higher search volume on a given day, there might be greater chances that the buying audience is around, say 500. On the very next day with the lower search volume, it might drop to 27 audience members.

And because the campaigns are already working off of strict metrics, they will fluctuate heavily and only spend a partial amount of the budget. This creates something I refer to as the “roller coaster” effect, where it’s up and down way too often.

Not only does this impact cash flow, but it limits the overall revenue and scale of your eCommerce brand.

A great alternative is to take the broad approach.

This could mean starting with a slightly higher than decided bid or starting that performance max campaign with no TROAS set. Not only does this give room for the campaign to move around and test a bit more, but it also often results in increased revenue and profitability for the brand.

In fact, when it comes to the smart bidding campaigns like TROAS or TCPA, I often completely uncheck the boxes if results are fluctuating even if the campaign has been running for a while. I can say with confidence that 9 out of 10 times, this works like a charm.

Powerful Segmentation

When it comes to Google ads and eCommerce, I’m a big believer in building a strong, rock-hard foundation. And I always go back to the example of a skyscraper.

A skyscraper that lasts for generations is built on a foundation that no amount of stormy weather or wind can shake. On the contrary, a skyscraper we see in the news that apparently “just collapsed” for no reason was most likely built on a very weak foundation.

The same is true with Google ads.

Your ad account and the campaign strategies you use need to all be based around working strategies. If there’s a part within the strategy which is lacking, your entire building will come falling down.

This is exactly why any eCommerce brand our Google ads agency works with goes through a deep segmentation phase. This is essentially when we try to figure out which products could work best together.

Some easy and powerful segmentation tactics include segmenting based on:

  • Product pricing
  • Product sourcing costs
  • Niche
  • Winners vs losers

Now by all means, this is not the entire list of segmentations you can do with your campaigns to increase your chances of success. However, with brands I work with, I tend to keep it around these four categories.

But segmenting via product traits isn’t the only way to go with Google shopping ads.

Geo-split Targeting

Another unique way to explode those sales with Google shopping ads is via geography based targeting or “geo-split targeting” for short.

This method was actually designed by a team member within our Google ads agency after hundreds of tests.

The team member also has his own eCommerce brand that he tests different strategies on and earlier this year, he began to notice that his shopping campaigns were underperforming. No amount of bid changes or product exclusions were helping.

After doing a deep dive into his campaign, he noticed some states were spending a lot more money than others for minimal returns. And this kind of pinpointed data was available for him because he only targeted one country per campaign.

Using this data, he decided to split the shopping campaign into two subdivisions: one targeting only those profitable countries and the other targeting the unprofitable or untested ones.

The results were nothing less than impressive.

The strategy to implement this is quite simple but it does require that you have at least $10,000 worth of ad spend on that given campaign.

There are too many different states a campaign can target and without proper data, it’s hard to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Once you have this data, it’s as simple as launching two shopping campaigns that are segmented based on the success of the states.

Device Splits 

While splitting based on the geography can provide some jaw-dropping results, the game of splits doesn’t end there.

Another crucial strategy that has helped us explode many eCommerce brands via Google shopping ads is the device splitting strategy.

Similar to the geo-split strategy, this one works based on a lot of data. Once there’s enough data, you can begin to understand how your audience interacts with your brand.

Unfortunately, this information isn’t available with Performance Max campaigns so you would need to rely on a standard shopping campaign or other campaign types to figure it out.

But once you have enough data to know whether mobile works best or if your audience converts more on desktop or tablet, there are several things you can do.

The first and most important is to, of course, work on improving that specific device which converts the worst. This can be done by analyzing your website and overall funnel via that device and optimizing.

In addition, you can actually separate the shopping campaign or any other campaign type you have running based on device and scale each on its own.

In order for this to work, however, it’s crucial that you have over $10,000 of ad spend with that given campaign and that you don’t change any other factors which could impact performance.

Most important of all, leave the original campaign running at a lower priority as a backup in case this new scaling strategy flops.

Remove Control

Earlier, I mentioned how one of the hardest things for an eCommerce store owner was to just let go of control.

It’s extremely important to get used to this scenario as it can make the difference between a successful eCommerce brand and one that just gets by.

In terms of removing control completely, what I mean is to uncheck the TROAS box or set a bid that’s higher than expected.

Too many times, I’ve noticed the campaigns go from performing subpar to becoming one of the best performing campaigns literally overnight. And this doesn’t happen because of some crazy hack.

