Okiano helps in making Google Shopping work best for your eCommerce store

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Google Shopping essentials you should know

Google Shopping allows users searching for products to find them through picture/price product listings that are offered either through the free dedicated Shopping tab or on the paid-for listings section that appears on the main Google Search results page. Users clicking on the Google Shopping Ads will eventually land on the product page on the respective retailer’s eCommerce website. 

According to Tinuiti’s Report, advertisers increased their spend on Google search ads 28% year over year in Q3 2020, an acceleration from 19% growth in Q2 2020. 

CPC advertising does not really show signs of decline as many advertisers ramped up their search investment in the quarter, in view of the increasing competition. Click growth has slowed with more advertisers vying for searchers, and the interesting fact is that spend on Google Shopping keeps growing and outpaces text ad spend growth for the quarter, with advertisers increasing their spend on Google Shopping Ads 34% year over year compared to a 25% increase for text search ads.

One of the great advantages of Google Shopping is the top-of-page placement on the main results page, where product advertisements appear with Images and Prices to catch the consumer’s eye.

Google Shopping Ads are Top of Page
Google Shopping Ads are Top of Page (blue frame) Search Ads display later (green frame).

An additional advantage is the Free Listing that Google Offers on the dedicated Shopping tab, this accounts for about 10% of the Shoppers traffic on Google and can help with reducing the cost of sales.

However, for an eCommerce retailer to have its products listed and appear first on Google Shopping, Google requires an excellently formatted and always updated Product Data Feed to be uploaded to Google Merchant Center. The Product Data Feed in itself is key to promoting the products, therefore, it needs to contain all of the product information like a product’s brand, price, and availability. Standard listings feed (free on the Shopping Tab) requires a minimum of 5 attributes: ID, Title, Link, Image_link, and Price.


Free – Shopping tab vs. Enhanced Listing on the first page

As mentioned, the Free-Shopping tab accounts for less than 10% of the shoppers’ traffic on Google. For that reason, eCommerce stores will normally upgrade their Feed to Enhanced Listing (called Sometimes Standard Shopping) with which they can create Paid Shopping Ads that will appear on the first search results page when Google Robots elect to do so. 

The requirements for Enhanced (Paid) Listings are much more strict when it comes to required data that is associated with the products. In addition to the attributes required for standard free listings, one is required to include the following attributes to be able to participate in enhanced listings. Performance may be limited unless you provide all of the attributes that are available in a region. Here is the attribute list:

  • Description
  • Availability
  • Condition (required for all used or refurbished products)
  • Brand (required for each product with a clearly associated brand or manufacturer)
  • GTIN (required for all products with a GTIN assigned by the manufacturer)
  • MPN (required for all products without a manufacturer-assigned GTIN)
  • Multipack (required if your product is a multipack)
  • is_bundle (required if your product is a bundle)
  • Color (required for Apparel & Accessories)
  • Size (required for Apparel & Accessories)
  • age_group (required for Apparel & Accessories)
  • Gender (required for Apparel & Accessories)
  • item_group_id (required for product variants)
  • Shipping (required when you need to override your shipping settings in Merchant Center)
  • Tax (required when you need to override your account tax settings in Merchant Center)
It is important to note that providing shipping costs in the feed is mandatory for enhanced listings on surfaces across Google. The reason is that Google wants to provide users with complete data for decision-making at the front page to help drive conversions at a lower cost. Shipping can be set up by using the shipping attribute in the feed or define shipping settings on the account level. (Learn more about shipping settings and how to set up shipping). It is recommended to submit as many applicable attributes as possible to ensure accurate and comprehensive data. 

Related videos by Google

     Set up your Merchant Center account

     – Adding products to Merchant Center

     – Creating Data Feed


Enhanced Shopping Campaign VS. Smart Shopping campaign

A little over two years ago, Google announced a new type of automated Google Shopping Campaigns called Smart Shopping. With the introduction of Smart Shopping, Google now provides two options for retailers to run paid Google Shopping Ads to get on the first page of results;

The first, discussed above, is the manually managed Enhanced Shopping. In practice, Running Enhanced Shopping is very similar to running search-ads campaigns, meaning it involves manual PPC optimization effort.

The second, Smart Shopping, is a fully automated campaign management that is using AI and machine learning to not only reduce the amount of manual effort needed to optimize campaigns but also do more with the campaigns. Advertisers need to enter their campaign objective and budget and let Smart Shopping take care of the rest with automated bidding and ad placements.

It is important to note that both options require a properly structured Product Data Feed and a Manual Setup. As well, for both methods, the quality of the Feed is critical for the success of the campaigns. 

Before you can launch an Enhanced or Smart Shopping campaign, you’ll need to set up these things:

You should also review the Shopping ads policies that govern what retailers can and can’t show in a Shopping ad.

