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The Smart Answer To Smart Shopping




Joel: I'm here with Matthew, Pinar, and Brittany. We're all here because we're interested in understanding Smart campaigns, Smart Shopping campaigns. 

If you're using shopping campaigns heavily, I think you're going to benefit from it. You're going to learn. These guys; they know what they're doing with it. A lot of experience and really, it takes experience to understand how things work and I think we're lucky to have them here today. Where are you guys all coming from?

Matthew: I'm from Middlesbrough in the UK. I'm Matthew from Mabo. 

Joel: Okay, cool. And Brittany you sounded American, I haven't met you yet. 

Brittany: Yes. I am coming from the United States in Utah. 

Joel: Oh, wow, okay. Big time difference there. I'm on the other side in Tel Aviv, I think we're about 10 hours apart. Pinar, you're, she's the closest to me, up in Turkey, right?

Pinar: Yeah. I'm Istanbul right now. I used to live in Germany for 25 years. So I slightly have a German accent as well. 

Joel: First off, our presenter today is going to be Matthew. He is a PPC Account Manager who turned into a trainer. He was named Rising Star of the Year at the 2019 UK Biddable Media Awards and Young Search Professional of the Year at the 2019 European Search Awards. He is a self-confessed PPC enthusiast and has taken a keen interest in futurism, automation, and humans. Responsible for overseeing company-wide training at Mabo, which is where he is working now. 

We going to have Pinar who is one of the co-founders of Kubix Digital, which is a search focused telemarketing agency based in both Istanbul and Berlin. Before Kubix Digital, she was a Googler and part of the landing crew for setting up the Google Turkey office in Istanbul, way back in 2006. 

Last but not least, we have Brittany. Brittany is the Director of PPC at Disruptive Advertising. They are on a mission to help businesses of all sizes capitalize the power of search marketing. With over 10 years of experience, Brittany possesses a unique gift of analyzing complex data concepts into clear and actionable steps that provide remarkable results.

Now, Matthew, I'll turn it over to you, you may present and we will hear what you have to teach us. 

Matthew: I'll start sharing the screen and we'll go from there. As Joel said, we're looking at Smart Shopping. My role at Mabo is teaching all of our staff, our wonderful PPC team the best practices where Google Ads is concerned.

This session is called, The Smart Answer to Smart Shopping. This is absolutely not going to be anything too negative about Smart Shopping. This is for anyone who's potentially going to be dabbling in Smart Shopping or in Google Shopping, in general. It's also for agencies and market leaders, as well. In order to cater to all levels, we are absolutely going to go through the beginning of what Smart Shopping is, a little introduction to that, of how it works and what it is.

We're going to move into how myself and Mabo have worked at helping clients who ...because they don't like Smart Shopping, they want to move away and transition away from it. I know the guys who are also joining us on the webinar today, have got some success stories. We, as an agency and I myself have seen good results from Smart Shopping, and it kind of does work. 

What are Smart Shopping Campaigns?

Smart Shopping Campaigns, as we can see here, are for shopping. It's not only product list ads, PLAs. It's not just PLAs on the search network, but they are using dynamic remarketing on the Display Network. They show it on YouTube and on Gmail. You can see it as I've put on my screen some of the examples of how they appear on those various networks. It is fundamentally a shopping campaign, but it does incorporate other aspects of Google ads.

How do they work then? Google automates the placement of the ad in order to get the maximum conversion value for whatever budget you've set in place. They choose who sees your ad and how that works. 

The automated ad creation and placement means, as I said, Google choose if I as a user, I'm being relevant to appear for that particular search term and match that part of this...then they will show it to me. If they don't feel I am relevant or if they don't feel that I am likely to purchase, then they won't show me the ad.

Smart Shopping campaigns can take priority over Standard Shopping campaigns and display remarketing campaigns in the same account. If you've got two brands, or you've got two campaigns that are selling the same thing, then a Smart Shopping campaign will take the priority there. 

For those who aren't aware, the qualification rules in order to use Smart Shopping and Smart Shopping campaigns, you will need to have active conversion tracking, with transaction-specific values. That's just so Google can best optimize their campaigns, so you can obviously see the data within there.

You'll also see, it says there, “need a global site tag on your site”, which most advertisers, I would hope, do have. You know, that's something that is a given really in most Google Ads accounts, and we'll see it work where Google Analytics is concerned, as well. You should have that set up and will need a remarketing list of 100 active users associated with your account.

