Dishing The Dirt On Google Shopping Campaigns

You may have heard the buzz that Google Shopping campaigns – the latest evolution of AdWords’ PLA offeringare now open to all. But did you know that that’s not the full story?

It’s not just that you can use them, you now have to use them when you create any new Product Listing Ads campaign.


And furthermore, your pre-existing PLA campaigns will migrate to the Shopping campaign format sometime soon.

So, should you be worried about this? The simple answer is yes and no. Of course nothing’s ever going to be straight forward with a major change in AdWords, and while this one does bring some excellent features there are some downsides.

Why Should You Do A Happy Dance of Joy about Google Shopping Campaigns?

When PLAs came along, AdWords simply squashed this new ad format into their existing campaign structure – your basic square peg round hole situation. That meant users had to come up with complex ways to structure campaigns (most notably targeting just one ID per ad group) so they could clearly understand what was happening and how to best improve their accounts.

And while that has worked incredibly well for lots of people, it’s difficult for large ecommerce sites to manage, can be an inefficient use of time, and doesn’t play to the strengths of this new ad format which allows multiple ads per site.

So AdWords created Google Shopping campaigns, which allow users to understand which products are driving traffic and sales to their sites in a much clearer and easier to manage format. The new format brought with it some really cool features:

  • The Products tab. This displays an up to date version of the feed, including all the attributes that can be used as targets. Previously you had to refer to Google Merchant Centre to find this data.
  • Campaign prioritisation. This allows you to set your campaigns as either low, medium or high priority, so if one product falls into multiple campaigns (e.g. if you have an All Products campaign and a brand-specific campaign) AdWords will look at the priority to understand which campaign to display. In the example before, if your All Products campaign has low priority and the brand-specific campaign has high priority, the ad from the high priority campaign will show. Previously you could only prioritise by bid, e.g. using a high bid on the brand specific campaign and a low bid for All Products, which made changing bids awkward.
  • Competitive data, including Benchmark CTR & CPC and Impression Share data. Impression Share is the big one that we’ve been begging for, so we can see if we could spend more on our PLAs if we want to. When PLAs can deliver an incredible ROI (just check out the chart below for the comparison of ROI for text ads, PLAs and remarketing ads that we’ve seen for one client over the past six months) is it any wonder that we want more?

ROI by ad type

It all sounds great, doesn’t it? But obviously I said it wasn’t all good news…

Why Should You Be Less Impressed by Google Shopping Campaigns?

So many of those features I’ve mentioned are brilliant, aren’t they? So where’s the bad?

My major complaint is all about keywords – yes, I know we don’t target keywords specifically any more – but with standard PLA campaigns you could run search query reports and add negatives, which was really helpful for optimising performance. Now, while we can still add negatives, we don’t have the ability to run search query reports any more.

You need to either look in the Dimensions tab for campaign-wide search terms or use the Matched Search Queries report in Analytics to isolate search queries by product. This means you don’t have the ease of finding something that isn’t working and excluding it from your campaign at the touch of a button. While the other methods get you what you need eventually, they’re less simple, less elegant and frankly are just annoying compared to what we’re used to.

Now, to be fair to AdWords, my other big complaint was that negatives could only be added at campaign level, but as of last week this has all changed. And Impression Share data only rolled out in January.

So it’s clear that Google can see that there’s work to be done on their new campaign type – and they’re actually doing it – so we’ll get there eventually. The question is, will they force us all to make the change before they’ve made Google Shopping campaigns as useful as possible?

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