This post was co-written with Randi Lucius .
Google Shopping Campaigns are a favorite of e-commerce advertisers—they give online retailers the opportunity to present a product image along with relevant purchasing information, like price, directly on the Google results pages. You all know the old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So it’s no surprise that these ads are highly effective, often outperforming standard text ads and even organic results.
At this point, many advertisers have been jaded by great performance in their shopping campaigns . Most saw huge spikes in sales upon implementing their feeds, but chances are, your results have flat-lined over time. If you’re frustrated with stagnant trends in your account, Google Merchant Promotions might be exactly what you need to turn things around.
What Are Google Merchant Promotions?
Merchant Promotions give online retailers the opportunity to append special offers to their Shopping Ads. These deals help retailers to:
- Distinguish themselves from other advertisers with similar products
- Encourage potential clients to visit their sites
As you can see from the example below, Saks Fifth Avenue has beaten their competitors to the punch. Their promotion is eye-catching, and although the free shipping offer is simple (and something many of their competitors likely offer) putting it out there on the SERP gives them a leg up.
Chances are, if you’re a retailer you already have deals running on your site, so why not promote them directly from the SERP? The impact of these extensions is astounding (we’ll dive into this more in the next section). Even before clicking on the special offer link, searchers are drawn to these ads because they stand out in comparison to ads missing this line of text. The actual offer can be as simple as free shipping, or can reflect a more complex deal outlined on your site, and the expiration date creates a sense of urgency for the shopper. Did I mention that they are remarkably easy to set up AND there are no extra fees associated with them? Come on guys, this is a total win-win.
Google Merchant Promotions vs. Offer Extensions
Advertisers may be hesitant to implement Merchant Promotions because they are reminiscent of offer extensions , a short-lived search ad extension variation. This feature proved to be unsuccessful and was sunsetted within a year of its launch.
However, retailers should not be deterred by this. Remember, offer extensions were applied to text ads and were only shown to users who were located within a close proximity to the advertiser’s brick and mortar location. Not surprisingly, searchers weren’t super receptive to these extensions. On the flipside, Merchant Promotions are catered specifically to online shoppers, making them significantly more appealing to searchers.
Here at WordStream, we’re bullish on the potential for Merchant Promotions. Think about it this way—who doesn’t love a bargain? I’m no psychology major, but I’ve read numerous studies suggesting that consumers are more likely to make a purchase when they feel like they are getting a lot of bang for their buck.
In fact, the New York Times published an interesting story last year  outlining the remarkable decline that J.C. Penney experienced when their marketing team made the transition from offering coupons and deals to solely touting their great low prices. The negative impact was so severe that the board ousted the chief executive who was responsible for the shift. As soon as they reinstituted coupons and deals, their performance bounced back. Take it from J.C. Penney—people love getting deals, even if it is just an illusion!
Merchant Promotions in Action (Case Study)
Ok, so enough with the psychobabble—let’s see these promotions in action! Our in-house strategists have recently implemented this feature in a number of client accounts and the results have been promising. To demonstrate this, I asked one of our most senior strategists, Randi Lucius, to show us how Merchant Promotions made a profound impact on one of her accounts. Here’s what Randi had to say about her experience:
One of my clients has had an issue selling their products directly rather than selling them through a third-party site. We’ve tried a number of things in the past and have had some pretty great success, but we are always looking for things to make us stand out against the competition. My client has great promotional sales running all the time, but these seem to have minimal impact on overall performance. Updating ads all the time to reflect a sale can be time-consuming and can cause ad Quality Score to drop a bit. So when the promo feeds came out, we obviously jumped at the chance!
The results were amazing. We originally thought this might just help boost performance in the Shopping campaign, but it ended up increasing overall account performance. During the two week test:
- Conversions increased by 36%
- CPA dropped 25%
- Revenue and return on ad spend jumped 16% and 13%, respectively
We did spend a tad more (only 3% compared to the prior weeks), but because people were using the coupons more than in the past, the revenue and ROAS didn’t grow as much as the total conversions. These are most likely sales we wouldn’t have had, so we’ll take it!
Getting Whitelisted for Merchant Promotions
If you’ve applied for AdWords betas or limited-entry programs in the past, you may be scarred from frustrating sign-up/approval processes. Don’t let that deter you from signing up for Merchant Promotions. Surprisingly, this process is a cinch. To get started, fill out the Merchant Promotions Interest Form , a seven-question form asking for basic account information. Once submitted, you should hear back from Google within 2 weeks (we actually were granted entry within a week). Do keep in mind that you must be a U.S. based advertiser in order to implement these extensions.
Setting Up Your Merchant Promotions
Once you are accepted into the Promotions Feed program, you’ll receive an email with a link to a “Promo Feed Generator.” The generator is an easy tool to create the feed you need to upload in Google Merchant Center.
Simply click the “Create New Promotions Feed” button to create an individual promotion. Make sure you have your logo on hand (or the URL of the logo), your Merchant Center ID, and the information about the promotion!
Fill out the form with the offer terms, a short & long title, the dates of the promotion, and the coupon code (if applicable).
When working on the titles, make sure you’re specific on the details of the sale. If something is unclear, the feed will be disapproved.
I recommend doing as all the promos you have scheduled for a few months at once so that there isn’t any delay in them being approved. Once you’re finished with the separate promos, you can select each one and then click “Download Selected Promotions (Into A Single Feed).” This will download a feed of all the promos into a .txt file. Save the file with any name you want and you’re done with the feed creation!
Uploading the feed to Google Merchant Center is even easier than the form creation. Log into GMC and select “Data Feeds”
Then simply select “New Data Feed.” Choose “Promotions” as the type of feed and add the data feed filename.
Go back to the “Data Feed” section and next to the “Promotions” listing, you’ll see 2 links – “Create Schedule” and “Manual Upload.” Just select “Manual Upload” and upload the promotions feed .txt file.
You’ll see the feed “processing” – you’ll know it’s finished when it says “X of X items inserted” just like a regular product feed.
You can then go to the “Promotions” link in GMC and view all of the promotions from your feed. This will give some basic info like long titles, start & end dates, and, most important of all, whether it was accepted by Google.
And that’s it! You have now created a promo feed and will start seeing the “Special Offer” button on your Shopping search results!
Merchant Promotions: Word to the Wise
While overall the promotions feed is simple to get started, there are a couple of things to remember:
- First off, and most importantly, make sure any coupon code that you give works! If the code is entered incorrectly or for whatever reason your site does not accept the code, your feed will be disapproved and you’ll have to re-upload it.
- Build the feed as far in advance as you can to minimize downtime. After the first initial promo feed ran out on the account we tested it on, it took 3 days to get it approved and back up and running – and the performance during that time definitely to a hit!
Do you have more questions about getting Google Merchant Promotions up and running? Let us know in the comments!