Smart Shopping Campaign Features

A few things on performance then. A user's search query and predicted intent is used to determine which product from your feed should be shown. It enters me into that auction based on who I am and based on my previous search history and how I've interacted with searching ads in the past. 

The next thing that we've highlighted here: on the Display Networks, your ads, as I've said, it's a combination of shopping and dynamic remarketing. Your ads are used to create dynamic remarketing. If a particular user has, for example, visited a certain product and they fall into the product viewers audience, Google is very, very smart and it's very intelligent here to show them those particular products. The really great thing about Smart Shopping campaigns is that they have the combined shopping and dynamic remarketing. 

When Smart Shopping was first introduced, Google said that advertisers had seen early success from them, which is great. I think Google are probably always going to say that, to perfectly honest, when they're launching new products. 

Disadvantages of Smart Shopping Campaigns

There are a few downsides to it, and I want to cover these. The main thing that we hear from our clients, and the main thing that equally some of our account managers aren't a massive fan of, is the lack of control. What I mean by the lack of control is that you can't make bid adjustments, location, device, schedule, audience, targeting levels.

Whereas, you have that with manual CPC. I know in the world that we work in where, everything has become a little more automated, that manual CPC isn't something that's maybe as popular now or isn't as useful or as reactive as Smart Bidding, which is an excellent point. But some people do like that element of control, especially in maybe more niche accounts. 

What we're seeing now is the search term query report. In keywords, you can search through the query report to see how your ads are being found in a Standard Shopping campaign, whether that's on manual CPC or whether that's on target ROAS. You can't do that in Smart Shopping...you're completely trusting Google for relevance. You are, without being able to add negative keywords, without being able to look through that and equally report back to the client. 

That's the biggest thing for me is that if you have a client who's touching base and saying, "How's things going? What have we been showing for?" We actually don't have that information. We are trusting Google completely in terms of not being able to check that out.

I've got a client now who came on board because they had a Google rep who basically suggested Smart Shopping and put on Smart Shopping. They didn't like the fact that they couldn't see what searches they were paying for. They just didn't like a lack of control.

Common Mistakes When Moving Away from Smart Shopping

What I thought I'd cover in this final section, is the common mistakes that we spot, if we have accounts that are coming on board, where Smart Shopping's concerned. The mistakes that people make in transitioning from Smart Shopping if it's not for them. 

Mistake number one is people moving away too quickly. One of the mistakes that people do and will make, unfortunately, is they've gone from one Smart Shopping campaign to having multiple non-Smart Shopping campaigns at once. 

The second one, mistake number two, leads from that one, is the order in which you go about enabling or building out their specific campaigns. It ties to point number one, about the time and moving too quickly. The big thing here for me is that you wouldn't ever want to go from, as I've said in the first mistake, from just one Smart Shopping campaign to multiple target ROAS campaigns in one fell swoop, so that's the second mistake. We have got a few slides that were on this on how to combat that, which is cool. 

The third and final one, and this for me is the worst or the biggest mistake that you can make. It’s jumping from smart bidding, so from the Smart Shopping campaign to a manual CPC strategy. It's too much of a transition, it's too much of a change to go from a Smart Shopping campaign to a manual CPC bidding. We're going to look at how to get around that, which is the Smart Answer.

Now, again, I'm not saying that everyone needs to leave Smart Shopping campaigns, absolutely not. There might be people are watching themselves who aren't particularly fond of the lack of control and transparency where Smart Shopping campaigns are concerned. I'm wanting to give these answers as a way of combating that and getting around that. 

A Smart Solution to Transition from Smart Shopping Campaigns

The solution is to first of all, to transition from Smart Shopping campaigns, as I've said, using target ROAS. Don't go from the smart bidding, from the Smart Shopping campaign to a manual CPC. It's too big a change.

You aren't going to be able to be as reactive with manual CPC as target ROAS is. You know, we think about the signals and the millions of signals that Google has access to and how quickly it can respond in real-time, compared to you, as an individual, changing bids at manual level. Granted you can change them at device level and audience level and schedule, and location level, but actually Google can do all that much quicker, with much more signals, and can know much more intent, so that's the first one.

The second one is to phase these across. If you are going from one Smart Shopping campaign to multiple to target ROAS campaigns, don't just pause one, like the Smart Shopping, and create a lot of new ones that are going live. That's really not a solution. 

