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4 Google Shopping Highlights from IRCE 2016

Steve Tutelman

Bring together thousands of e-commerce pros from all over the world, and you can’t help but uncover some fascinating industry insights. And that’s exactly what went down at this year’s IRCE in Chicago.

Several folks from the Sidecar team joined me out there, and we had the chance to speak with hundreds of attendees about a topic that’s been in the spotlight a lot lately: Google Shopping.

At our booth, breakfast lounge, and during a Google Shopping Live event, I shared some Sidecar data with marketers using Google Shopping, and also learned about the challenges faced by newcomers to the channel and vets alike.

For those who skipped the Google Shopping Live event (it’s okay, we forgive you…) or who couldn’t make it to IRCE altogether, here’s what you missed:

1. Dropping right-hand text ads from the desktop SERP had a few unexpected effects on Google Shopping KPIs.

It’s been more than four months since Google removed text ads from the right column of its desktop SERP, but marketers are still hungry for data on how the move has impacted campaigns. I was happy to oblige, and kicked off Google Shopping Live with a look at some of our research.

Most in attendance speculated that CPC for desktop Google Shopping ads would rise — or had observed the phenomenon firsthand in their own campaigns. Some also suggested that conversion rates from Google Shopping ads would grow, too.

We found that the change affected desktop click volumes — and all of the related metrics — more than conversions, which increased by a mere .2%. In Google Shopping, clicks on desktop rose 5.1%, desktop CTR was up 5.3%, and average CPC climbed 11.6%.

Makes sense, since Google didn’t increase inventory, but rather made the existing ads more prominent (and more clickable).

2. …But not for every search query.

Like most things in Google Shopping, outcomes from Google’s change to the desktop SERP varied depending on incoming search queries.

Desktop CPC for generic queries increased in a big way. Attendees were surprised to learn that generic searches saw their CPCs increase by 15%, while CPC for long tail searches increased by less than 1%. Meanwhile, CPC for branded queries actually decreased by 2.4%.

The takeaway? The right rail change is affecting all retailers’ Google Shopping campaigns, but the effects differ based on incoming query type.

That means the time is now to get smarter about managing search queries based on their value for your business, instead of relying on negative keywords to only suppress some traffic.

3. Marketers intuitively understand how they should manage Google Shopping queries (even if they aren’t doing it yet).

I asked our Google Shopping Live audience a hypothetical question: “How would you structure Google Shopping campaigns and set bids if you had just one product and 10 queries, whose likelihood of conversion ranged from very high to very low.”

Once your eyes are open to this more sophisticated way of managing search queries, it’s easy to imagine how technology can scale it.

The responses were encouraging …

The answer is pretty clear: you’d want to create 10 different campaigns, one for each query, and then assign bids to those campaigns based on query strength. Okay, but how can you adapt that approach to an actual retail catalog, which contains way more than a single item, and way more than 10 queries?

Fortunately, once your eyes are open to this more sophisticated way of managing search queries, it’s easy to imagine how technology can scale it, by analyzing thousands of products and millions of unique queries to similarly segment campaigns across a larger catalog.

4. The mobile opportunity is still wide open.

We held our last Google Shopping Live event nearly four months ago, at eTail West in Palm Springs, CA. Way back then, I surveyed the crowd and found not a single e-commerce marketer who was setting positive mobile bid adjustments in his or her campaigns.

Fast forward to today, and little has changed. I heard of mobile bid adjustments that ranged from -100% to -10%, but no one was talking about mobile bid increases.

On the surface, this makes sense, since mobile traffic converts at a lower rate than desktop traffic.

But as mobile traffic continues to grow, marketers will have to get more strategic about how they pursue this traffic and turn it into drive sales. We showed the audience what is possible for retailers who adopt a device-specific approach, and split mobile traffic into its own campaign.

The potential gains from segmenting mobile traffic into its own campaign are undeniably compelling, and feedback from IRCE showed us that mobile in Google Shopping remains a greenfield. When Google finally adds tablet bidding controls to AdWords (another long-anticipated feature), marketers will have the opportunity to get even more granular here.

Of course, there is no substitute for actually attending an event like IRCE or Google Shopping Live, and absorbing all of the buzz in person. But this roundup will hopefully help to fill in some gaps around one of the hottest topics in e-commerce today.

And for a deep dive into an area of Google Shopping that can be extremely vexing for e-commerce marketers, check out our newest e-book: 10 Moves to Master Seasonality on Google Shopping


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