The following sections dive further into comparing the two Google Shopping options


Enhanced Shopping Campaigns

Intended for expert use, Google Shopping Campaigns, allow retailers to advertise their products on the Google shopping surfaces. Creating Shopping Campaigns in AdWords is pretty simple, you choose a Merchant Center product feed and a sales country. However, to make a shopping campaign work properly to drive profits and good ROAS, there are many tricks and tweaks that must be done

    • Bids – setting individual bids is important as the “All Products” Ad group will use a single bid to the ads for all products, not differentiating between different products and their different profit margins or competition. Google Shopping allows setting different bids for different products or product families, segmenting products is done by assigning to Ad Groups where you can split by profit margins, brand, category, product type, or any other attribute that makes sense to your business. The only reason for segmenting products is for setting different Click price bids for different product ads that were generated by the data feed.
    • Keywords – while Google uses its own technology for deciding on Keywords triggering target product ads, it is still very important to set negative keywords that will help to prevent ads from appearing when you don’t want them to. Monitoring your Shopping campaigns and defining negative keywords is critical to reducing random spending, as well as to help you obtain a higher impression share as Google AI detects that your relevant Ads are being clicked more often by more relevant users. 
    • Sessions and Pages – monitoring the session duration and number of visited pages of your site visitors is critical to understanding which keyword-ad-store landing page sequence drives the most conversions. Correlating the session duration with conversions can help you optimize your negative keywords and ad-group bids
    • Retargeting – activating retargeting of Shopping Ads on Google Display networks is easy and can help drive volume growth as well as reduce the overall cost of sales as Display CPC is normally much lower than first-page CPC, although conversion results are lower as well due to the nature of the Display medium


Smart Shopping campaign

Smart Shopping is a campaign subtype that combines Standard Shopping and display remarketing campaigns and uses automated bidding and ad placement to promote your products across Google Marketing networks.

Google recommends pausing any running Shopping or display remarketing campaigns for the products that will be advertised with a Smart Shopping campaign. If they’re running at the same time, these campaigns could interfere with the machine learning that Smart Shopping campaigns use to display and optimize your ads.


Benefits of Smart Shopping

Automation – Smart Shopping campaigns, uses machine learning and the product feed to create and show a variety of ads across different networks, including the Google Search Network, Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail. 

A/B testing – testing different combinations of the image and text from the feed, then selecting and showing the most relevant ads, automatically

Optimization – Smart Shopping campaigns combine the product feed into ads across a variety of networks, testing them and eventually showing the ads on these that perform best

Bidding – Google automates ad placement and bidding for each ad in the Smart Shopping campaigns, bidding for maximum conversion value at your given budget

Integrations –  Google has integration to Shopify and WooCommerce, this is making the initial setup easier for merchants on these platforms

Disadvantages of Smart Shopping

For advertisers that desire full control over their advertising efforts, data collection, and/or the ability to adjust their advertising strategy based on audience data, search terms data, and product information — Smart Shopping may be less than ideal. Here are some of the drawbacks. 

No Network Optimization – the fact that Smart Shopping combines the standard Google shopping ads with display re-marketing means that you cannot distinguish which networks are driving better results.  

Missing Negative keywords –  Google does not allow advertisers to define and set negative keywords. This means less control over the context of where your ads will be shown and there is a significant chance that Ads will be displayed to irrelevant searches. This in turn may reduce the score of the Ads and eventually lead to reduced impression-share that can impact sales volume growth 

No Location targeting – This means you can’t target or exclude certain regions or cities in your campaign (only the country itself)

Missing performance analytics between networks – Smart Shopping campaigns provide no search term data and no audience data and only indirectly provide placement data (for display ads), for individual product performance. The lack of data means that advertisers have no ability to set ROAS or CPA goals based on search intent, type of user, type of ad, or type of product, and cannot control where their advertising spend is allocated to.

Missing decision support data – Not only can advertisers not control their advertising approach based on these factors, but they also can’t collect this data from what is reported from the campaign, since the only metrics reported within the campaign are the best spend and conversion metrics.

Smart Shopping Campaigns may not be the best choice if you are:

  • Looking to manage your impression share through granular optimization
  • Advertising to new customers or trying to target specific populations
  • Remarketing or trying to capture new users
  • Collecting search term data and making decisions accordingly
  • Controlling what creative you advertise and who you advertise to

As well, if you want to change your goals based on real-time data and allocate unique budgets to shopping efforts vs. retargeting efforts, or you have terms that you don’t want to advertise towards (negative keywords).

There are also several other use cases in which ‘Smart Shopping’ may be incompatible with an advertising strategy. For Smart Shopping to work, having accurate conversion tracking is mandatory. As well, Smart Shopping does not factor in any value that might occur offline, so any account that does not have conversion tracking properly set up, or has a significant amount of business that converts over the phone/offline, this campaign strategy will not be compatible.


