15 ways to get the most out of your Google Ads for eCommerce
Let’s be honest, Google Ads can be a bit hit and miss sometimes. Knowing what paid advertising strategies Google will like (and reward you for) takes time. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you - and thought we’d share our tips that’ll help your Google Ads be more hit than miss.
In this post we’ll go through how we optimise Google Ads eCommerce campaigns to find the best-performing strategies. We’ll show you 15 different strategies for: Google Shopping ads and Smart Shopping Campaigns, Dynamic Remarketing, Search Ads, In-Market Audiences and Dynamic Search Ads.
For each type of Google Ads, we’ll explain:
The core strategies we use to get the best return on ad spend (ROAS)
Use-case scenarios where we’ve seen good results from implementing these strategies
A few of the latest features and product offerings (and how to make the most of them)
To help you find the eCommerce Google Ads strategy that’s right for you, we’ve divided this guide into three sections:
1. Google Shopping vs Google Search: we’ll review the different platforms and why you might use each one.
2. Google Shopping ads: we’ll take you through 7 different strategies that drive the best ROAS for eCommerce companies - and explain how to build out and optimise your Shopping ads from scratch.
3. Google Search ads: we’ll give you 8 of our favourite internal strategies for maximising ROAS from search ads, and tell you whether you need to run Search ads alongside Shopping ads.
How to find the best Google Ads platform for your eCommerce business
Before we get into the nitty gritty stuff behind our Google Ads eCommerce strategies, it’s good to have a bit of background info on the Google Ads ecosystem. There are two main platforms you can use to advertise your products: Google Search and Google Shopping.
Because of its longevity, Google Search ads is probably the most well-known of the Ads. It was Google’s flagship ad platform (which used to be called Adwords) which displays text ads when a searcher uses keywords specified by the advertiser.
The difference between Google Search and Google Shopping is the way they operate. Search gives you more control over the keywords you want your products to be seen for. It also lets you use more copy, including a description to attract the searcher’s interest. And, unlike Shopping ads, Search ads are text only.
Google Shopping ads are usually the best way to go if you’re a B2C selling products online. All you need is a product, feed, Google Merchant Centre and an eCommerce site.
With Google Shopping ads, they appear at the very top of search results - giving you unbeatable visibility.
While Google Search uses keywords to show your ads to searchers, there’s a bit more to Google Shopping. Your produce feed determines whether or not your product appears. This includes all the essential information regarding your product (like brands, sizes, colours, quantities etc.). So you need to carefully optimise your Google Shopping data feed to target the right searchers.
All this data produces a shopping product ad within Google’s SERPs that includes relevant pricing and review information. (Review information comes from an external source like reviews.co.uk - who we’re (Contrast) a partner of).
What would we do? We’d use both in your eCommerce ads strategy
If you’re a large online retailer, it’s likely you’ll be investing most of your paid ad spend on a combination of Google Shopping ads and Google Search ads. Using both platforms often results in better product visibility across the buyer’s journey - all the way from research to purchase.
Think about how your customer’s research and purchase journey spans across multiple devices and consists of lots of micro-moments (which happens way before they think about actually buying). Only running search ads to cover branded queries? You’re missing out on a big opportunity to optimise your strategy.
Before using our strategies (below) right away, make sure your reporting tool (usually Google Analytics) is ready to go. And before optimising an existing campaign, we find it’s helpful to review at least 6 months - although 12 months is even better - of historical data first. Because for us to measure the level of growth we’re predicting, we need to measure the performance to a good degree of certainty
7 ways to optimise your Google Shopping ads for eCommerce
We’ve helped dozens of eCommerce brands - big and small - maximise their ROAS with our proven strategies. And while every business is different, if you want to know the best way to set up eCommerce Google Shopping campaigns, start with these tips:
1. Bid more aggressively on specific search phrases
We follow a 3-tiered campaign structure to focus spend on the search phrases that drive the most sales - which isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s pointless wasting time and money on non-performers. That’s why for any eCommerce Shopping ad strategy we suggest being specific.
