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16 Major Google Shopping Problems

March 4, 2021
Zelst
written by Zelst

Is your digital marketing campaign suffering from Google Shopping problems?

If you have an ecommerce site and you’re not running Google Shopping then, frankly, you have problems. But, if you are running a Google Shopping Campaign, is it really delivering the sort of results it should be? In this post, we look at the most common Google Shopping problems that we see every day and what you should do when faced with them.

Why are Google Shopping Campaigns Important?

Google Ads Shopping Campaigns (Product Listing Ads or PLAs) are, almost indisputably, the single most important weapon in any ecommerce business’s armoury. The return on investment from Shopping Ads so surpasses conventional text ads that, for many retailers, PLAs are the only game in town.

Shopping ads dominate the search engine results page (SERP) for most competitive ecommerce terms and, with their introduction into image search, this trend is only going to continue.

Google Shopping, when optimised and managed correctly, delivers an amazing return on investment, puts your products in the shop window for anyone looking for what you sell, and can be the platform to build your ecommerce business.

Google Shopping managed badly can be a massive drain on your business, can negatively affect the perception of your brand and, at the very least, can be a huge waste of time, money and resources. So, how can you tell if your Google Shopping Campaign is in trouble?

The 16 Biggest Google Shopping Problems That We See Every Day

1. Disapproved Products

You’ve got to be in it to win it, and if all (or a large number) of your products are not approved, then you are unlikely to do very well with Google Shopping.

There are a huge number of potential reasons why your products could be disapproved, from the fundamental (e.g. incorrect or broken product links) to the arcane (e.g. incorrect GTIN for the product) to the farcical (e.g. Google’s automated systems incorrectly identifying items that violate their policies). We had an issue recently that one of our client’s mattresses was incorrectly identified as a gun bed!

2. Incorrect Data in Product Feed

Analysing the data in your product feed is, quite possibly, not the most exciting of jobs, but making sure your data is accurate and complete is fundamentally important.

If it isn’t, at best, your products could be disapproved. Worse still, your products could appear in the wrong searches – wasting money – or your account could even be suspended.

3. No Product Strategy

It’s unlikely that you’ll only have a small number of products all sold at the same price and margin. The chances are you’ll have some low-value products, some high-value products, some products you make more money on, some you make less money on, some that you are competitive with, some you are not, some you want to sell lots of, some that are there to make up the numbers and some, you don’t even want to sell.
You need to decide on this and then focus your time, efforts and bid management on those items, whilst minimising bids or even excluding the other items. We’re amazed by how many people start a Google Shopping campaign without a clear product strategy.

4. Poorly Optimised Product Titles and Descriptions

Google Shopping doesn’t work with keywords, so your product titles and descriptions are the single biggest opportunity you have to ensure your products are found in the right searches, by the right searchers, rather than vice versa.

If you have an oak dining table, for it to appear in searches for ‘oak dining tables’ the term really needs to be in your product title and description. You’d be amazed at how many retailers forget this.

Similarly, if your title or description mentions something very different, the chances are your products might appear in completely inappropriate searches.

5. Under or Non-Optimised Product Feed

Your feed is the element that drives your campaign, and you need to be onto it all the time. You need to work out what’s working, what’s not working, where your problems are, where your opportunities are, and how you use your feed to achieve the best return on investment.

There’s no simple solution, and Google provide limited information and resources. So, detective skills and a lot of time are required, feed optimisation is key to the success of your campaign.

6. Disorganised Account/Campaign Structure

Having developed your product strategy, your shopping campaigns need to be the embodiment of this and be easy and clear to manage and optimise. The number of shopping campaigns that we see with one campaign and one AdGroup, with everything lumped together, is frightening.

7. Incorrectly Used Negative Terms

Whilst you can’t use keywords for your shopping campaign, you can use negative keywords to exclude certain, non-relevant keywords and phrases. Although this is extremely useful for stopping certain terms and excluding certain phrases, be mindful that your products are different and a negative term that might be appropriate for one product might not be for another.

For example, a common negative term that people use might be free or review – simple, this should exclude people looking for free versions of your products or reviews on them. But, if you also sell gluten-free products or books that include ‘review’ in their title, for example, you could be stopping your products appearing for valid searches.

