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Google Shopping: Is It Good to Be The ‘Best?’

It’s not just Olympic athletes; everyone wants to be the best, right? The hours I spent at the driving range last weekend certainly attest to that … And it’s no different for e-commerce marketers. I haven’t met one that didn’t want more orders, more revenue, and more profits.

That’s why marketers immediately perked up when Google made ranked Shopping ads a permanent fixture back in March, after testing them since 2014. Professionals who instinctively seek the top in all of their efforts were curious about how these ads would perform and the impact they would have on campaigns.

Well, now that the dust has settled a bit, we thought it was time to take a look at ranked Shopping ads and determine whether it was good to be “the best.”

Pulling Rank

If this is all brand new to you, let’s back up a few steps and review exactly what a ranked Google Shopping ad is.

For product searches that include modifiers such as “top” and “best” — i.e., “best men’s golf shoe” — Google now returns Shopping ads with the results ranked based on favorable reviews the products have.

This is a series of ranked Shopping ads for an example search:

Ranked Google Shopping ad example

Google displays Shopping ads as it normally would for these queries, but the products returned are numbered 1-5. You’ll also notice every product features a rating on the 5-star system.

In a series of tweets from March, Google laid out the guidelines for ranked Shopping ads: The top products are selected based on user rankings, and then the rank is determined by the same factors as any Shopping ad auction (bid, device type, etc.).

With such a clear hierarchy right at the top of shoppers’ SERPs, it’s natural to want to fight for that #1 spot.

But how can you compete for it? And, more importantly, is going for the gold actually worth it?

A Look at the Stats

Data drives decision-making for us at Sidecar. There’s been plenty of action on Google Shopping during the months since ranked Shopping ads were permanently rolled out, so we decided to run a test.   

We pulled the search query reports for eight Sidecar customers’ Shopping campaigns, looking at the time frame of mid-March (when Google made the change permanent) through today. We examined all the searches with the words “best” and “top” in them.

Next, we broke out the performance metrics of those searches (CPC, click-through rate, conversion rate, AOV, and cost/sale), and compared them to the performance metrics of searches that did not contain “best” or “top.”

Here’s what we uncovered:

Ranked Google Shopping ads stats

Shopping ads that surfaced for searches including “best” or “top” (ranked Shopping ads) had lower CPCs and higher click-through rates. But these did not convert nearly as well as non-ranked Shopping ads. And overall, cost/sale was much higher for the ranked ads.

Not that surprising when you think about it. Shoppers who are explicitly searching for “the best” product are probably early in the research stages of their purchase journeys. So you would expect that these ads would follow suit in performance (plenty of clicks, but fewer conversions).

And the Winner Is …

So how do the judges score Shopping ads? Like Olympic gymnastics, it’s subjective.

First, I recommend looking at the data for your business. Though we’ve pulled this information for several customers and tracked performance across hundreds of millions of impressions, your mileage may vary.

But our results strongly suggest that these ads are great for inexpensively capturing the attention of shoppers in the research phase. Since roughly 35% of online shoppers use Google as a starting point for a product search, there’s a whole lot of opportunity here.

Whether or not this is appealing is up to you, but if it does sound good and you want in on ranked Shopping ads, here’s a game plan: 

✓ Make the cut. The CPC for these ranked Shopping ads is probably lower because there’s less competition for real estate, since not every retailer advertising on Google Shopping is eligible for them. In order to show for ranked Shopping ads, you must already participate in Google’s Product Rating program and include at least 50 product reviews in your Merchant Center feed.

Make sure you qualify and learn additional Google Shopping Product Rating requirements here.

✓ Compensate for lower conversions by capitalizing on enhanced exposure. For now, these ranked Shopping ads do not lead to sales at the same rates as standard Google Shopping ads. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because clicks for ranked Shopping ads are more frequent and less expensive, they can be a great way to efficiently drive users to your site.

Even if shoppers don’t buy anything from that click, you can still move them closer to a purchase with additional product recommendations and reviews on your site — plus cookie and remarket to them as they continue their research after they leave. Just make sure your site is equipped for remarketing — i.e., use RLSAs or a retargeting service, and ensure your landing pages provide opportunities for shoppers to explore your brand and catalog.

✓ Consider bidding differently on these searches. Searches that contain “best” or “top” produce different results and perform differently than those that do not contain these words. The bids you place in Google’s auction should reflect that. Say you want to raise bids for incoming queries containing “best” or “top.”

You can pull this off by creating a new Shopping campaign for the traffic that leads to ranked Shopping ads. You would apply a combination of negative keywords and campaign priority settings to this new campaign to accomplish this. Read more about the steps involved here.

The bids you assign to this campaign will then more accurately reflect the value of ranked Shopping ads to your business’s unique goals.

While being “the best” — i.e., having the #1 product for a given search — won’t on its own make or break your Google Shopping performance, the steps above will help get you there.

And if you are looking for more ideas to take your campaign performance to new heights, check out our e-commerce resources page for guides and e-books that will vault you to Google Shopping gold.

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