It happens solely because we let Google’s algorithm take more control over bigger aspects of the campaign.

As eCommerce store owners, we fail to understand that the algorithm has access to data we don’t. It’s not too difficult for Google to use this data to further boost performance.

However, as you begin to restrict the campaign by adding extreme TROAS values or bids, the campaign performance begins to suffer. Google’s algorithm hesitates when reaching broader audiences or trying different things that could potentially increase results.

As a result, the campaign doesn’t perform at the best possible level and if this happens too often, the quality score gets impacted, causing a further decline.

So to be on the safe side, it’s best to let the smart shopping campaign run without any set TROAS or for the standard shopping campaign to run at a slightly higher bid. And this trick can be applied to all campaign types.

Cold + Hot Traffic Targeting

Google shopping campaigns have been designed to go out and find all potential customers that search for keywords related to your products. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this traffic Google drives is mostly around a cold audience.

But few eCommerce store owners know that shopping ads can actually be used to target hot traffic as well.

The strategy is a bit different based on the campaign type you’re running, however. Regardless, it’s essential to have a setup that supports this as this makes Google’s algorithm 10x smarter.

The first step of this strategic approach towards enhancing your campaigns is to create all the necessary audiences within the audience manager. Some key audiences we create include:

  • All website visitors (30 day, 90 day, 540 day)
  • All product viewers (30 day, 90 day, 540 day)
  • Cart abandoners (30 day, 90 day, 540 day)

While these are the most basic ones we create and separate based on the time frames, by no means is this a collective list of all the audiences. The main key is to add as many of the necessary audiences as possible.

Once these are added, majority of your smart based campaigns will automatically start scouring through these segments and try to extract as much of the data as possible.

In essence, if your eCommerce brand mostly relies on Performance Max campaigns, nothing else is needed from your end. However, if you still run standard shopping campaigns, there’s an extra step you need to take.

From the audiences section within the standard shopping campaign, your main task is to add all the created audiences on an “observation” basis. This allows your campaign to basically observe these audience members and use some of their data to find similar ones while retargeting them.

Best part of all, the campaign continues to show your products to cold audiences as if nothing were changed. For best practice, we recommend doing this trick across all your campaigns, regardless of campaign type.

Get Rid of Recommendations

Most of the time, we tend to avoid those Google ads representatives that constantly call in to tell us about “how to scale and make campaigns perform better”. The reality is; they don’t run their own brands and are providing “insights” from the book.

A book designed to make Google ads more money.

However, there are certain things they advise that sometimes end up working. And getting rid of recommendations is one of them. Recommendations are basically offered by Google ads to accounts which it thinks have ‘faults’ in them.

And along with these recommendations, there’s a percent value which Google provides to showcase just how much of an impact it has. In most cases, the recommendations are often unnecessary and too aggressive.

Leaving them unchecked, however, is no ideal strategy. The greater the value of the percentages, the more the quality score is impacted.

A very simple trick we began using on all ad accounts is to dismiss all of the recommendations from the “Recommendations” tab on the left hand menu within the shopping campaign. This signals the algorithm that all the mentioned issues have been resolved and increases overall account quality.

Keep in mind, however, that new recommendations will pop up weekly within this section. For best practice, we recommend checking this section and dismissing everything once a week.

Put Products in the Graveyard

So far, we’ve optimized our testing strategies and figured out different ways we can scale our Google shopping campaigns. But exactly what do we do with products that failed miserably within our shopping campaigns?

The simple answer: take them to the graveyard.

And no, you don’t actually take your products to the nearest graveyard to throw them in. Instead, we launch these failed products inside a “graveyard” campaign.

The graveyard campaign is designed to solely work with losing products; products that went through other campaigns without success. Before throwing them into this graveyard campaign, however, you need to take them through other phases.

The first phase of the product is always the testing phase. We covered the right way to fully test these products earlier in this article. From this testing phase, we can come to two conclusions:

  • The product works
  • The product doesn’t work

If the product works, we segment it out into a smart based shopping campaign which only contains winners. If it flops, we put it into a smart based shopping campaign which only contains losers.

This smart based shopping campaign for losers isn’t our graveyard campaign, however. The graveyard campaign is the third phase and begins when a product fails even in this loser’s smart based campaign.