So, what’s the best way to advertise on Google Shopping?

Smart Shopping may a good option for new advertisers. However, there is a risk of not being able to meet aggressive business targets. More advanced advertisers will benefit from the control and additional levers of optimization that can be pulled by using Enhanced Shopping campaigns where advanced advertising strategies can be implemented.

The benefits of Smart Shopping and specifically automated bidding can be utilized in standard Shopping and Display campaigns, while all the benefits of data collection, unique goal setting, and having full control over your advertising efforts that standard shopping and display campaigns provide are too important to lose.


Advanced advertising strategies: Automated Google Shopping by Okiano

The main difference between Smart Shopping and Standard Shopping campaigns is automation. Google Smart Shopping campaigns take existing shopping campaigns, then use AI and machine learning to improve them. 

Understanding the limitations and complexities of both Smart and Enhanced Shopping, Okiano technology improves on both, delivering the eCommerce Retailer with a hybrid solution resulting in excellently automated “Enhanced Shopping Campaigns” that require very little if any involvement from the Retailer PPC team. 

You can view Okiano Automation as AI Robots that have the time, expertise, and capabilities to run a full-scale advertising approach with Google Shopping Ads using standard Shopping and Display campaigns with automated bidding strategies that can provide the same benefits as Smart Shopping while also adding additional tools and data insights.

Okiano Robots are working 24 x 7 to monitor, optimize, improve and scale your Shopping Campaigns, by automating the activities listed below.

Automated Product Feed

Perhaps the most important ingredient of a successful Google Enhanced or Smart Shopping campaign is the Product Feed. This stream of data must always accurately represent the advertised website. Product prices and in-stock availability must be reflected in the updated Product Feed. 

Okiano is automating the creation and uploading of an ever-updating product feed from your website. Using AI and Natural-Language-Processing, Okiano robots ensure a high-quality product feed. Improvement of product Titles. All that is required is a connection to your authorized Google merchant Center. 

Using Enhanced Shopping

Okiano is using Enhanced Shopping campaigns as it provides the maximum control over the entire advertisement process including placement and bids. Your product attributes such as Brand, Age Group, Size, Material, Color, and Weight are all controlled and updated in a 24×7 automatic optimization process. It is just like you hired an advertising agency that is working just to optimize your store’s advertising performance.

Automatic Grouping and Categorization

an important factor in taking control over product bids and optimization is dividing the products into Ad Groups in your product feed where you can split by profit margins, brand, category, product type, and more. Categorizing your products is typically a laborious task. Okiano implements advanced machine learning algorithms to automatically divide your feed into different Ad Groups. We will do this for you through our smart categorization module.

Continuous Synchronization

Continuous synchronization ensures pricing and availability information is always updated to prevent Google Robots from suspending your account.

Promotions and Discounts

Product promotions on your site will also be automatically added such as discounts and free shipping to make you stand out above your competitors. 

Granular Ad-Groups

Okiano will create a dedicated campaign for each of your store’s categories, and categorize your products Ad-Groups according to their retail price for better bid optimization.


With time, all strong performing products are isolated into their own dedicated campaigns and promoted to support sales volume growth and ROAS improvements.

Granular Bid Adjustment

Okiano’s machines manage the bidding strategy of the Shopping campaigns to scale your sales. The system automatically decides on whether to use Google bid automation or use Enhanced CPC (ECPC) to manage the campaigns based on actual performance and Google’s best practices.

Segment Adjustments

Okiano will automatically make adjustments that will impact the target audiences to ensure adjusted spend for relevant segments such as Gender, Age Groups, Location, Schedule time of day/week, and Device bids based on ROAS and quality analysis.

What is the advantage of using Okiano over Smart Shopping

The main advantage of Google Smart Shopping relates to the ease of ongoing management, (setup effort is the same for Smart and Standard) while bringing the promises of optimizing Google Shopping Ads across different channels.

However, due to the many drawback items and lack of granular control over optimization such as Negative Keywords, Network Optimization, and such mentioned earlier,  experts tend to use Enhanced Google Shopping.

Okiano AI technology practically gives you the expert solution that runs Enhanced Shopping for your store. This leaves you with the Enhanced expert service without requiring you to become an expert or hire one.


Why choose Okiano over a Google Ads Expert Agency?

At the end of the day, digital advertising agencies are all about achieving the best results for their eCommerce customers, meaning they will use all of the available tools and resources as well as their accumulated knowledge and experience to yield the best results.   

However, even the best PPC expert at the most vigilant Digital Advertising Agency, can’t spend 24 hours a day 7 days a week on optimizing your Google Shopping ensuring your campaigns yield the best results while spending as little as possible to generate the sales you need.

This is where AI Automation can compete with even the best PPC expert learning from what works and what not and adjusting your Shopping campaigns at all times.

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