Learnings from 2015: Building Google Shopping Campaigns That Deliver Results

Whether you’re building a brand new AdWords account or working on a “new to you” account, starting off on the right foot is the key to search marketing success.  Conceptualizing the campaigns, product groups, budgets, and bids before you dive into the thick of things will help you build out each of these elements and manage your Google Shopping campaigns to their fullest potential.

In the PPC business, we call this process campaign structure analysis. An essential step before taking over an existing ad account. An even more critical move before setting up a new ad account from scratch.

First off, can something as fundamental as campaign structure impact sales?   Campaign structure analysis is part science, part art.  There’s no right answer, and every scenario is different so a list of best practices may not always apply.  However, there definitely are some fundamental data points to look for that will help you in your crusade for greater sales. Here are some lessons I learned from the year gone by to help streamline this process.  The article is written from the perspective of reviewing an existing account, but if you’re building a new account, each one of these pointers still hold true as ever.

Review Each Campaign

Campaigns are the first level of subdivision of your catalog.  A campaign splits your catalog into major categories which can then be grouped into even smaller sub-categories, called product groups.  For instance, let’s take a reseller that sells new men’s clothing.  They may currently have a campaign structure based on product type (pants, dress shirts, hats, jewelry).  You then have to consider if the current campaign structure is congruent with your goals.  Would it be more beneficial to their program if the campaigns were based on Brand (Kenneth Cole, Uniqlo, Nike) instead?  If there are differing goals by brand, then campaigns separated by brand would be more beneficial to you in terms of organization.  For example, I have a client that has co-op advertising dollars with the brands that they sell.  In these branded campaigns, the return goals are significantly lower than their other campaigns, because that brand is more focused on exposure (impression share) than return.

Review Product Groups

Product groups allow you to sub-divide your catalog even further.  Why bother with breaking down your campaign into product groups in the first place? The deeper you drill down into your campaigns, the finer is your control over niche keywords, strategic bids that impact specific product categories / SKUs and more. For instance, in the Nike campaign, you can have a product group for each of the product types (shoes, shorts, and accessories).  Sub-dividing each product type further will give you the ability to control the bid for each subdivision individually, while sharing one overall budget for the campaign.  If you know that basketball shoes have a higher profit margin than running shoes, it will be beneficial for you to break out each product type so that you can bid strategically on each and achieve different goals.

Review Budgets and Bids

Setup budgets according to your spend goals and set bids that allow you to get traffic during the hours that you are most likely to convert a sale.  If the existing campaign routinely runs out of budget, consider increasing the budget or decreasing your bids so the account can remain live throughout the day.

Another strategy that goes hand in hand with controlling spend is to set ad schedules so your account spends during peak conversion hours of the day.  This strategy may work if your space is competitive by taking advantage of cheaper traffic due to other advertisers running out of daily budgets.

Additionally, take a look at the impression share by product group.  This will show you the percentage of qualified clicks that you are receiving over time.  If exposure is the end game, then you’d want to aim for >80% on impression share.   The tricky balance with impression share is having a low enough bid that will still get you traffic, along with a large enough budget that will allow you to sustain your ad position for the entire day.



As you can see in the image above, this account is aiming for a high impression share, but is not achieving their goals due one of two things:  1. The budget is too low; 2. The bids are too high.  If the budget cannot be changed, you’ll need to experiment with bids so that the campaign stays live throughout the entire day.

The saying “The perfect race car is one that crosses the finish line in first place and then falls to pieces” comes to mind.  To maximize impression share, you want your campaign to receive as much qualified traffic as possible, and run out of budget at 11:59pm every day.

Review Negative Keywords

Review negative keywords at all levels of your Google Shopping Campaigns – the account / campaign / product group.  If there are no negative keywords set currently, review the keyword terms that drive traffic to your account, and get the non-converting keywords in there immediately!  Your campaign is almost certain to be underperforming due to an overabundance of unqualified traffic.

On the other hand, too many relevant negative keywords may be restricting your campaign from achieving its potential.  A good sign that you should review the negative keywords currently in place is if you start to see traffic levels drop significantly.  Google’s search algorithms keep getting more sophisticated by the day and we may actually be doing the account a disservice by getting in the way.

Negative keywords can be important in the most unexpected of ways. One of my favorites is how they help improve account performance in conjunction with non-relevant current events.  Let’s use the earlier example of a men’s clothing manufacturer and assume that there is a style of pants called Ferus.  Now imagine that a big winter storm under the same name is approaching your account’s target markets (P.S: That’s the name of an actual 2015-2016 winter storm).  In the 2 weeks before and after the storm, the keyword ‘Ferus’ may receive an abnormally high amount of searches.  You may want to negative keyword ‘Winter Storm Ferus’ to prevent your ads from appearing for those searches where people are looking for information about the winter storm rather than looking for men’s pants. This avoids wasting your precious ad dollars on irrelevant clicks, making your account more streamlined in the process.

In Conclusion

With a thorough review of the current campaign structure, product groups, bids, budgets, and negative keywords, you’ll be able to find missed opportunities and leverage the existing campaign setup to maximize sales.  Alternately, you may find that the current campaign structure does not support the new categories that have appeared in the product catalog and that a new structure should be put in place. Use the DemandStream Campaign Manager to get a unified view of all your Google Shopping campaigns. The variety of AdWords reports available in the DemandStream Report Center are a great resource to discover granular performance details for each campaign. Leverage these reports to analyze your Google Shopping Campaigns with a fine-toothed comb and waste no time in dropping campaigns that fall short on the parameters discussed above.

Whatever your findings may be, 2015 teaches us to replace that gut instinct with hard data. Let research guide your way.  To know more about optimizing  Google Shopping Campaigns and growing your retail sales, reach out to our PPC experts and we’ll be happy to help!