The Concerning Lack of Data Transparency in Smart Shopping – Part 5: The ZATO Guide to Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

This is the next segment in our series on Google Smart Shopping Campaigns (SSC). You can read the first 4 posts in this series here:

What Is Smart Shopping? – Part 1: The ZATO Guide to Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

Establish Your Strategy – Part 2: The ZATO Guide to Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

Should You Switch From Standard Shopping Ads to Google Smart Shopping? – Part 3: The ZATO Guide to Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

How to Exclude Placements in Google Smart Shopping Campaigns – Part 4: The ZATO Guide to Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

 

In the past year, I have personally had multiple conversations with a variety of representatives from Google through public events, private emails, phone conversations, client meetings, etc. on one specific aspect of Google Smart Shopping Campaigns: the concerning lack of data reported back to the advertiser. If you recall from previous posts, Smart Shopping campaigns do not show reporting to the advertiser on such things as audience details, search term details, placement details, and other missing elements.

“What data would you like to see in Smart Shopping?” I was asked after one inquiry (in a Brands sit-down workshop at Google Marketing Live 2019).

“Whatever data we currently see in Standard Shopping!” was my reply!

The response back from Google has been united in its content: “help us understand why you want to see this data if our machines are doing all of the work?” To be fair, I have always felt a genuine curiosity from Alphabet’s number one revenue driving company employees along this line of questioning, but the questions have persisted.

Here then, is my attempt to answer this question as both an educational experience for you, and a response to Google that I hope is shared (or at least parroted) to Google reps and contacts the world round.

The more we all communicate this to Google, the more I believe we will be heard and change will take place!

 

google smart shopping cross network channel

 

Here are 4 reasons why we need more data transparency in Google Smart Shopping Campaigns:

(1) It’s the client’s data

I include this as the first point, because I truly believe it is the ultimate trump card in this discussion. In my opinion, points 2-4 below are unnecessary because of point #1.

Here is the irony, in Google’s TOS for 3rd parties such as agencies, they require whoever pays for the data in the account to retain access to that account. In other words, Google with Smart Shopping Campaigns isn’t abiding by the requirements it places on 3rd Party Vendors in giving full access to the data paid for by the advertiser (if you’re concerned for Google, don’t worry, I’m sure one of their lawyers could figure a way out of my accusation…).

The simple response I have to the question “why do your advertisers need to see what search terms they are bidding on?” is: because they are paying for it. It’s their data.

So why should Smart Shopping Campaigns include, at least the reporting seen in Standard Shopping Campaigns…even if we can’t do anything with that data? Because, they paid for it. Period.

 

google ads policy for 3rd party agencies

 

(2) It can be used as a feedback mechanism for the machine

The second reason I believe we should have access to the data housed within Google Smart Shopping Campaigns, is that we actually could become a valuable feedback mechanism for assisting the machines.

When I was at the Google Shopping Ads lab in LA a few months back, I heard numerous times in reference to Smart Shopping something like: “Machines do great as long as they have guidance.”

We would agree entirely, but we would disagree that only Google engineers can program successful guidance systems into SSC. I believe that ongoing feedback for any system by the people actively using it is essential. This is why, yes, it would make sense to not simple have data visible, but data that can be acted on in the form of (easy-implementation, I realize you can currently ask your rep to add negatives at a campaign level) negative keywords, audience adjustments, placement insights and simple exclusions, etc.

The reality is that the advertisers actively in the account have just as much ability to guide the system as the algorithm, and the system does need more guidance. My hope is we’ll continue to get additional levers to pull as time goes on in SSC!

 

(3) We can use it to assist other PPC channels (Google wins here)

The third reason why I believe we need expanded data transparency in Smart Shopping Campaigns is that we can utilize that information to positively impact other channels.

As an example, Shopping Ads do have a powerful ability to identify successful search terms that can be turned into keywords in Search Ads side of things…but we can’t do that currently because we can’t see search terms. We have taken over accounts before in which the majority of traffic has been run on Smart Shopping Campaigns for months and because of that we had no insight into how to positively use that mountain of spend investment since we had no data we could use.

On the flip side, even the best Shopping campaigns with smart bidding can get into low quality searches and these can help guide account level negative keywords, or even assist in editing the feed titles and descriptions to become more accurate to our target. Without search terms, we’re unable to see or make those decisions.

These are just two examples of many in which expanded data in Smart Shopping Campaigns can be used to improve a Google Ads account.

 

(4) We can use it to assist broader marketing efforts

The final point here, is also an important one coming from a broader business perspective. That is, Google Shopping is an increasingly important channel in digital marketing. I remember starting years ago with Shopping Ads tacked on in our accounts as the forgotten mouse of a cousin at family reunions, “whoops, oh wait we forget to get Billy in here for that photo… someone find him and let’s reshoot!”

This is absolutely no longer the case, as Shopping Ads continues to grow in market dominance in Google Ads spend for Ecommerce accounts. Google Shopping is its own Channel, and deserves a place at the full-on business growth strategy and discussion table. But how are you going to have that discussion when you just don’t get many insights, or can’t make crucial adjustments to impact core aspects of a marketing strategy?

Let me tell you, it’s not fun being asked by a CEO when SSC suddenly takes a downturn “what happened?” and being able to shrug our shoulders and say, “we just can’t know because we don’t have any insight into any targeting whatsoever.”

On the flip side, we’re also unable to mine data from a core, high volume channel like Shopping (if it’s all SSC at least) to identify certain insights such as which non-remarketing audiences are driving traffic and should we invest more in those or move more in those directions. Data is necessary for good business decisions. People use data in many ways, but the reality is that it can only be used if it’s there.

 

All that to say, hopefully as this blog post matures, we will see an increased desire in Google to give more data within Smart Shopping Campaigns rather than withhold it. Hopefully I’ve demonstrated above why the “you can’t use it, so why do you need it?” question falls flat.

What about you? What are ways you would like to use the Smart Shopping data if you have it?

Let’s connect on LinkedIn or Twitter and keep up the conversation!