Step 1 - Look at your historic search data volume to find the search terms that drive your revenue.
You first need to find the search query themes that generate the most transactions for your business. The aim is to creative two groups:
One with the high-converting search terms.
One with the low- to medium-converting search terms.
The best-performing group will usually contain several branded terms with specific model names, SKU codes, part numbers and other searches that show a high purchase intent.
Step 2: Create 3 shopping campaigns - tiers 1, 2, and 3 - with required priority levels.
Set up three campaigns with a shared budget and give each one a different priority level. (For this, the priority setting doesn’t reflect the group’s priority, it’s just the order that Google will cycle through the campaigns in).
Tier 1 will have the highest campaign priority setting, which tells Google that search queries should start here. Like the other ties, Tier 1 contains every product available on the site, but with negative search phrases applied (we’ll go through that next).
In Tier 2 we’ll change the priority setting to medium. This is where the average- to medium-performing search terms will sit.
And in Tier 3 we’ll change the priority setting to low. This is where the best-converting search terms will live.
Step 3: Build and apply the negative keyword lists.
In Tier 1 we’ll apply negative keywords based on the search queries we want to be active in Tiers 2 and 3. Adding these negative keywords prevents them from landing in Tier 1 and pushes them to the next tier in the funnel (Tier 2).
In Tier 2 we also add negative keywords, but only the best-performing search terms.
In Tier 3 we don’t need to apply negative keywords because any of those lower-value search phrases should have already been filtered out from Tiers 1 or 2. This was the main aim - to exclude the lesser-converting searches and bid more aggressively on all searches making it to Tier 3.
2. Identify your best-sellers & prioritise your budget accordingly
One of the easiest ways to grow your ROAS? Identify historic best-sellers - then bid higher on them. You can use this strategy alongside the tiered approach above, where you bid your best-sellers up on the product or group level.
If you can, look at your historic data and highlight your business’ top-selling items. You can also use Google Analytics to find best-sellers and eCommerce conversion rates, as well as any relevant ROAS or ROI metrics.
3. Regularly audit & optimise your Google Product Feed to improve your overall performance
The key takeaway from this post is: your Google Product data feed = crucial for succeeding with Google Shopping ads. It plays an important role in the Shopping ads algorithm, so it needs a lot of attention.
You need to ensure your feed contains all the required product information. Otherwise you risk:
Not appearing when people are searching for your products
Paying a higher CPC to show your ads
It’s also important to keep product titles relevant without cramming them with keywords. This help to boost visibility for those high-intent searches, as well as improve click-through rate (CTR).
4. Optimise your strategy for mobile
It’s a bit obvious, but our research shows that people who shop on mobile behave differently than those who shop on desktop. The actual queries that convert on mobile aren’t always the same ones people use from desktop.
But too many eCommerce businesses don’t have a specific approach when it comes to mobile shoppers - other than reducing mobile bids - which can be a wasteful route to take.
We start by figuring out the historic mobile-only ROAS. We repeat our search query analysis tiers to segment mobile customers. If we come across a gap, we set up our own tiers with the appropriate negative keywords for mobile users. At the end, we might have six tiers set up for a client: three for desktop and three for mobile.
We’ve found this to be much more successful than just adjusting bids on mobile or desktop. It’s a more holistic, strategic approach to optimising for the customer’s device at that moment - and the rest of their journey.
5. Seek out seasonal opportunities & bid aggressively
If your business is part of a seasonal industry (or you make a lot of revenue during particular seasons), it’s vital to consider the time of year and bid on products/product groups within the tiered structure accordingly.
For example: you should bid higher on sunglasses in the summer and woolly hats in the winter - but keep your tiers the same, no matter the season. By bidding higher on the best-converting products in summer, you can maximise ROAS during these peak months when there’s an increase in search demand.