Similarly, if you sell wood floor and also wood floor cleaner, adding the term cleaner to the group that contains the former and not the latter is really important.

8. No Differential Bidding for Mobiles

Whilst you are not allowed to differentiate your bids between desktop and tablets, you can increase or decrease your bids for mobile devices.

You need to understand how people buy your products, how your competitors are behaving and pitch your bids accordingly.

There are a number of items that sell better on mobiles, as the need may be more immediate. However, other items may be researched on mobiles but, because the buying process is more complex or involved, will result in transactions being carried out mainly on desktops.

You need to analyse buyer/user and competitor behaviour and target bids for mobiles accordingly.

9. No Differential Bidding for Location

If your key market is London or you don’t deliver to Northern Ireland, failing to use location bidding is a major issue.

Analyse your market, delivery areas, even the delivery times to out of the way areas, and set your bids accordingly. This will ensure you are appearing in the most profitable searches and not bidding to attract customers you can’t deliver to.

10. No Ad Scheduling

There are certain times of the day, in general, when people do more shopping online, and certain times that are unique to particular sectors or products.

For example, B2B products are generally sold at different times of day to B2C ones, and clothes have different peak times to foods.

You need to analyse the times your products are sold and research and optimise your bids so that your products appear in searches when your customers are looking to buy them.

11. Not Utilising Audience Bidding

People who have bought from you, abandoned a basket on your site, or have even just visited your site, are generally worth more to you than people who don’t know you – they’re more likely to be responsive to buy from you.

In some cases, however, you might only want to be advertising certain products to entirely new customers.

In either case, you need to be using audiences so that you can match your bids to the value of each user to your business.

12. Poorly Performing Ads Drain Your Budget

This is a symptom of all the issues but, again, it is a tell-tale sign when analysing a Google Shopping campaign that an account has numerous products that are doing really well but one or two that are performing really badly due to bids and budgets. Badly performing ads will be using all the budget and stopping the star performers from appearing.

13. Not Enabling Conversion Value Reporting

If you are relying purely on basic Google Ads Conversion tracking or Analytics Goal Tracking, and just reporting numbers of conversions rather than the value of them, you could end up in trouble.

We’ve seen many accounts where the conversion numbers and conversion rate look great until you look at the sale value and see most of those conversions are for really low priced or low-profit items.

We were looking at a big keyword term the other day that would have been highly competitive and expensive. Still, two products from one advertiser were both under £1, meaning that advertising was unlikely to be very profitable for them.

14. Not Using Competitive Metrics & Auction Insights

Google provides competitive data on impression share, lost share through rank and lost share through budget. This data is vital to analyse and see where opportunities do and don’t exist.

Similarly, by using auction insights, you can see who you’re up against. It’s another one that leaves our jaw-dropping on why people spend large amounts of money without learning from this.

15. Not Using Seller Ratings or Merchant Promotion Extensions

Seller Ratings are hugely important in purchasing decisions, and Google offers a free extension to show your ratings, with nice gold stars if you’re well-liked.

It also offers a free Merchant Promotion Extension, if you wish to offer a promotion, like a voucher or discount. These offer prominent extra promotion and improve click-through rate and performance significantly, but again, are not used by a lot of people.

Which Ads do you think will perform better? Clue – it’s the ones with the big red arrows.

16. Not Properly Using Google Product Categories

The GB Google Product Taxonomy is a bewildering and sometimes baffling list of categories (including a whole section on Guns) that causes us much consternation and, not infrequent, amusement.

Things that are used every day, like dishcloths or tea towels, are ignored, whilst products that seem, to us, quite niche, e.g. Brass Instrument Polishing Cloths, are well catered for. Even so, Google has set this up for a reason, and if you play by their rules and try to please them, they often try to please you back.

So there you have it, these are 16 of the main things to look out for that will tell you whether or not your Google Shopping Campaign is delivering the sort of results it should be, or if you’ve got Google Shopping Problems.

If you don’t think your Google Shopping Campaign is working effectively, our PPC specialists would love to talk to you about it – please get in touch or take a look at our listing on Marketplace

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