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Should You Add Google Search Partners to Shopping Campaigns?

Dave Nossavage

Google Shopping success means constantly innovating, revising, and analyzing to improve performance. But there’s one option that is scrutinized far less often than other metrics: adding Google search partners to your Shopping campaign.

No gray areas here; you’re either in or you’re out, and many marketers decide one way or the other and rarely look back.

But then, in typical Google style, the search engine goes and makes a big update that causes e-commerce pros to rethink: Last month, it added Shopping ads to image search results. The catch? Only ads from campaigns that had opted into search partners are eligible to appear.

All of a sudden, whether or not to add search partners got a whole lot more interesting. And we’ve got you covered with a look at the opportunity and the right way pursue it.

 

You Might Not Know It, But…

By now, most marketers are probably familiar with search partners, a collection of Google-owned properties (YouTube, etc.), as well as a whole slew of 3rd-party sites where ads can appear.

Historically, ads on these sites did not perform as well as ads running on Google’s primary SERP at Google.com, leading plenty of e-commerce marketers to opt out and move on.

All of a sudden, whether or not to add search partners got a whole lot more interesting.

But there’s an interesting caveat that even the most seasoned veteran might not know about: lower click-through rate (CTR) on search partner sites will not impact your quality score on Google.com.

That means marketers can breathe a deep sigh of relief about the performance of search partners ads relative to those on Google.com — and more fairly assess the potential benefits of the network.

By The Numbers

One of our Google Shopping customers, who opted out of search partners after briefly using it nearly a year ago, decided to take a second look after Google’s announcement.

We love tests here at Sidecar, and naturally jumped at the chance to conduct one over a 30-day period. We uncovered some fascinating insights.

First off, the number of overall impressions in search partners was 37% higher than those on Google.com. And search impression share (SIS) for ads on search partners was 54% higher than those on Google.com over the same 30 day period, likely because not every competitor had opted into the search partners network.

Search partners impressions are clearly growing year-over-year, as Google adds new members and ad formats, such as Shopping ads on image results.

As expected, ads in search partners lagged in other key metrics. CTR was nearly 90% lower than on Google.com, and revenue was down 89% compared to ads on Google.com over the same time period. BUT the CPC for Shopping ads on search partners was 52% lower than those on Google.com, and, due to their lower CTR, they cost 93% less than ads on Google.com.

When we compared the results of our test to historical data from the customer’s earlier foray into search partners, we found that impressions from search partners were up a whopping 209% year-over-year, while CPC was down 36%. Revenue was also up 134% over last year.

The verdict? Though they don’t perform as well as Shopping ads on Google.com., search partner ads provided massive reach for a low overall cost. And impressions are clearly growing year-over-year, as Google adds new partners and ad formats, such as Shopping ads on image results.

To Opt (In), or Not?

If you’re looking to build brand awareness by spending a little budget to reach a lot more eyeballs, consider search partners.

Retailers in competitive markets might also want to use these sites to increase impression share and surface Shopping ads in image results, which feature larger product pictures (on desktop) and fewer advertisers.

Whatever you decide, here’s how to dip a toe into the waters, while preserving all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve poured into optimizing your Google Shopping campaigns:

  • Keep ‘em separated. Create a duplicate campaign, and opt the new one into search partners by selecting the option in settings. When it’s time to assess performance, keeping your campaigns separated will provide a cleaner view of how ads are faring.
  • Get your priorities in order. Set the priority for your search partner campaign to “Low” or “Medium” and set your other campaign to “High.” Giving your main campaign a higher priority ensures that all your Google.com search traffic goes to it, while all of the search partners traffic goes to the new campaign.
  • Do your bidding. In our test, CPC for ads in search partners was roughly 50% less than standard Google Shopping ads. Reducing all your bids by 50% to 60% in your search partners campaign is a good foundation. From there, adjust bids for your new campaign based on performance — you may find some products perform better in search partners.

It’s nice to dream that Google might one day break out the partner sites where Shopping ads appear (i.e. YouTube, images, 3rd-parties), allowing marketers to evaluate the performance of various properties — and bid appropriately on each.

In the meantime, Shopping ads on search partners are growing, and worth checking out for marketers looking to build brand awareness and pick up sales in competitive verticals.

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