Here’s another example. One of our clients works within the garden furniture industry, so they usually get peak traffic at the beginning of summer. We ensure they’re visible during periods of high-search activity, while making sure their budget for the year isn’t drained.
Worth noting: you need to fully understand the three-tiered approach before throwing yourself into this strategy or the mobile version. The inventory will need to be the same across all tiers, or it might lead to leakage.
Need some help setting your tiers up for optimal efficiency? Reach out to our team to talk things through.
6. Allow Google to optimise - with supervision
Smart Shopping Campaigns use a combination of your product feed and Google’s machine learning to look after your campaigns on your behalf.
We like to bundle any products into a Smart Shopping campaign when they don’t always belong to another tier. These are the smaller products - maybe your lower-priced accessories - that can be left for Google to manage. Then based on transaction history, Google will optimise for the best fit - but it doesn’t always mean the search engine will do the best job.
If you’ve not got much transaction data for Google to use, things can quickly go downhill. For instance, after a few mobile transactions went through for one of our eCommerce stores, Google went very aggressive on mobile - which made ROAS plummet. The lesson: it would’ve been best to wait until there was more significant transaction data before letting Google take over.
7. Use dynamic retargeting
Want to build the best Google Shopping ads strategy for eCommerce? Don’t skimp on retargeting.
Whether you find them irritating or not, retargeting ads convert - incredibly well. They’ve been shown to have a great ROI over time, so they work well to supplement your search marketing strategy.
Google Shopping’s dynamic retargeting feature lets you automatically show ads to people who came to your site without making a purchase. It uses your product feed to determine which products to display and can intelligently group these together based on what’s likely to convert best.
In short, dynamic remarketing is a pretty straightforward strategy to massively boost your eCommerce performance.
8 ways to optimise your Google Search ads for eCommerce
As we’ve said, running Google Search ads alongside Shopping ads is a solid strategy to cover all your bases. To set up your Google Search ads for eCommerce success, start with these tips:
1. Structure your Google Ads account for more granular control
If you’re starting from scratch, the best way to set up eCommerce Shopping ads campaigns is to replicate your own navigation menu.
If you’ve got a top-level page that includes a category of products (coats) and sub-categories that include brands (The North Face, Patagonia), it makes sense to have a shoe category and individual brand-specific ad groups within your Google Ads account. Doing this will not only save you time, but also make budget control easy.
This method also allows you to go as granular as you like when it comes to ad group and keyword grouping. Plus it’ll help when other team members need to manage the account, as well as keep things clean for your reporting team.
2. Deep link to best-sellers within text ads
There will usually be a handful of exceptional, top-selling products within your store’s categories. So rather than directing your customers to an individual category page, direct them to the best-selling products page instead (that’s normally where they end up anyway).
Simply set up a few text ads that deep link to a selection of your top-selling products. Then keep an eye on which ads drive the most conversions. You can run A/B tests on this in the background and monitor the products that have the most impact on your ROI.
The benefits? The journey to purchase is smoother for the customer and it helps to improve your Google Quality Score.
In this scenario, the keyword/search intent, ad text and landing page experience is all optimised and well-aligned. If there’s no clear best-seller, then it’s best to direct the customer to the most relevant category page instead. This method is usually used when bidding on less specific, short-tail keywords.
3. Form an industry-specific approach & test, test, test
The strategy we follow for running Google Search ads depends on the client’s industry and the eCommerce platform they use. When it comes to eCommerce marketing, it’s crucial to have a fast-acting approach. Things change quickly and the search landscape is ever-evolving. So you always need to be open to new opportunities and test everything.
We prefer to use Google Experiments within Google Ads to test how variations of campaign set-ups perform compared to our original campaign - which helps refine our ongoing strategies.
4. Don’t forget about Google Ad extensions (particularly price extensions)
When a campaign goes live, make sure every possible extension has been built out. By setting up all your eligible extensions, you’ll gain a better Quality Score on your account and improve the likelihood of claiming more valuable real estate within the SERPs.
