Is Google Smart Shopping the Smart Choice?

Is Google Smart Shopping the Smart Choice?

Google Smart Shopping is a campaign type within Google Ads that was introduced as part of Google’s persistent attempt to automate and simplify campaign setup and management. It’s designed to replace the traditional Shopping Campaigns by using automated bidding tactics and targeting, as well as requiring fewer assets from the advertiser.

How Is Smart Shopping Different From Traditional Shopping Campaigns?

Like traditional Shopping Campaigns, these Product Shopping ads show up both on the main search engine results page, as well as on the Shopping tab of Google.

Unlike traditional Shopping campaigns, they include both the above Product Shopping Ads as well as display ads (including display remarketing ads). You can create and launch these without remarketing lists, but your ad spend and performance will be limited since remarketing is an incredibly effective tool you should be taking advantage of.

The biggest difference between traditional Shopping campaigns and Smart Shopping is the level of control afforded to the advertiser. With greater control comes increased setup and management time, but also the ability to be more granular. From the agency perspective, Smart Shopping is like a black box that can be difficult to convince clients to try. However, when done correctly, it can be a great addition to your advertising strategy.

The Benefits of Google Smart Shopping

Like all of Google’s Smart campaign options, the biggest advantage of Smart Shopping is the time saved by whoever is managing the account; and this efficiency applies to both campaign creation and maintenance.

Setup

Setting up Smart Shopping is quite easy compared to standard Shopping campaigns. Much like all of Google’s Smart Campaign options, all you need is the bare minimum of content (and your Google Ads account linked to your product feed and Merchant Center), and you can get a campaign up and running within minutes.

Convenience

Having Product Shopping ads, Display ads, and Remarketing Display ads all in one campaign is a convenience that cannot be beat. The low maintenance, both in terms of bidding and copy, means these campaigns are not only easy to set up but even easier to support. As long as the product feed is kept up-to-date, Google does the rest.

Machine Learning and Return

When it comes to bidding and targeting, the machine learning aspect also allows Google to use its advanced machine learning to tailor the right content for each and every auction. How does Google know which consumers are ready to buy now? They won’t tell us, but it seems to work. Google has some pretty compelling success stories; sporting goods retailer Sportline increased its conversion value by 227% with Smart Shopping, with a 621% increase in return on ad spend (source: Google). When it works, it really works. Machine learning takes into account more factors and signals than a human ever could.

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The Downsides to Google Smart Shopping

There are some drawbacks to Smart Shopping, though. A few not-so-great features of Smart Shopping are:

  • Limited location targeting
  • No negative keywords allowed
  • No custom scheduling

When you enable machine learning by using Smart Shopping, you’re handing off the reins to Google. Completely. Google’s machine learning (supposedly) knows better than you when it comes to locations, negative keywords, and ad schedules. This can be a tough pill to swallow.

And along with limited control comes limited reporting. This makes logical sense from Google’s perspective (why would Google give us data that we can’t actually use to optimize our campaign?), but it can be frustrating when you’re looking for data to help inform other campaigns or marketing efforts. With Smart Shopping, there is no search term data, no audience data, and only indirect placement data for your display ads.

Another particularly sticky topic can be the limit of one landing page per campaign. This means that if you have multiple products of the same type or family within the same campaign, the landing page users will end up on must be the same for all of them. AKA, users must land on a catalog page instead of the product page itself. To get around this, you can certainly create multiple campaigns, but you are limited to 100 Smart Shopping campaigns in a given account. Large e-commerce companies might find this especially frustrating.

Finally, Smart Shopping relies on historical data to run. If there’s no previous data in the account, you can prepare for some lackluster results while the machine learning… well, learns. If budget is precious, this can be a tough way to get started.

When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Use Google Smart Shopping

If you are short on setup time or PPC know-how, Smart Shopping can really save the day. While they do need historical data to run effectively, they are quick and easy to get off the ground and require little grunt work. If you don’t have the time or resources to dig into the research, Smart Shopping soothes all your concerns by using Google’s automated algorithms to pick up all the slack. And Google’s no stranger to advanced machine learning that factors in consumer traits and buying behavior. If you’ve had success with Smart Display or Dynamic Search campaigns, Smart Shopping is absolutely worth trying at the very least.

If you do have the time and know-how (or you’ve hired an agency that does), Standard Shopping should be the go-to for kicking off your foray into Google Shopping. Smart Shopping should definitely be tested once you can prove that Standard Shopping works for your brand. While automation is great, it’s still not perfect. If you require granularity, you’ll find Smart Shopping hinders control over nearly all the finer details that you or your stakeholders could hope to influence.

How to Optimize Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

Much like Google’s other automated campaign types (dynamic search campaigns, Smart Display, etc.), there are limited options when it comes to Smart Shopping optimization. If you find your Smart Shopping campaigns are lagging, look to these four optimization suggestions.

Product Selection

Not all product types are going to be slam dunks on Google Shopping. You are still at the mercy of search volume and consumer interest, and certain products may not drive enough traffic to justify the cost. Make sure you’re regularly reviewing which products are driving clicks but not purchases, and consider removing them from the campaign so your better-performing products get more budget.

Product Optimization

While not editable within the Google Ads platform itself, the product names and descriptions can often benefit from keyword research. If you have the ability to tweak the name or description of the products, it’s worth taking a look at Keyword Planner to see what users are actually searching for.

Bidding Strategy

Smart Shopping campaigns are designed to automatically maximize your conversion value within your budget. If you’re feeding revenue data back into your Google Ads account, though, you can set a target return on ad spend (Target ROAS) to hit your desired return.

Seasonality

It can be easy to “set it and forget it” with automated campaigns, but doing so is to your detriment. As demand decreases, you’ll see cost per click rise; this is Google saving your budget to bid higher on users that are more likely to drive a higher conversion value. To account for expected seasonality changes, you can use the advanced seasonality adjustment tool to schedule conversion rate adjustments. Unless you live in the Arctic Circle, you wouldn’t want your +heavy +wool +coats search ads to have the same strategy and budget year-round, so do yourself a favor and don’t forget to adjust Smart Shopping campaigns that are subject to seasonality-based demand.

Running Google Smart Shopping With Your Other Campaigns

Smart Shopping product ads take precedence over Standard Shopping ads and display remarketing campaigns (source: Google Ads Help, and bolded for emphasis). So while you can have Standard Shopping campaigns along with Smart Shopping campaigns, they shouldn’t be targeting the same products or groups of products. Not only will you be taking traffic away from your Smart Shopping campaign that could be used for machine learning, but both campaigns’ performance will suffer. If you have Standard and Smart Shopping for the same products, pause one of the campaigns or dedupe them.

And there you have it. Smart Shopping can be a great addition to your PPC advertising efforts. Use these pros, cons, and best practices to determine if it’s the right strategy for you.

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