The final thing I want to mention, and this is really key and something that maybe goes under the radar sometimes, is to ensure that you create a new dynamic remarketing campaign if you're going to move away from Smart Shopping. 

As I said, Smart Shopping is fantastic, because it incorporates both shopping and dynamic remarketing. What that obviously does is that means you are capturing people who maybe who've added something to their basket or a few particular products, and you can really engage with them through dynamic remarketing.

If you pause your Smart Shopping campaign and you only set up these new non-Smart Shopping, target ROAS Shopping campaigns. You risk losing so much brand awareness, so much of the bigger picture of keeping your brand and your products in the user’s psyche.

The final thing, just from an a, I suppose an administrative or logistical perspective, is to ensure that everything doesn’t want to be going live necessarily straight away. But in order to do that we've built everything behind the scenes. You know, using Google Ads editor or pausing ads in Google Ads and creating them as a manual build. That's me, in terms of what we've got there.

Smart Shopping and More Control

Joel: Well, thank you. I really, really appreciate that. So... what are some new questions that we have?

“Do you think that Google eventually will open up the Smart Shopping black box a little bit and solve the lack of control problems that we have?”. I think they won't.

Pinar: No. I don't think they will.

Brittany: I think they will to an extent. I know they're coming out with some new features to provide some additional controls, but it won't be comparable necessarily to Standard Shopping.

Joel: What features would you like to see? 

Brittany: I think the biggest challenges with Smart Shopping are when you're trying to segment your campaigns by net new versus returning customers, for example, or branded versus non-branded. If they develop features more around those types of controls, that would make a lot of sense.

Joel: I think also what I'm hearing though, we're talking about Smart campaigns, is the control you have and you lose. I mean, I think the quality of your feed and the product images you use and those other areas that you could optimize—Google's AI will never be able to do for you. In a way, that's sort of the control that we should be focusing on.

Matthew: It could be sometimes problems with the feeds, if there are problems with the feed that could lead to issues and actually making sure the feed is as clean and healthy as it can be is actually essential. 

Brittany: Yeah, I think a large part of our success with Smart Shopping is related to feed optimization, and ongoing management and testing of the feed. You know, making sure it's healthy to start with. That it has the best images that are the best resolution, everything's approved. That drives a pretty large part of our revenue lift from Smart Shopping, as well.

That's one of the controls that we focus on with Smart Shopping versus manual bid adjustments. As well as, kind of the landing page experience.

Matthew: Is it a particular product that's working well, or is it a range of products? Actually, if they aren't working well, then what can we do about them? And you mentioned there, Brittany about landing page, or things in the feed. If it's not in a Smart Shopping campaign, you've just got that bit more of control and a little bit more peace of mind of being able to identify what the issue might be, as opposed to being...in a black box.

I always try and see it from the client's side, I think. That for me is the advantage of moving away. But where target ROAS is concerned for me it's kind of the best of both worlds. Target ROAS for the control that some of my clients have expressed and the transparency they like. Target ROAS has a bit more transparency, whilst still getting fantastic results through automation, which I'm a massive fan of. 

Standard and Smart Shopping Campaigns Together

Pinar: You can do a mix, though. You don't have to transition from Standard to Smart Shopping only, you can try a mix and test it for your account.

Matthew: Absolutely. Yeah.

Pinar: You can have a catchall Standard Shopping campaign, and then you do a Smart Shopping campaign and then, that one has, for example, I know target ROAS of 800, if you want to do all products, for example. 

Joel: If you're running two side by side, would you use let's say, budget capping to try to limit, to try to reduce the amount of competition between the two?

Pinar: We try not to limit the Smart Shopping one, because after all, after six to eight months it performs really well. We want to max it out. Then, the rest, we see if it gets impressions. 

It doesn't mean you have to always do one Smart Shopping for all your products. There's different strategies that you can start trying. You slowly experiment. I mean, that's just because it's a new product for everybody. I think they just said it's only 60,000 advertisers, which is nothing for all the millions and millions of advertisers.

Matthew: One thing that we've seen, and wondered what your take on this was. We did a transition, there's one actually where I featured this, where my client just wanted to just use portfolio bid strategies and target ROAS, but what he'd found is there are certain brands and certain product types that just for some reason, we couldn't get the best out of either manual or even target ROAS. 

Actually what he did there is he put the products, the product ranges where there wasn't any particular rhyme or reasons to how they did sell or didn't sell—he put those into a Smart Shopping campaign and it's actually worked so much better. 

