A Beginner’s Guide to Google Shopping (And How to Get Started)
Google is everywhere – sometimes it feels like it owns the internet. While that’s obviously not true, it is hard to get your e-commerce store noticed without optimizing it for Google Search, and taking advantage of the platform’s other tools.
From experience, Google Shopping Ads are one of the most profitable and high converting channels for eCommerce right now. You’d be crazy to ignore it.
But if you don’t know a thing about Google Shopping yet, don’t worry. I’m about to introduce you to this important platform, explain how it works, and even show you how to get started. Let’s get going!
Introducing Google Shopping
There’s a good chance you’ve already used Google Shopping at some point, via the very obvious “Shopping” tag at the top of many searches:
You know how there’s a Google Images search, where you can look specifically for images of adorable kittens? Google Shopping is pretty similar, but for products. Here’s what you get when you enter “tennis shoes” into Google Shopping:
You’ll see a whole list of relevant products, along with snippets of information about their prices and features. To the left, there are filters you can use to look for shoes of a specific brand, size, price etc.
In a way, this is a lot like shopping on Amazon. The difference is that Google isn’t selling most of these products directly. Instead, it’s curating products that are available around the web from eCommerce shops. If you click on a pair of bedazzled rhinestone sneakers, you’ll be taken to the website where you can buy them:
This makes Google Shopping a handy tool for consumers. In turn, that also makes it a valuable opportunity for online retailers like you.
Why Google Shopping Is Worth Your Time
So why should you care about any of this? There are a lot of challenges to running an e-commerce store, but one of the biggest hurdles is attracting customers. You’ll have to figure out the best, most cost-efficient ways to get people to your store and encourage them to hit “Buy”.
I’d never recommend using only one method to promote your store. Instead, you’ll want to find several solid vehicles for getting the word out about your products. However, I am happy to humbly submit Google Shopping for serious consideration.
Some of the major benefits to advertising via Google Shopping include:
- Google is still far and away the biggest search engine on the web. It handles 85% of mobile search traffic and 75,000 queries per second – that’s a huge potential audience for your business.
- It’s a low-cost option, making it ideal for smaller businesses (but still relevant for larger stores too). You have total control over how much you spend, which is a huge help to your budgeting process.
- You’ll also find that Google Shopping is pretty easy to get started with. With fully optimised “smart shopping” campaigns results are closer than you think.
- There’s a lot of potential for integrating your Shopping ads with other Google tools. Google Analytics is one of the top solutions for tracking how well your marketing efforts are doing, for example, and it’s simple as can be to link up two Google products.
There’s really no reason not to give Google Shopping a try. There are no commitments involved, and like I said you can spend as much or as little as you like. So it’s a low-risk option – always a great thing, since selling online has enough risks involved already.
How to Get Started with Google Shopping (In 3 Steps)
At this point, you’re probably curious to see what Google Shopping looks like in action. After all, it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before dipping your toes into a new online tool.
So let’s walk through what it’s like to get started with Google Shopping as an online retailer. This should give you a better idea for how this platform works, and whether it’s the right choice for your business.
Step 1: Set Up a Google Merchant Center Account
Before you can actually start using Google Shopping, there’s some groundwork to cover first. There are a couple of other Google services you’ll need to check out, if you haven’t already.
This begins with Google Merchant Center:
In case you’ve never heard of it, this is Google’s tool for uploading and managing product information. Even if you already have all your products featured in your online store, you’ll need to list them in Merchant Center as well.
To get started, you’ll need to visit the Merchant Center website and create an account. You’ll be walked through a simple process that involves providing some information about your business:
Also, when you’re prompted to choose ‘what services you want to participate in’, make sure and select “Shopping ads”:
This will get your account up and running, which means you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Complete Some Merchant Center Tasks
At this point, Merchant Center will present you with a list of tasks and demand that you complete all of them. As bossy as this may seem, it is necessary. You’ll need to click on each of the links, and follow the prompts to provide Google with the information it wants.
Some of these tasks are pretty straightforward. You’ll provide a little information about how you’re going to handle taxes, and let Google know where your website is at. Every time you complete a task, you’ll get a nice little checkmark to let you know it’s done:
If you like, you can actually leave the Tax and Shipping sections alone for now. The only ‘required’ tasks are to connect your website, add products, connect to Google Ads, and agree to a bunch of policies.
The last of those simply requires checking a box at the bottom of the page. However, let’s take a closer look at the other three.
Connect Your Website
You’ll need a website, and you have to prove that you own it. Start by entering your URL, and Google will give you a few ways to prove that it belongs to you:
Choose whatever you like here. If you already have Google Analytics or Tag Manager set up, use one of those options. If not, all you need to do is add a snippet of code to your website.
