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Kirk Williams

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

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

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

UPDATE: Smart Shopping Campaigns have officially been terminated by Google, and replaced by Performance Max campaigns. Similar, but different! To learn more about PMax, check out our articles here: What Is Performance Max in Google Ads? 

Original article (written Mid-2019): 

At ZATO, we do a lot of Shopping Ads management (everything from little brands & retailers, to household brands like Traeger Grills and Purple Mattress) which means we do a lot of new feature testing. Because of this, the number one content piece we have had requested in the past few months is a guide to Google Smart Shopping Ads. This is a post I have been intending to write for awhile now, but I keep learning new things and it keeps growing. In fact, this is turning into a series of blogposts I will write over the next few months on all things Smart Shopping... so I promise the delay has been worth it!

One Year In

Google released their Smart Shopping campaigns during their Marketing Live 2018 conference one year ago (July 10, 2018).  In the past 12 months, we have gone from rolling our eyes at them, to ignoring them, to testing them, to optimizing them, and now to implementing them into our current Shopping Ads strategy (albeit it, carefully). This post is our attempt to pass along virtually everything (we can't give *all* of our secrets away, of course ;) we know about Smart Shopping with our hands-on campaign management approach, so you know what you are getting into before implementing them in your accounts.

google smart shopping campaigns

What is Google Smart Shopping? A Definition

You've heard the term before (or at least earlier in this post), so what exactly is Smart Shopping?

Google's Definition: "Smart Shopping campaigns feature Product Shopping ads, Local Inventory ads, and display ads (including dynamic remarketing and dynamic prospecting), which are eligible to appear on the Google Search Network, Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail. Automated ad creation and placement means that your ads will appear in the ad spaces where they're relevant and that your bids will be set to maximize your conversion value."
ZATO's Definition: Smart Shopping is Google's Shopping Ad black-box (limited reporting) campaign type which automates Shopping Ads across any Google owned channel according to your target conversion objective.

With Legacy Shopping Ads (from here on out, our definition of "traditional" Shopping Ad campaigns), your Shopping Ads are eligible to show almost entirely on Search and Search Partners (as well as optional Display and YouTube variations, of course). They are Google's way of visually enhancing and ecommerce-izing their Search Results.


The primary objective of Shopping Campaigns is to show relevant product details to the purchase-minded consumer. It's a wonderful ad type in Search results, because it allows advertisers to show visual ads to people searching for specific products on Google or Bing.The Smart Shopping campaign is different, in that it shows Shopping Ads across Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail (and likely more properties to come with Shopping Actions and Discovery Ads in the future).

HEADS-UP: An important thing to note is that these are called different channels for the specific reason that people use them for unique reasons, and that works its way into their purchase intent. For instance, YouTube is phenomenal for brand building while Google Search (especially with Remarketing Lists layered on) can be exceptional at direct sales. With Smart Shopping campaigns, Google is lumping all Channels important thing to keep in mind as we move through

The reason Smart Shopping has potential, is that it is utilizing Google's targeting across an astonishing number of data-points on the back-end to find the best audience for your specific products and in the right place...but can they deliver? I'll give away some of a future post (you'll have to wait for the details), by saying...kind of. We have been testing Smart Shopping for almost a year now and and we have seen it work inexplicably well, and inexplicably terrible. We have also tested a number of ways to help the system.

HEADS-UP: A crucial thing to keep in mind with Smart Shopping is that regardless of how well it works, it is almost pure automation. This means that, like anything, a machine can only do as well as the data you give it. If you feed it garbage, that's what you'll get in return. This means it's even more important to make sure that your product data in your feed is optimized. It also means that there are potential ways to implement Smart Shopping in your account without turning it loose on every product. At ZATO, we believe there are ways to feed Google better data based upon your account needs...we'll share some ways to do this in future posts!

Google introduced this campaign type as the future of Shopping Ads, and they apparently believe their own mantra because they are pushing this HARD. If you have anything to do with Ecommerce digital ad strategy, you have likely been pitched this from your Google rep, a Google rep, or someone Google at some point.But how should you use Smart Shopping? That is what we covered in our next segment, found here: Establish Your Strategy - Part 2: The ZATO Guide to Google Smart Shopping CampaignsLike this series? Then sign up for our newsletter and get the next posts as soon as they are published.

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
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, and Linkedin, or follow his marketing song parodies on TikTok.

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