Add3 – Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Seattle & Portland

Co-written and researched by Brittany DiNardo. Follow Brittany on her Twitter at @BrittanyDiNardo.

With the growing popularity of consumer response in Product Listing Ads, Google launched Shopping Campaigns on February 18th, 2014 calling it a “retail-centric way” to create and manage product ads.  Since its roll out, marketers have gained insights that were not available before with PLA’s but conversely they have lost some of the controls that made the Shopping program one of the most profitable components to a retailer’s portfolio.   

So why the changes?


Consumers love them! With product and pricing prominently displayed, consumers can visually find what they are looking for in a quick and efficient manner saving valuable time. Comparison-shopping is also a factor in finding the best price and offer.

Google loves them… “On average product listing ad CPCs began outpacing non-brand text CPCs for the first time in Q4, highlighting the increased competition for these image ads among retailers during the holiday season. “ – Ginny Marvin, Search Engine Land

Do Marketers Love Them?

Right now there are mixed reviews from the industry on whether these changes are helpful or hindering.  The new structure of layering campaigns in a tiered fashion is fairly straight forward which will help marketers who may be new to the program or AdWords in general.  However, for marketers who have extensive experience with managing the program, these changes can be constrictive by ultimately eliminating the levers that were used to tailor highly refined Product Listing campaigns. 

What We Are Excited About:

1)     Competitive Benchmark Metrics

Want to know how your click through rates and cost per clicks compare to retailer’s with products similar to yours? Google Shopping has introduced Benchmark CTR and Benchmark Max CPC’s metrics, a feature that is not available with historical PLA’s. This a one of the best new features with the new shopping as you can compare key KPI’s against competitors in your vertical which can help drive insights on optimizations.

2)     Impression Share Volume

Giving marketer’s insight on how much volume is in the market space, impression volumes are very insightful on identifying potential opportunity. Keep in mind that Google has not calculated loss due to budget restrictions in the metric, yet. Previously, to see if there was more volume than what your current bid garnered, it was a game of guess and check, increasing bids to attract more traffic and cross your fingers the CPA did not sky rocket, as impression share volumes insights were not shared.

3.)   Channel Controls at the Campaign Level

Part of the Google Shopping makeover is launching channel controls at the campaign level.  With these settings, marketers will be able to incorporate online or local ad formats in one setting to better drive continuity in their strategic efforts.

4.)   Inventory Filtering at the Campaign Level

These new settings will give advertisers the ability to filter on feed attributes at the campaign level and allow ease in product targeting.  Another plus to the new inventory filtering capabilities is instantaneous validation.  For advertisers not using API functionality, this is a process that could take up to 72 hours and in the ever changing face-paced work week, these are precious hours.

5.)   Products are Viewable within AdWords

Another feature that will help advertisers with the management of Shopping Campaigns will allow them to view products within the AdWords interface.  The only way to access this information previously, was to log in to a retailers Merchant Center.  As anyone who has worked in an agency or on a team will know, sometimes these credentials can be hard to tracked down and change on a moment’s notice.  This is just another streamline function that is benefiting advertisers as they do not have to move between multiple systems.

6.)   Metrics by Feed Attributes

Key metrics like impressions, clicks and CTR are now available in the Dimensions tab and be filtered by a variety of feed attributes like Brand, Category, Product Id and Product Type.  The transparency into this level of data will allow advertisers to make more strategic decisions around optimizations, campaign structures and other Search efforts.

What is Making Us Pull Our Hair Out:

1)     Negative Keywords at the Campaign Level

Part of the new Shopping will not allow advertisers to add keyword negatives at the ad group level, instead those optimization efforts will need to be placed at the Campaign level.  Removing this level of control will require marketers to strategize Shopping campaigns beyond what may initially seem intuitive.

2.)   Bid, Geo and Day/Time Modifiers Set at the Campaign Level

As with negative keywords, bid modifiers have been pushed out to the Campaigns level which can be limiting when it comes to setting up a structure.  This is just one more variable that advertisers will have to keep in mind when creating a blueprint of their new Shopping campaigns.

3.)   Bulk Management not Support by Editor

Currently, AdWords Editor does not support the new Shopping Campaign structure.  This ultimately means that all set-up, optimization and on-going management, will have to be done within the AdWords interface.  Besides general set-up and management, not having this functionality for bid management will be arduous for an advertiser to drill down through the layers of a campaign to locate the appropriate product grouping and update them one by one.  Although Google will most likely incorporate Editor support sometime this year, not being able to leverage tool brings up the issue of scalability for large, granulized campaigns.

4.)   Loss of Historical Data and Relevancy

Since Google Shopping requires a completely new campaign to be setup, there is no historical PLA data or optimization history that drives down your cpc’s and improves ROI. In fact, Google has even stated one should expect higher Cpc’s with your product listings, which is leading many in the industry not to migrate their current PLA campaigns to the new Google Shopping Platform until required.

After all the above what you need to know is the new Google Shopping has benefits and well, some frustrating downfalls. No matter how you feel about these changes, keep in mind that Google will be requiring everyone to migrate before the upcoming holiday season. We recommend that you take your lowest performing product vertical suite and begin testing before a mandated rollover is forced. This will allow you, the marketer, to become smarter around the new functionality, limiting impact to current PLA campaigns you are running, as well as communicate to your clients and colleagues the expected impact to ROI on the new campaigns until they are optimized.

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