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My Notes on the Google Shopping Expert Series in LA Seminar

My Notes on the Google Shopping Expert Series in LA Seminar

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

Post Summary

Today I had the privilege of a quick trip to sunny LA to learn a little more about Google's take on Smart Shopping campaigns (SSC). It was especially a privilege, because Billings (in Montana where ZATO is based) is getting buried under 6-12 inches of snow! While I'm sad to miss the first snowfall of the season... I'm also not.So what did Venice CA have to teach us about Smart Shopping? Here is a write-up from my notes on today's seminar, please feel free to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any specific questions!

It's a beach, a real live beach! - says the guy from MT

Google Expert Series LA - Google Shopping Ads

Amazon Fast Shipping: One thing to note before we get into Smart Shopping (SSC), was a stat shared in the beginning that should scare everyone who has Amazon in their Auction Insights.“ Queries for ‘same day shipping’ have increased 200% in the last 2 years.”If you have Amazon increasing in your auction insights (as virtually all of our clients in multiple industries do), then this needs to stop you in your tracks. Amazon can often beat you out on price, and this demonstrates how even 2-Day Shipping is becoming antiquated. People want it shipped now, and they're willing to click on your Shopping Ad to cost you money, and then click over to purchase from Amazon in order to do that. We *have* to have more of a reason to encourage people to shop from our stores than low prices or fast shipping because Amazon will eat our lunch at both of those, and they always will.

Smart Shopping Adoption - the stat was shared that there are currently 60K advertisers using Smart Shopping. 🤷🏻‍♂️  Sounds like a lot, but there are millions of advertisers so it's also not that much... though I'm not sure how many ecommerce accounts there actually are. Either way, it's a stat by itself so again... 🤷🏻‍♂️

No End in Sight for Standard Shopping - While this was all about Smart Shopping, we were assured that there is currently no timeline for ending Standard Shopping campaigns. Of course, check out the next note...Unique Engineering Teams - It was shared that there are different engineering teams and even a unique codebase (!) within Smart Shopping as opposed to Standard Shopping.  Because of that, it’s not easy to launch the same feature for each… it’s literally twice the work and expense. This is a really interesting thing to contemplate as I think it has ramifications with a logical end. For instance, while there is no current end in sight for Standard Shopping, how long do you think Google will put up with double the expense and resources for one program............Also, it likely means that at some point things like innovation resources will shift from Standard to SSC which again suggests eventually Standard being deprecated.

Updates to watch for - In SSC, there are quite a number of things that were shared on the public product roadmap with us. Here are the few I jotted down:

  • SSC will have New Customer Acquisition capabilities that controls budget based on the client inputting how much a new customer compared to a return customer is worth and optimizing according to those two customer types.
  • SSC will have a Limited by Budget flag sometime in 2020.
  • SSC video inventory is being tested in Q4 2019
  • SSC Recommendations: The prototypes are already live, SSC Recos should launch Q1 2020. (e.g., “If you increase/decrease your budget we would expect these conversions/spend/etc to change by XYZ.”)
  • SSC will directly integrate with Shopify
  • SSC will soon have Showcase Ads  (Q1 2020, and they will be prioritized over Standard Showcase Shopping Ads)
  • SSC will eventually have Local Inventory Ads
  • SSC will eventually have expanded Local Shopping experiences
  • SSC will have Local Showcase Ads
  • Also, be watching for: Local Catalog Ads
  • Also, be watching for: New Image ad formats on Google Images
  • SSC will have a Limited by Budget flag sometime in 2020.

Smart Shopping Bidding Signals - According to Google, the reason SSC is so good, is because Google can shift bids/budgets to the place that performance is the best since SSC uses more bidding signals than any Shopping campaign type Google has ever had.  This is important to understand, and suggests even more why eventually the human will be overtaken by Smart bidding (if not already in your accounts).  As one example, with Product Category: Google takes your categories into account in smart bidding by taking into account all of the other advertisers as well.  This means literally, that Google is utilizing bidding signals we don't even have access to. And that was just one example.