Brittany: Yeah, I think that's a common segment that we'll look for is profitability amongst products. I think that's essentially what you're talking about for those lower volume products. 

You can create a segment for that just through a custom label and you can utilize that to govern what your shopping structure looks like. Whether that means two different Smart Shopping campaigns or two Standard Shopping campaigns, or one Smart and one Standard. You can really leverage the feed in those custom labels and all of that data at your fingertips to determine how you should structure your campaigns.

Joel: That's some good advice there. Is there ever a time when you might want to have multiple Smart Shopping campaigns running at the same time. I mean, besides for different countries. You're targeting the same country.

Brittany: Yeah, I think just kind of piggybacking on what I just said, too; you may have different segments for different product categories. Different profitability levels for different products. You can have multiple Smart Shopping campaigns running at the same time, as long as they're not targeting the same products. You just may segment them into different groups.

Matthew: They might have different product ranges that have different return targets. Exactly that's what you're saying, but if you have a certain range that has a 800% target and another one has 600%, that's the best way to get the best out of both. Isn't it?

Brittany: Yeah.

Pinar: We do that as well. We've seen it, it performs well if you start using this strategy. You can go for pricing, as well. You can use your accessories, for example, which are cheaper than the leather jackets, and then, that you can put it in two different campaigns, and then get different target ROAS's of course, because you know, that just makes sense. Then, you still feel like you have a little bit of control. The client is also happy.

The Optimal Time to Move to Smart Shopping

Joel: Let's say you launch a new Shopping campaign. What steps would you take before you move over to Smart Shopping. What would you look for? They all say volume and consistent sales. You know? But for how long, or how many sales count? Also, would you act differently if the list of products was short versus long? Does it take longer to optimize in certain situations, like, if it's a massive catalog? I think that it might, but I'd like to hear what you have to say.

Brittany: I think on our side it's not really different whether it's a catalog that has, you know, three products, versus 3000 products. We don't really see a big difference in how Smart Shopping performs, or how we approach it. 

We really look at two things, the feed itself. How healthy is the feed? How much do we need to optimize it? Then we look at the data. What segments are important to this business to let that determine how we're structuring those campaigns, and what target ROAS goals we're setting.

As long as we're looking at both of those things, we'll typically see pretty good success with Smart Shopping. The only thing that's really standing in the way is if it's a newer business and they don't meet the requirements for having users on their audience list, or have enough conversion data beforehand, then we may need to wait before testing it.

Pinar: We also recommend that we wait for data-driven attribution model as well, that we believe because it takes the performance of the account into consideration, just because you can start the Smart Shopping campaigns without being on data-driven attribution. You can use other attribution models for that. But we believe, I don't have any of the statistics, but we believe that it works best with the data-driven attribution. 

Joel: By the way, speaking of data-driven attribution. It's something I started doing recently and I want to know your opinion on it, which is using the Google analytics user ID tracking. Tthen, having that imported to Google AdWords, or Google Ads. Why? Because it's able to associate more sessions. I find that I kind of get a better picture of the multiple touches, because I'm able to track more of it. Assuming that they're coming back logged in, or entering the same address.

Brittany: Yeah, I think, I like looking at as much data as possible. I think smart bidding seems to work better off of the Google Ads pixel signals versus Google Analytics. Although, I don't know what the exact answer is for that.

Are There Any Controls Available for Ad Placements on Smart Shopping?

Joel: Okay, now the question from someone listening. As far as optimization goes with Smart Shopping what control do have? Can you exclude placements at all, or controls in any way, where the ads are shown?

Brittany: You can exclude content categories on the account level. But not specific placements on the campaign. 

Matthew: Yeah, it's not like the standard display or a video campaign where you could see where ads have shown and exclude them in that respect.

Joel: I think that might make some advertisers nervous. I understand you can delete some categories. Tthe categories can be a bit broad.

Matthew: Yeah, that can probably scare some advertisers. I completely get that lack of transparency could be something that you look at and go, "How do I know that my brand is not going to be associated with…" and then, you know, insert whatever you want to. 

Joel: Yes, well all the political stuff, I think could be the most common thing.

Matthew: Absolutely. Yeah.

Brittany: Yeah, I think that's a pretty common concern, just around overall brand safety and that's where I would be looking at those category exclusions to help exclude as many of those categories that definitely don't make sense. I think to answer Google's intent around not being able to exclude placements, they're not targeting based on the placement at that stage, they're targeting based on the user, and the user's intent. That's why those controls don't exist.

