Ah, holiday shopping season. It’s what many online merchants live for—the 6-8 weeks when sales go through the roof. Consumers will soon flock to the web, credit card in hand, eager to make their gift purchases. It’s not uncommon to talk to retailers who generate 40-50% of their annual sales during the holiday season.
When customers search for products online, 35% start with Google or other search engines. Of those that start with a search engine, 52% click through the Google Shopping results or Product Listing Ads (PLA). As I visit with clients and merchants I meet at trade shows, I consistently hear Google Shopping listed as one of the most profitable and effective ad channels.
It’s no wonder. Google Shopping is growing at a breakneck pace. Same store revenue from Google Shopping grew 52% year-over-year in Q1 of 2016. Mobile clicks also grew 171% in Q1 of 2016 vs. Q1 of 2015. More and more consumers are clicking on PLAs instead of going directly to brand sites or searching on Amazon.
Why so much growth?
Simply put, Google Shopping works. It works for shoppers. It works for merchants. For our agency’s clients, we often see return on ad spend (ROAS) of 300-1,900% or more. Meaning for every $1 spent on Google Shopping clicks, our clients are generating $3 to $19+ in sales.
There are two things you can count on as we enter peak holiday shopping season:
- Google Shopping will continue to win a large share of clicks.
- Search volume for your products is about to go through the roof.
I know this goes without saying, but more people are searching for your products now than any other time of year. A ton more. See for yourself how search volume increases in your industry by visiting Google Trends.
Here are a couple of examples of holiday gift related keywords. These examples show how dramatically search volume increases this time of year. I chose search queries on opposite ends of the pricing spectrum to offer some variety and perspective.
Keyword #1: Gift Ideas for 10 Year Olds. It makes sense that more aunts, uncles, grandparents and parents would be searching for gift ideas for 10 year olds around the holidays. You might be surprised to learn that search volume for this particular keyword skyrockets by as much as 650% in November and December.
Now, let’s look at a higher priced product search.
Keyword #2: Diamond Earrings. I know what you’re thinking. Diamonds sure would be nice this Christmas. You’re not alone. Search Volume for diamond earrings expands by 2-3x in November and December.
But won’t most of those searchers just click on the organic listings? No. A recent study by WordStream shows that for product related queries, up to 64% of clicks go to the ads.
How are your Google Shopping campaigns? Are you poised to win an unfair share of clicks and sales, or are you primed to leave money on the table?
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7 ways to dominate Google Shopping this holiday season
Now that you see the massive opportunity in front of you, what should you do? Here are seven strategies we are executing for our clients to help them make the most of Black Friday and beyond. Here’s how you can get your campaigns into tip-top shape as well.
1. Focus on feed health
The foundation of a successful Google shopping campaign is your product feed. Your product feed is simply data about your products formatted to Google’s specifications and submitted to Google Merchant Center. The health and strength of your feed plays a vital role in determining how well your products show up in search results. Now’s the time to get your feed in shape! Without a well optimized feed you will be paying more for clicks. You’ll also face an uphill battle to attract the right impressions and clicks. While this isn’t a comprehensive look at feed health, these are a few things you should focus on right now.
Properly optimized titles and descriptions
As you know, if you’ve been running shopping campaigns, you don’t pick the keywords for which your products to show up. But you can greatly influence the keywords your PLAs show up for by grooming your feed. While you might not have time to rework your entire feed prior to holiday shopping, you might be able to optimize your titles and descriptions.
Remember to place your most important keywords at the front end of your title and description. Also, be descriptive without being spammy (no keyword stuffing). Here’s a great example of a title for a Yama Glass cold brew coffee drip maker (which is best in class according to my coffee snob friends). The title is thorough and descriptive. It has what it takes to show up for broad queries like “Yama cold brew” and for long tail queries like “Yama Glass 25 cup cold brew tower”.
Product disapprovals can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe you suddenly have an issue with an image on your product page. Maybe something goes out of stock or the price changes and your feed doesn’t update properly. When we audit new client accounts we often see product disapprovals in the 10-15% plus range. This is equivalent to taking a few aisles of a brick and mortar retail store and roping them off with a big sign that says “can’t shop here!” This can be devastating if your top selling products fall victim to a disapproval.
Now is the time to get into Google Merchant Center, click on your feeds and check the diagnostics tab. This will show you what products are disapproved and why. Then you’ll know what you need to fix to get those products approved and visible in shopping results.
Setup daily reports
Your product feed should update daily. You can set up Google Merchant Center to send you alerts on the status of your feed daily. You can set up email notifications for any issues, warnings, or errors. Now is the time to get these results. Every day of holiday shopping is huge. Don’t miss out on sales because of easy-to-fix disapprovals.