For eCommerce clients, the obvious extension choice is the Price Extension. It highlights the product price amongst the ad text when someone’s looking for your product.
Ideally your account should have these extensions active and optimised:
Promotion Snippets (essential for Black Friday and other sales)
5. Bid on product SKUs, model numbers & part numbers
When you’re running search ads, we recommend bidding heavily on product SKU and other identifier codes, model numbers, replacement part keywords etc. We know they might not have a large search volume compared to some other non-brand search queries, but they’re going to have a really high conversion rate.
Someone searching for ‘fridge’ or even ‘best fridge’ is likely to be pretty high in the purchase journey. They’re probably still browsing and trying to reach a decision about the specific model they want.
But what about someone searching for a specific fridge model like ‘Beko CFG3582S’? You ought to be throwing your money at Google for that search query.
We usually go through our clients’ product feeds with a fine-tooth comb to get a list of these numbers or SKUs before using Dynamic Insertion within the text ad’s headline and display URL. We also use keyword-level final URLs to send the user to the exact product they’re searching for.
6. Keep up scheduled maintenance & optimisation
Imagine this: your ROAS is ticking over nicely at 300% each month. Great! But that doesn’t mean it’s bringing in the most possible revenue.
You shouldn’t neglect high-performing campaigns (the 300% could all be based on a few branded search terms and nothing else that’s going to generate your sales). Regular scheduled maintenance and optimisation ensures your search strategy doesn’t get left to flatline.
By continually reviewing the ‘Search Insights’ report, checking the ‘Search Impression Share’ and making sure rogue searches aren’t eating up your budget, there’s always enough to do.
Remember tips 4 & 5: mobile search behaviour differs to desktop search. And seasonality is important too. Regularly check how these two things might affect your search campaigns - especially if you’ve got an old account that’s gone a bit stale.
7. Leverage in-market audiences
In-market audiences can be used within your Google Search campaigns to make sure your ads are being seen by a wider audience (than usual) with a different matching criteria applied.
For example, let’s take an online retailer of bikes and cycling accessories. If someone searches for a product that’s similar to the retailer’s, Google will put them in a particular audience group.
/Bikes/Bike Accessories/Travel & Storage
/Bikes/Bike Accessories/Lock & Security
/Bikes/Tools & Maintenance
/Bikes/Tools & Maintenance/Bike Care
/Bikes/Tools & Maintenance/Pumps
As an advertiser, you can then choose to target that particular audience group with your own search ads.
Sometimes it makes sense to adjust bids according to your audiences; increasing them when they match a particular, high-intent group. It can also help make your keyword strategy more flexible, as in you don’t need to be as granular because you know (in theory) this person’s already interested in what you’re selling.
8. Don’t leave out Dynamic Search Ads
Our final Google Ads eCommerce tip is to use Dynamic Search Ads. It’s what Google offers to businesses who have a huge inventory of things to sell, but no time to list individual ads for each product.
What happens if you enable Dynamic Search Ads? Google’s ad crawler will scan your whole website and automatically create ads based on what it discovers. For some, it might be too much control, but for others it saves a lot of time.
We find it works as a keyword research tool by allowing Google to find queries that we might have missed or thought weren’t valuable enough when setting up our campaign. Overall it can be a budget-friendly, almost fuss-free campaign set to run in the background with minimal ongoing maintenance.
Worth noting: if you do decide to use a Dynamic Search campaign, add your normal search keywords as negatives so there’s no crossover.
Start your Google Ads eCommerce strategy the right way
Of course with any strategy, you’ll want to test these out before you dive right in and make any big changes. Try a few at a time and let us know how they work out for you.
Prefer a professional to do it for you? We’re happy to help. Get in touch to see how we can use ads to help drive more traffic, conversions and sales to your eCommerce business.