Google’s Shopping campaigns offer a simplified, retail-centric experience for campaign management over what exists with Product Listing Ads (PLAs). Google recently announced that Shopping campaigns will replace the way PLAs are currently managed within AdWords by late August 2014, which simply means that Product Listing Ad units will still exist, but just as a part of Shopping campaigns rather than the old PLA campaigns. The update allows the advertiser to browse and organize product feed inventory directly in AdWords, similar to how a retailer would organize the departments of their brick and mortar stores.
Google first introduced Shopping campaigns in Q4 of last year, as a limited beta. Earlier this year, Shopping campaigns were made available globally to all advertisers and AdWords API support was extended to manage Shopping campaigns at scale.
This simplification will make it easier for advertisers to create highly targeted, customized campaigns, and make Shopping campaigns more comprehensive for the small and medium business advertiser. For the advanced advertiser, Shopping campaigns also offer granular reporting capabilities, with visibility into performance and bidding at the item/SKU level. Advertisers will be able to not only adjust their bidding on the product level, but have access to competitive insights to drive strategic bidding decisions based on competitor benchmark data and Impression Share metrics.
What’s New in Shopping Campaigns
Product Groups & Custom Labels
Currently, PLA campaigns use “product targets” to organize inventory, that specify which products in the feed should trigger PLA campaigns to appear for related searches. Shopping campaigns will use product groups instead of product targets, which will allow advertisers to be more granular and have more control in their targeting. Using groups gives advertisers the ability to segment their products using any of the attributes in the product feed including id, product type, brand, product category, and condition, as well as up to five custom labels Custom labels allow advertisers to create even more granular groupings of their products, such as breaking out top performing or on-sale products. Custom labels and additional product details will be available in AdWords to tag and organize specific product traits.
Advertisers can then use these groups to subdivide their products up to five times within Shopping campaigns, creating highly-specific biddable product groupings. All products that aren’t placed in these groupings will be bucketed into an “Everything else” grouping (see image below).
Without having to make bidding adjustments or adjust negative keyword strategies, Shopping campaigns will also allow the ability to prioritize specific products or segments within campaigns, which will be helpful during promotional periods.
Expanded Reporting Capabilities
While PLA reporting capabilities were somewhat limited in terms of granularity, Shopping campaigns allow performance visibility by individual item ID/SKU, as well as product attributes or custom labels. Even if the advertiser has an “all products” campaign catch-all, Shopping campaigns will have reporting on product level metrics.
Shopping campaigns offer more robust competitive insights than PLA campaigns, with Impression share and CTR/CPC performance benchmarking data at the product group level. Impression Share data will enable improved budget and bidding strategies by showing advertisers how often they are showing in auctions for terms related to their products. Google is also releasing a bid simulator feature, to offer bidding and impression volume predictions, for bid changes against competitors who are competing in the same auctions.
Google is in the process of working with agencies and search management platforms to add support for Shopping campaigns. While timing has not been confirmed, integrations are likely to occur in the early summer. With these tools not yet available, advanced campaigns would need to be constructed manually, or through the AdWords API. With API information just released in March, it will take time for bidding platforms to develop their offerings to support integration with shopping campaigns.
Shopping campaigns allow retailers to add a promotional message to all of the products within a particular ad group.
Shopping campaigns are a notable improvement over traditional PLA campaigns because of easier, more intuitive management of product groupings and exciting new reporting capabilities.
With the simplicity of managing Shopping campaigns, it is expected that more advertisers will take advantage of PLAs. A retail-centric experience for campaign management may be attractive to small and medium business advertisers who may not have robust product feed and campaign management capabilities. As new potential advertisers enter the market, there is a possibility of CPC increases due to new competitor volume.
Despite the threat of rising CPCs, advertisers will have new layers of data in their arsenal for granular SKU level optimizations and on-demand competitive knowledge for more informed bidding and budgeting decisions.
- With the August deadline, and given that Shopping and traditional PLA campaigns can both run at the same time, we recommend a beginning gradual shift towards the new format as soon as possible. We recommend that advertisers create a structured timeline for Shopping campaigns roll-out, starting with low- or mid-volume campaigns first, or a with a small portion of their PLA budget, before transitioning all PLA campaigns over. Also, in instances where this over product overlap between old PLA campaigns and new Shopping campaigns, be sure to set the Shopping campaign’s priority setting (at the campaign level) to high in order to ensure that those listings show over the PLA campaign.
- Retailers will need to prepare their Merchant Center feeds for the migration, primarily by adding and testing priority and custom feed labels. Dependent on the advertiser’s priorities and goals, detailed information can be applied to the product feed as custom labels, and tested for success metrics. It is recommended that you maintain the “adwords_labels” and “adwords_grouping” columns intact until PLA campaigns are fully depreciated, or until you have fully transitioned.
- While third party bid tools are not yet integrated with the Shopping campaign API, it may cause some challenges for advertisers in regards to campaign management and reporting.
- Retailers should take advantage of advancing their bidding strategy with SKU level details and custom labeling and prioritization by product. Advertisers can leverage these new features by strategically optimizing bids for top revenue driving products or category level promotions. Retailers will have the ability to prioritize specific inventory or product groupings, to highlight key products on promotion, top performers, as well as the ability to pause poor performing items on-demand.
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