2. Get your bidding strategy right
The word is out that Google Shopping works. Rest assured that you do have competition. Likely stiff competition. You probably can’t go toe-to-toe in terms of budget with the likes of Jet.com or Walmart. But you can still carve out your own space and drive sales with the combination of a great feed and the right bidding strategy. Bidding is where you separate an average campaign from a spectacular one.
Here are three key essentials for bidding during the holiday season.
Bid at the SKU level
Every product you sell is unique. Treat it like it is. We track performance on each product our clients sell. This allows for unique bids based on the performance metrics of every product.
Very frequently we see campaigns structured with hundreds or thousands of products all lumped in together with the same bids and no visibility into product performance. You can see aggregate data, but not individual data. You need to see what products are performing well and what products are laggards. That way you can spend more on top performers, and spend less on products that are struggling to drive sales.
Know your ROAS
For most merchants this will be your most important metric. This is calculated by taking your revenue and dividing by cost of the ads. Let’s say you generate $100 in sales on $25 in ad spend. In this scenario your ROAS (Revenue/Cost) is 4 or 400%. You should know your target ROAS based on your margins. Is a 400% ROAS acceptable to you? If your margins are 35% likely so, if your margins are 20% likely not.
Know your search impression share
This is a super handy metric that you can now see at the product or ID level. Google will show you how frequently any given product is visible for keywords that are relevant. The higher your search impression share, the more Google is showing your products. Look for products with good performance and room to grow search impression share.
3. Command more clicks with promotions
Holiday shopping is greatly influenced by deals. Promos make a big announcement that say “hey, you can get a deal here!” Promotions in Merchant Center are based on a coupon code. There is some setup involved and Google will have to review and approve your promotions, but it’s worth the effort. Promotions consistently drive better click throughs for our clients’ PLAs.
4. Setup sales price and sales dates in advance
Promotions are great, but sometimes you don’t want to offer coupon codes, you just want to lower prices for a sale. Remember that price and image are the two primary drivers of attention and clicks for PLAs. Price is the single biggest driver of clicks.
Do you already know your sales prices for Black Friday and beyond? You can set that up now in the sales price field of your feed and then provide Google the effective dates of your sale. Then Google will automatically lower the price in your PLAs when the sale starts and revert back to the normal price when the sale ends. This can give you a huge competitive advantage and help drive clicks and sales.
5. Get more conversions with RLSAs and Customer Match
It might surprise you to learn that some customers who have been to your site or even purchased from you before don’t know your full product mix. Right now your customers or previous site visitors are searching on Google for products you sell. Maybe they’ve forgotten about you or didn’t know you sell boots as well as sneakers.
Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) and Customer Match for shopping are both great options to help identify previous site visitors or customers who are searching on Google. RLSAs allow you to apply your remarketing lists to your Google Shopping campaigns and bid differently on searchers who are on your list.
Customer Match allows you to upload your email list to Google. You can then adjust your bid for anyone searching on Google who is on your email list. It’s usually a good idea to bid more for users who are on your lists so you can get the impression and hopefully the click instead of letting it go to a competitor. After all, this allows you to know ahead of time how likely someone is to convert so you can bid accordingly.
6. Give your top products every chance to succeed
How closely are you watching your search impression share, search terms, and bids for top products? The correct answer should be: meticulously. It’s likely a good idea around the holidays to pull out your top products into their own campaign so you can really watch performance and bid appropriately.
7. Close the loop with dynamic remarketing
The average conversion rate for ecommerce sites is 1-3%. This often goes up during the holidays. Still, only a small fraction of site visitors will actually convert. What to do with the other 99 to 95% of visitors who click on your PLA but don’t buy? You follow them around on the web and try to entice them back. Sometimes they just need a gentle reminder of why they should shop with you.
Since it’s the holidays, you could extend a special offer if they come back. My advice is to start with dynamic remarketing. Google knows your products because of your feed, and they know what pages users visit. Combining that data, they can show users ads containing the exact products they viewed on your site.
Google Shopping can be great year-round, but I know from experience that nothing compares to the 6-8 weeks that make up holiday shopping. I spoke with a merchant client a few days ago who commented that every day in November is like a week the rest of the year in terms of sales volume. The opportunity this year is huge.
Don’t let under optimized feeds or poorly executed bidding strategies rob you of valuable sales. There’s no time to waste. Let’s get your campaigns ready.
About The Author
CEO of OMG Commerce, Brett Curry leads a team of SEO and SEM professionals who manage Google Shopping campaigns for ecommerce companies of all sizes. Brett is also the host of the Llama Commerce Show, an ecommerce podcast aimed at demystifying ecommerce into actionable bites.