Google will let you know where to place that code. If your site runs on WordPress, head over to your dashboard and go to Appearance > Theme Editor. Then find your Theme Header, and add the code right before </head>:
Hint: If getting into the code is too complicated install a header and footer plugin in WordPress so you can easily add it to the header of your site.
Then go back to Merchant Center and complete the verification process.
Link Your Google Ads Account
Google is pretty greedy – it wants you to use all of its services. Case in point – you’ll also need to sign up for Google Ads. Luckily, this is free and simple.
If you don’t have a Google Ads account, you can set one up now. It’s another simple walkthrough with some basic questions:
Don’t worry if you run into any trouble here. Google has a comprehensive guide to getting this particular tool set up. Once you’ve done so, you can go back to Merchant Center and hit LINK to connect your account:
You’ll then need to go back to Google Ads to confirm the link, which is a pain but easy enough.
Add Your Products
Now for the fun part – adding your products. You have two main options for doing this:
You can add products one at a time if you like. You’ll be taken to a page where you can enter lots of information about them:
Take your time here. A lot of this information will be visible to shoppers. I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but here are a few tips:
- Create a short, specific title that accurately describes your product, and matches what potential customers might search for to find an item like it.
- Don’t skimp on the description, and make sure to work in some high-value keywords. However, don’t go overboard there – your description should still sound natural.
- Add a high-quality image, preferably one of your own creation (no stock photos!). Looks matter, and people aren’t going to click on a product with a grainy image.
Once you’re done here, you can preview what your product will look like to searchers:
You’ll also notice that it says your product is ‘being reviewed by Google’. It’s worth noting that Google has its own set of requirements that products have to meet, which is worth a read.
If you have a lot of products, you can instead create a feed:
This will let you import your products quickly. Then, you can customize the information for each of them as needed.
After adding your products, you’ll need to wait a bit for them to be approved. After that, you can finally set up your first Google Shopping campaign!
Step 3: Create Your First Campaign
Whew! It took us a while to get here, didn’t it? At this point, you’re ready to hit that button to create a new Google Shopping campaign.
As usual, you’ll start by entering a little basic information, such as a name for the campaign and the country of sale. You can also select which product(s) will be included in the campaign. This is all stuff you’ll already know.
The tricky part is choosing a ‘bidding strategy’. This will determine how your budget is spent. First, you’ll want to decide what type of goal you want to pursue.
If you want to maximize conversions, for example, one of these bidding strategies should do the trick:
- Target Cost Per Action (CPA)
- Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
- Maximize Conversions
- Maximize Conversion Value
- Enhanced Cost Per Click (ECPC)
There are also a few strategies that instead focus on getting you as many clicks as possible:
- Maximize Clicks
- Manual CPC bidding
Or you can start with the basics and try to improve your e-commerce store’s visibility:
- Target Impression Share
If there’s some terminology or acronyms here you don’t quite yet understand, that’s okay. Google provides in-depth explanations on what all of these mean, and how they’ll affect the way your campaign plays out.
Of course, it’s also necessary to enter a budget. This is the maximum amount you’re willing to spend on your campaign. Google will do its best to spend that budget wisely, in a way that maximizes whatever goal you picked.
After that, there are a few more settings you can tweak, although some are optional. Once you’re done, you’ll move on to selecting an ad group type. For beginners, it’s best to go with Product Shopping ad, as it’s the simplest option and lets you create individual product ads.
At this point, you’re nearly done. You just need to create and customize your ad group, once again following Google’s handy instructions. Then you can get your first campaign off the ground!
Keep in mind that it can be easy to get lost in a maze of options when creating your Google Shopping campaign. There’s no harm in taking your time to set things up, but you don’t necessarily have to tweak every variable just right the first time.
Instead, start small, and keep your budget modest. Track your results over time, and make small changes to see what works and what doesn’t. With patience, you’ll likely find yourself a Google Shopping guru in no time. But if you need some help, don’t be afraid to get in touch!
Nothing comes for free, and that’s doubly true for getting more customers into your online store. There’s no doubt that Google Shopping takes a bit of work to set up, and some time and patience to learn the ropes.
If you put in that time, however, you’ll find it’s a valuable marketing channel with a potential for high returns. Getting started takes just three steps:
- Set up a Google Merchant Center account.
- Complete some Merchant Center tasks (such as connecting your website, linking your Google Ads account, and adding your products).
- Create your first campaign.
Do you have any questions about how to customise your Google Shopping campaign? Ask us in the comments section below!
Image credit: Clem Onojeghuo.