Google Smart Shopping: Everything You Need to Know
If you’ve read our blog before or watched our WordStream Weekly videos, you know we’ve talked a ton about shopping functionality in the past six months or so. But whether it’s Instagram dropping shopping in Instagram Stories or Google releasing shoppable image ads, no shopping-related announcement has quite matched the buzz Google generated this summer when it introduced Smart Shopping at Google Marketing Live.
With the season finally turning and the holidays upon us, there is no better time to dig into Smart Shopping as a strategy and see if you can convert some of that good old-fashioned seasonal mania into revenue for your business.
Today we’ll break down all the nuts and bolts of Google Smart Shopping—including what it is, how it works, how to effectively set up Smart Shopping campaigns, and how to use it to augment your marketing strategy as the shopping season ramps up.
What Is Google Smart Shopping?
Smart Shopping is one of Google’s newest campaign types. It uses machine learning to not only reduce the amount of manhours needed to optimize campaigns, but also do more with those hours. Advertisers need merely enter their campaign objective and their budget and Smart Shopping takes care of the rest with automated bidding and ad placements. As such, Smart Shopping ads are tailor-made for vendors with smaller budgets and less time to strategically maneuver them.
As mentioned, less time managing your campaigns doesn’t mean less bang for your buck. Quite the opposite—according to Google, in early testing, advertisers who used Smart Shopping campaigns drove over 20% more conversion value at a similar cost.
Smart Shopping pulls product creative from the existing product feed in your Merchant Center account—which, if you are running standard Shopping campaigns, is already linked to your Google Ads account. Like responsive search ads, Smart Shopping uses machine learning to serve the most relevant combinations of your visual and textual assets to prospects across Search, Display, YouTube, and Gmail. Per Google, the optimization process that goes into producing ads with the highest conversion value possible takes about 15 days.
Google Smart Shopping Campaign Setup and Budgeting
Smart Shopping combines standard Shopping and display remarketing. If you are using those campaign types in your existing account, you should pause them before targeting the same products with Smart Shopping. If you’re trying to figure out what your budget should be, use your existing standard Shopping and display remarketing campaigns as a guide. Just reallocating that spend to your Smart Shopping campaigns is not a bad place to start, and this will allow you to effectively compare the success of the respective campaign types.
For maximum performance and simplicity, Google recommends that advertisers target all available products within one campaign. To set up your Smart Shopping campaign, simply head into the Google Ads UI and create a new campaign:
Select Shopping as your campaign, then select the applicable Merchant Center account and click “Goal-optimized” (Smart):
Keep in mind that, as mentioned above, your new Smart Shopping campaign will trump existing standard Shopping and display remarketing campaigns.
Next, choose your product group and upload creative assets. By default, all of the products in your existing product feed will be included in your campaign unless you specify otherwise. Google recommends that you don’t specify otherwise. The reason is that, when Google serves Smart Shopping ads on the display network, they look at which products your prospects have already interacted with on your website, then serve them ads that feature the correlating information from your product feed. Therefore, you want to include any products your prospects may have already looked at.
As an added bonus, Google automatically tests different combinations of the images and text you provide for each product to determine the ad with the highest conversion value. And if your prospects haven’t yet looked at any of your products? Google serves them an ad based on the creative assets you upload:
These deliver as responsive remarketing ads to prospects on Display and YouTube who haven’t yet indicated an interest in any of the products on your website but have nonetheless visited the site.
That’s the gist of Smart Shopping campaign creation! Some stipulations to keep in mind if you want to be eligible to create a smart campaign:
- You need to set up conversion tracking with transaction-specific values, and you need to have had at least 20 conversions over the past 45 days across existing Shopping campaigns.
- You need to add a global site tag to your website and have a remarketing list of at least 100 active users. You can also choose to connect your Google Analytics account and manage tags there.
- You need to meet Google’s requirements for Shopping campaigns.
Reporting on Smart Shopping Campaigns
You will find all the typical reporting (clicks, conversions, etc.) available at the campaign, ad group, product group, device, and product levels in the Reports tab of your dashboard:
Head to Predefined reports (formerly dimensions) within the Reports tab to see reports segmented by specific product attributes like category, product type, and custom label.
Interestingly, you can’t report on performance based on placement, so you can’t see which networks support better performance for your Smart Shopping ads. Therefore, it’s important not to compare Smart Shopping performance directly with the performance of your old standard Shopping campaigns. You might, for instance, see lower conversion rates (because Smart Shopping includes Display) and think your new campaigns don’t stack up to the old ones. Instead, make sure you’re comparing Smart Shopping performance to the aggregate performance of both your old Smart Shopping campaigns and your display remarketing campaigns.
Smart Shopping Campaign Best Practices
Some best practices to keep in mind when setting up/maintaining your Smart Shopping campaigns:
- If you choose to start small and target a specific product group instead of your entire catalog, leave your other product groups in action in your existing standard Shopping and display remarketing campaigns.
- Given that conversion rates will maximize within 15 days, uses that time period as a benchmark to compare performance with your old campaigns.
- If your conversion value goals aren’t being met, consider using Target ROAS (return-on-ad-spend) bidding to meet your minimum daily goals, or breaking out products with disparate ROAS targets into separate campaigns.
- If you want to increase conversion volume, consider lowering your target ROAS.
- Like you would in a standard Shopping campaign, optimize the titles, descriptions, and images in your feed for relevance, and operate within Google’s spec requirements.
A Few Caveats
Is there anything you should watch out for before jumping headlong into this new campaign type? Sort of. Here are some things you might want to keep an eye on.
- Attribution. Lumping in standard shopping with display remarketing makes it impossible to attribute results to one channel or the other. You have to take Google’s word that combining the two is in your best interest.
- Negative Keywords. Getting impressions on an extremely low-intent query? You unfortunately have no way of axing that query from your campaign.
- Product controls. Want to burn through inventory of a specific product, or put a new product front and center? There’s no way to do that within a single campaign.
Clearly, as with all new smart formats, you’re sacrificing some granular control over your campaign performance here.
Automated bidding, expansive reach, hands-off CRO (conversion rate optimization)—there’s a lot to like about Smart Shopping! Google is giving advertisers more and more access to machine learning, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean better results, it does mean less time managing your account, probably better results, and, at the very least, the chance to A/B test campaign performance and go from there.