Smart Shopping Reporting - This has been one of my (and others') biggest frustrations with Smart Shopping and so far Google has been pretty unyielding. Today, they specifically stated this in no uncertain terms: There are no plans to report on brand or non-brand query splits (I assume this also suggests there are no plans to report on queries, but that is reading between the lines).Also, they noted there are no plans to report on channel segmentation. The oft-repeated reason by Googlers is that seeing this information only caused poorly thought-through decision-making instead of letting the machine do its work.

TRUST THE MACHINE. Is the mantra.Ironically, I also have some great quotes from the day like the following (word for word) from the Smart Shopping Product Lead who spoke to us: “The algorithm doesn’t always achieve what you want it to achieve if you don’t give it the right guardrails.”  So if I'm understanding this correctly, the machine isn't perfect and it does need some guardrails... you just don't want the people paying money into the machine to play too big a role in those guardrails... 🤔Regardless, bad news management-happy friends, so far still nothing about more reporting.

Smart Shopping Setup - Here was another super interesting point of the day.  In the past, and one of our frustrations, has been that Google has pushed Smart Shopping onto clients with little hesitation or direction. "Push this campaign live! Trust the machine!"Today, we heard a welcomed caution and awareness of the complexity of these things. The speaker even noted that Google is shifting away from their previous advice which was one smart shopping campaign for every account.  Google now suggests you break out category segmentation by product category or brand, especially as it pertains to margin as well as client objective (this works into the previous coming changes for Audience segmentation).  

Basically, since the system works off of ROAS, segment out anything that will dramatically change ROAS targets into unique campaigns.  This came with the caution:“Only segment SSC into multiple campaigns when your business goals require it.”Speaking of segmentation, they cautioned to make sure you have enough conversion data within product groups, or don't break out the product groups... suggesting the ROAS algorithm is tied directly to product groups, not just campaigns.“Avoid product groups with fewer than 20 conversions in a 15 day period whenever possible.”  Once you push things live, it should typically take only up to 5 days, if it has enough data to learn from (see previous quote). Otherwise it will need more of the traditional 14 days as mentioned before by Google.

If you go to create an SSC campaign but don’t yet see the option in your account, it is because one of these requirements has not been met:

  • Have to have at least one remarketing list with at least 100 users (the Googler stressed building big Remarketing lists to give the machine enough data)
  • Have to have conversion tracking set up.

If you don't set a ROAS target in set up, a random fact that I was not aware of, is that the Default Smart Shopping ROAS Target is 200%.  Though ideally, you would always give some target to Google!  Point the machine at something.

Smart Shopping Ad Tip: Finally, I thought this was a really interesting tip. Keep in mind that sometimes odd looking ads can appear with only product images and your account logo (the logo is taken from Google Merchant Center). Since this is the case, it was suggested by the Googler that you upload a logo into GMC that includes both your Symbol AND your Brand Name as that will ensure your brand gets into even these minimalist ads.Well, there you have it! I didn't get everything covered by today in this post, but these are the highlights and I hope they were helpful to you. If you did find them helpful, please consider sharing on Twitter or LinkedIn!

I'm just not used to street tacos this good. And that corn was AMAZING.

Smart Shopping Training by PPCKirk

Psssst, hey! Want to keep learning about Smart Shopping? Check out PPCKirk's Udemy course, jam-packed with 5 hours of exhaustive content on everything from feed tips, to SSC structure, and ad creative recommendations. It's the kind of thing people pay lots and lots of money for, but we're selling it for $69.99. It also comes with exclusive access to a private Shopping Ads Facebook group where you can discuss Shopping Ads with your classmates, and get questions answered directly by Kirk himself. Grab the course now!

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Kirk Williams
@PPCKirk - Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter or Linkedin.

In 2023, Kirk had the privilege of speaking at the TEDx Billings on one of his many passions, Stop the Scale: Redefining Business Success.

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