In terms of the layout of this graveyard campaign, I like to keep things simple. I launch the campaign as a standard shopping campaign with a bid of around $0.30. The bid can vary depending on niche.

The main goal of this campaign is to give the product one final chance to come back from the dead and perform. If there is no traction even with this campaign, the product fully gets excluded from Google’s side of things.

Simple strategy but it does a great job of telling you if your product is going to show any results or not.

AD Schedule

I’ve been fairly content with the change Google ads has made us go through from mostly manual bidding strategies to semi-automated but there are things which could have been done better.

One of them is related to ad schedule.

Within any standard shopping campaign on the left hand side, there is a special section called “Ad Schedule” which mentions the days and hours the ads show up and their corresponding results.

What most eCommerce store owners don’t know, however, is that you can actually go in and set certain schedules up to control when the ads show up. And after spending a considerable amount of budget on any given campaign, we recommend you implement this tactic for added control.

An easy strategy to implement when it comes to ad schedule and shopping ads is to note down all of the days and times that generated at least 3 or more conversions. However, keep in mind this should only be done after the campaign has spent $5,000 or more in total.

After analyzing the days and hours, the next step is to begin exclusions. Exclude all time ranges which people have not interacted with the ads on an “all time” date range. This ensures there is enough data to work off of to prevent errors.

Combine all other strategies mentioned here with a proper ad schedule and your ads will be performing at maximum potential in no time.

No Asset “Smart Shopping Campaign”

The final tactic has to do more with Performance Max campaigns, which are essentially shopping campaigns on steroids. However, set them up incorrectly and you’ll find yourself in a whole pile of 💩.

Google ads gives us the ability to add a lot of our brand’s imagery to Performance Max campaigns. These can range from colorful images to vivid videos to powerful descriptions and titles.

However, based on our own experience so far, it would be a grave mistake to let Google ads control this portion of your shopping ad.

Here’s why.

The main goal of the Performance Max campaign and the reason why it was designed was to give the algorithm more control and authority over decisions. Google believed that majority of eCommerce store owners do not have the necessary skills to make them work to their best potential.

While this may be true to an extent, this also meant we now had to fully rely on Google for results.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Google essentially turned shopping campaigns into a search + shopping campaign duo with the addition of these “assets”, introducing further variability.

These asset groups definitely have the potential to make the shopping campaigns smarter but in the shorter term, they cause more destruction than profit. And the reason why this happens goes back to the variability aspect.

If there are multiple images, videos, titles, descriptions, and more within the Performance Max campaign, there are more hurdles for Google to cross. The algorithm needs to figure out which asset layout attracts your audience while trying to find winning products.

And unless you’re running these campaigns at any budget greater than $200 per day, this simply doesn’t make sense. Too much variability will cause the campaign to spend a lot of this budget until it finds something that works.

By the time that happens, you may already be a few thousand dollars in debt trying to make the campaign work.

A better approach for these “shopping campaigns on steroids” is to simply run them without any asset groups. This can be done after the campaign is created.

It’s as simple as duplicating the current asset group and just saving it without adding anything in.

Not only does this tactic take out any additional variability from the Pmax campaign, but it also forces the campaign to act like a smart shopping campaign, helping increase profitability.

And eventually, over time, it ends up driving results like these:

A pretty neat trade off, huh?

Scaling Further With Google Shopping Ads

If you’ve got to the end of this article in full, congratulations!

You’re one of the few that are going to create a world renowned eCommerce brand that brings in tons of profits yearly from Google ads.

While there were many actionable strategies laid out here, this is by no means an exhaustive list of everything out there. There are many other things you can do in addition to continue scaling your eCommerce brand.

But if you’re like most busy eCommerce store founders, you have a lot on your plate.

From dealing with customers to fixing sourcing issues to planning content for ads, there’s a lot that needs your attention. This is exactly where powerful team members come into play; those that can take over your tasks and actually focus on them fully to do them better.

So if you’re doing $30,000 or more per month in revenue from Google ads or with your brand in general and you want to scale further, lets hop on a free call and discuss how we can possibly work together to make that happen!

You get a free strategy report full of custom actionable steps you keep regardless of whether we work out or not – a total win!

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Shri Kanase

His deep desire for purchasing video games at an early age introduced him to the different ways of doing business online and eventually led him to open his first few Shopify stores.

As of today, along with running Google Ads for our clients, Shri Kanase runs his own personal eCommerce brands and travels the world.

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