Google Shopping Campaigns: New Features, Advantages & Shortcomings

Google Shopping Campaigns: Fresh out of Beta

Last month, Google announced the global release of the Shopping campaign type for Product Listing Ads (PLAs) across all AdWords accounts. Immediately, there was a loud cry of, “Where are my ad groups??” across the entire PPC community followed by speculation as to whether this strange, new campaign type would become the default campaign type for Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in a few months’ time.

Google Shopping Campaign Create Button

From the hushed whispers around me (and Google’s assurance that Shopping campaigns are the way to go), my guess is: yes, the Shopping campaign type will become the only way to set up PLA campaigns in the future – just as listings switched over from free to paid and as enhanced campaigns became the new norm.

When this new changeover will happen, no one can be sure, but it’s always best to prepare for the unexpected (or inevitable, in this case).

After experimenting with the new Shopping campaign format and features, I’ve put together a list of its new features, advantages, shortcomings, and a few strategic points for you to consider before moving your PLAs into the new campaign type.

Here’s the scoop!

New Features of Shopping Campaigns

  • Ad Groups have been replaced by Product Groups
  • New competitive metrics: Benchmark CTR and Benchmark Max CPC
  • A more user-friendly campaign setup interface
  • Ability to browse your products in the AdWords interface (No need to cross-reference your feed!)
  • Campaign priority settings
  • All targets are automatically created for you at each product group

What are the disadvantages of the Shopping campaign type?

  • It’s not yet compatible with AdWords Editor. My guess is that functionality between Shopping campaigns and AdWords Editor will come around when the old PLA campaign type is phased out. My hope is that it happens sooner rather than later.
  • No ad groups which means that we lose the range of capabilities, data, and granular control available at the ad group level. This includes:
    • Ad group level negative keywords
    • Promotional text by ad group
    • Search Terms

To preserve any of these ad group elements, you’ll have to create separate campaigns per product grouping. For promotional text, you also have the option of working with Google Merchant Promotions.

What are the benefits of Shopping campaigns for Product Listing Ads?

  • More intuitive campaign creation.  PLA setup is much easier when compared to the old campaign type.  As long as your targetable attributes are consolidated, accurate, and easily understandable, campaign setup will be a breeze in the AdWords Shopping interface.
  • Campaign priority settings. Priority level, and not bids, will determine eligibility for impressions if a product falls into more than one category. If a product is available in two campaigns of the same priority level, bids will determine which campaign will show the ad.
  • SKU level reporting. Click, conversion, cost and other performance statistics will be available per individual product regardless of how you structure your Product Groups. What this means is that you can see how individual products actually perform!
  • That being said, if you do prefer to look at performance stats at the product group level, you can still do so on the Product Groups tab.
  • Historical performance data is preserved – even if you shuffle your product groups around.
  • Impression share metrics by product group. Are your ads showing at every opportunity? Well now, you can find out!
  • Access to insightful competitive metrics for Product Groups. (Not available at ID level)
    • Benchmark Click-Through-Rate (CTR): The CTR of products similar to yours. If the Benchmark CTR is higher than that of your product group, try beefing up the quality of your ads by optimizing your product’s attributes.
    • Benchmark Max Cost-Per-Click (CPC): The max CPC that other advertisers have placed on products similar to yours. If Benchmark Max CPC is higher than your own max CPC and you think there’s opportunity for more traffic, try adjusting your bids upward.
    • Impression Share: How often your ad showed divided by how often it was eligible to show. If impression share is low, there is huge opportunity for your ad to receive more impressions and clicks. Increasing the potential for your ad to show takes either increasing your bids, improving your product data, or a combination of both strategies.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your targetable attributes clear and concise!  The AdWords interface won’t tell you whether you’re creating Product Groups by Product Type or Custom Label 0, 1, 2, or 3.  Structure your feed wisely so that you know where to find the attributes you’re trying to target.
  • Product Extensions are no longer available on the “Ad Extensions” tab. You’ll have to look under your campaign settings to link your Merchant Center feed to your AdWords account.
  • Inventory filters are set to AND logical functions as opposed to ORs in the old PLA campaign type. Keep this in mind when building out custom labels for separate campaigns!
  • In the new Shopping campaign type, there is no longer a “validate” button to confirm your inventory filter or verify that your Product Groups are valid. The only way to make sure that products are filtering in is to check for the number of products through in the subdivide window as you build your Product Groups.
    Without the old "Validate Target" button, the only way to see if the correct products are filtering through is to look into your Product Group Subdivision screen.
    Without the old “Validate Target” button, the only way to see if the correct products are filtering through is to look into your Product Group Subdivision screen.
  • Product Groups are limited to 7 subdivisions.
  • Once you subdivide a Product Group by one attribute, you are bound to that attribute at that level. For example, you cannot subdivide your primary “All” target by both “custom_label_0” and “product_type” attributes. You must choose one or the other until you subdivide that Product Group into another level – otherwise, you will see the error below. The purpose of this feature is to make sure that a product will not end up in more than one Product Group and cause duplicate targeting issues.
    Google Shopping Product Group Limits

My Takeaways

Once you get over the shock, Shopping campaigns aren’t too big a change from the old PLA campaign type model.

Though there is some give and take when it comes to available features, the detailed interface and the ability to see performance data at such a granular level pretty much make up for the lost capabilities, in my opinion.

Overall, I’d give the new Shopping campaign type an A-. Almost there, almost perfect, but I really wish I still had Ad Groups!

What have your experiences been with Google AdWords’ new Shopping campaign type? Do you love it? Hate it? Have questions about it that are keeping you up at night? Please share your thoughts below!

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