If you’re an e-commerce retailer, Google Shopping ads (also known as Product Listing Ads) are a great way of matching you up with the customers who want to buy your products. They appear as large, enticing image panels which show up when the user searches Google for a particular product.

Best of all, when the user clicks on them, they’re taken directly to a page on the retailer’s site where they can either add the product to their basket or buy it right there and then.

Like all digital marketing channels, Shopping ads require careful analysis and optimisation to get the most from them. But what if you’re completely new to the world of Google Shopping, or even PPC advertising on Google in general? Here’s a handy guide to help you get set up and launch your first Shopping campaign.

Ready to get started? Here’s the first step..

Create a Merchant Center account

Before you can list product ads with Google Shopping, you’ll need to have set up an Adwords account and a Merchant Center account.

If you’re already using PPC ads, the former should be already set up and good to go. If not, head to google.com/adwords and click the ‘Start now’ button to start the quick and simple process of signing up. It’s a good idea to complete your billing details in AdWords at this stage – your ads won’t show up if you haven’t provided a means of paying for them.

Your Merchant Center account allows you to manage your store and inventory information. Signing up iis relatively easy – just go to google.com/merchants and fill in your details. However, you’ll need to verify that the site you’ve signed up with belongs to you.

There are several ways of doing this – download a verification file and upload it to your site, add a meta tag to your homepage, add a new DNS record via your domain/hosting provider or verify using your Google Analytics tracking code. (If you’re not yet using Google Analytics on your site, we definitely recommend it – it’s very useful for keeping track of your site’s performance.)

Simply go to the Settings tab in the Merchant Center dashboard, click the ‘Verify your website in Webmaster Tools’ link and follow the steps on screen. You’ll be presented with the instructions for uploading a verification file, but click the ‘Alternate methods’ tab and you’ll be able to view instructions for the other three methods.

Once your site has been verified, claim it by clicking the Edit Settings button at the bottom of the Settings page and ticking the ‘I want to claim this website’ checkbox.

Finally, you’ll need to link your AdWords and Merchant Account together – once they’re linked, you can start launching Shopping campaigns. Staying on the Merchant Center dashboard, click on the AdWords tab and you’ll see options to add your AdWords account.

Create a product data feed

Next, you’ll need to tell Google about the products you’re selling. It’s time to create a product data feed.

This is a spreadsheet which lists all your products, along with various attributes which describe them and enable them to be listed on Google Shopping.

Specifications for each product data feed vary depending on what you’re selling and what country you’re targeting. (In order to target users in more than one country, you’ll need to create and upload a separate file for each.)

Some attributes are required by Google before your products can show up – these include things like product title, description, price, availability and a link to the relevant product page on your site. Other attributes are optional (depending on the type of products you’re selling) but it’s worth adding them in if you can – the more information you can provide, the stronger your listings will be.

In any case, the information in your product feed should match the information that you have on site. Focus on providing information, rather than trying to be promotional with product descriptions.

Don’t worry – you’re given plenty of guidance throughout the process. If you have a small inventory, you can select the option to create a spreadsheet template within Google Drive, which you can simply start filling in with all your products.

Google also provides example spreadsheets in .txt and .xls format to use as a reference – handy if you’re using Excel to create a data feed for a larger inventory. Product feeds can be created and uploaded in one of three formats – a text file (.txt), a comma separated values file (.csv) or an XML file (.xml). (You’re probably better off using the .txt format if you’re new to Shopping ads.)

Do you use third party software to manage your inventory? You might already have a compatible product feed online, which will be useful when it comes to uploading it to Google.

Upload your data feed – and keep it up to date

Once you’ve created your product data feed, save it as either a .txt, .cvs or .xml file. (It’s best to use the former if you’re new to Shopping advertising.)

Next, go to your Merchant Center and click the Feeds tab – from here, you can click the button on screen to set up your feed. Give it a name, select the target country for your ads, and then choose your upload method.

Files under 20MB can be uploaded directly, while files under 1GB can be transferred via FTP or hosted on your site and automatically ‘fetched’ by Google at regular scheduled times. It’s important to keep your product data up to date, and this latter method helps your data feed keep up with any inventory changes on your site (without having to manually edit and upload a new file each time).

Once you’ve uploaded your feed, check the Diagnostics tab in your Merchant Center to make sure there are no issues. If it’s the first time you’ve added a product feed, it may take a few days for Google to approve it.

Create your first campaign

To start setting up your campaign, the easiest way is to go back to the Adwords tab in your Merchant Center account, where you’ll find the red ‘Link Account’ or ‘Create Account’ button is now replaced with a ‘Create Shopping Campaign’ button.

Click it and you’ll be taken to a page where you can input the details of your campaign. First, simply give your campaign a name and choose your target country from the drop down menu (ensuring it matches with your product feed).

Next, determine your maximum cost per click. If you’re already au fait with PPC advertising, this will be nothing new – but the process can be tricky to wrap your head around if you’re a beginner.

Google charges you every time a user clicks on your product listing ad, and it determines which ads show up (and which order they show up in) partially based upon the highest price each retailer is willing to pay.

Essentially, every time a user searches for your product, your Shopping ads are placed in an auction with all the other retailers running shopping campaigns for that product. If your CPC is the highest bid, you’re likely to get more visibility – but you’ll end up paying more than your competitors every time a user clicks your ad.

How much you’ll pay depends on how many clicks your ads get. Fortunately, the next box on our campaign creation page lets you set your daily budget. Once the cost of all your ad clicks has hit this limit, your ads will no longer show up for the rest of the day.

Deciding on a max CPC and daily budget can be tricky, but you can adjust them within AdWords if you’re not getting the results you want.

Make sure you have your payment details confirmed, and you’re all done. This Shopping campaign will contain all the products in your data feed by default, but it’s easy enough to filter the products which show up for each campaign, so you can create separate campaigns for different sets of products – great for optimising your advertising efforts and also tracking their success.

If you need further help setting up Shopping campaigns or optimising your existing PPC strategy, Advantec can help. Come and talk to our experts today.



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