Joel: Yeah, that makes sense. That does make sense to me, but there's also the branding issue (which is subjective) of, I don't want my name on this website.

All right, what about optimization, then. Let's say, here's a scenario that I've seen quite a few times, where I'm running an account and there's a bunch of products in the campaign that are working, there are a few products working very well, and the rest of the products aren't. What would you do in that scenario?

Pinar: I mean, just do it two separate campaigns and give them different targets, I would say. 

By the way, can I come back to the placement exclusion thing, because I know that you can exclude certain placement. Not just content, that will be kind of the extra knowledge that I want to share, is you can do that on account level. You go to the settings and then you go to the placement tabs, and from there, it's a bit of clicking around, but you can then, really enter certain placements. We were talking about brand security and stuff like this.

If you have a company or client that really, really doesn't want to be on a particular website or YouTube videos and stuff like this, you can put them on account level. Then it includes Smart Shopping. Most people don't know that.

Offline Sales, Campaign Product Limits, and Closing Thoughts

Joel: How about incorporating offline sales? Let's say you're tracking offline sales, and so the sales that are over the phone or someone comes in, but you're still able to attribute it to the click, with the Google click ID. Would the best method there be to upload those Google click IDs? I mean, how would you deal with offline sales? 

Brittany: You can still import offline sales and machine learning should be looking at any signals that you're providing them for conversion data. If you have an online transaction and an offline sale, hopefully, they're not too far apart, if you have those two options, where it's like a 90-day window that you might get that closed sale from the original click. The tighter that window is, the more in real-time the machine learning's going to be able to optimize for both of those signals. But you can do both.

Joel: Is there a maximum number of products that you would want to put into one campaign? Is that something to consider? Let's say you have a massive catalog.

Matthew: The Smart bidding and the machine learning is intelligent enough or smart enough to cope with those volumes. I don't know about you guys' opinion on that, but I would hope that it's good enough to be reactive and clever enough to handle small, medium, to large inventory. 

Joel: I imagine there's a limit. There's a limit to everything. There's a limit to how many campaigns you can make in an account. I think it's 300. If you need more, you can call Google, and they'll up it for you.

Brittany: I've not come across a limit in number of products yet. I don't know if there is one. 

Joel: Okay, so I think we're about done here, we're four minutes left, I see. It's been pretty good. And I wanted to leave enough time for each of you, just a word of advice, some tidbit you could leave us with some related to the subject directly, Smart Shopping campaigns, or Shopping campaigns in general.

I'm also the SEMrush PPC Academy professor. You could check out our course, you could also contact me, you could find my LinkedIn, search for Joel Bondorowsky. My Twitter handle is twitter.com/liquidjoel. 

Matthew: Give Smart Shopping a go. If it's something you have not tried, then try it. There are more instances now with how good Google's machine learning is. More instances of it working than not working, so that would be the first probably the first thing.

Like I said, the second thing, if you are considering moving because you don't like the lack of transparency, then it would be to enable dynamic remarketing campaigns if you are moving away from Smart Shopping. If you move to target ROAS shopping campaigns, then make sure you're not losing that traffic that the dynamic remarketing would've been capturing. You don't want to see a massive drop off of brand awareness, that would be absolutely devastating. 

Joel: Okay.

Pinar: Give it a try, like Matthew said. Just watch it closely because, you know, these questions will come from your clients. “Doing well, but CPC is higher” and things like this. You have to move them away from other KPIs; we're not talking CPCs only anymore. 

And you have to be really patient. You really should wait before you make decisions to stop the system or pause it, or anything like that. If you want to try it, maybe don't try it in your most important season.

Brittany: I think my biggest piece of advice is, kind of at the tail-end of what Pinar just mentioned. For the US markets, we're coming into a pretty big season with the holidays. And so, any type of test like this, I would probably not test during your busiest season. 

And then, as you're thinking about testing this or shifting from one structure to another, just take into consideration the amount of data that you need to go through a statistically significant learning period to show, you know, what's working and what isn't. Make any tweaks that you need to. You'll just need to plan a really sufficient amount of time to make a migration that's healthy.

Joel: Okay. Well, thank you very much. And it is now 9:00 p.m. over here. It's time to sound off. This was really a pleasure. 

Matthew: Cool, thank you.

Pinar: Thank you very much.

Matthew: Cheers.

Brittany: Thanks, Joel, Matthew, and Pinar.

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