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How to Use Search Terms to Heat Up Google Shopping ROI (Lessons From a Toy Retailer)

Janelle Kozyra

Nevermind the fact that Google still does not allow keyword bidding for Shopping campaigns. Marketers are developing ways to hack keyword bidding — such as by creating several Shopping campaigns, each with different lists of negative keywords and priority settings.

This setup allows search traffic to flow into the correct campaign, where you have optimal bids for each type of audience. Fundamentally, this is an excellent way to gain control over which audiences see particular product ads, and how much you spend on those audiences to improve ROI.

We’ve been working with our retail customers for some time now to take this approach to the next level, and develop strategies for using search terms in ways specifically tailored to a customer’s business, vertical, and goals. In fact, that’s the top lesson we’ve learned:

There is no universal search query management strategy. Any successful approach must key off a retailer’s business goals.

I’ll give you an example.

Vermont Teddy Bear’s Marketing Challenge

Vermont Teddy Bear Company (a Sidecar customer) is hyperfocused on improving ROI and using Google Shopping as a new customer acquisition channel.

Initially, the retailer set up its Google Shopping campaigns based on the traditional approach of product type. But the marketing team found that it was over-paying for what it would consider high-intent traffic—shoppers who were using the retailer’s trademarks in their search queries.

Many marketers want granular control over the traffic that’s coming to their Google Shopping ads.

Donnie Ager, Digital Acquisition Marketing Manager for Vermont Teddy Bear Company, explained the challenge like this:

“We market across digital, TV, radio, and catalog. We know the exposure spurs consumers to Google our brands, with the intent to visit our sites directly to make a purchase. We wanted to reduce Google Shopping spend on these consumers since we were already winning them through other means, and focus on acquiring new customers.”

Search Terms Reveal Purchase Intent

It quickly became clear that search terms could play a starring role in Vermont Teddy Bear’s Google Shopping strategy. That’s because search terms reveal a lot of insight into purchase intent—which is exactly the information the retailer wanted to glean and leverage. A consumer searching “Vermont Teddy Bear Valentine’s bears” is probably much further along in the buying cycle than someone searching “giant teddy bears.”

Our action plan is detailed in Vermont Teddy Bear’s Google Shopping success story. But the nutshell is this: Based on Vermont Teddy Bear’s goals, we created separate campaigns for traffic coming from trademarked and non-trademarked search terms. Each campaign has a unique budget, bids, and cost/sale goals.

The retailer allocates just enough spend to maintain high impression share for trademarked queries. It bids products more aggressively on non-trademarked terms to outrank competition and bring new eyeballs to its product pages.

The results? The non-trademarked campaigns generated nearly twice as much revenue year over year during Vermont Teddy Bear’s busy season of Valentine’s Day. CPC shrunk by 15%. During the year-end holidays, the retailer saw a 16% reduction in cost/sale in the non-trademarked campaigns. You can view the full story and results here.

The Value of Search Terms Varies Widely

Vermont Teddy Bear’s marketing team is not alone in its desire to treat shoppers differently based on where they are in the customer journey. Many marketers want granular control over the traffic that’s coming to their Google Shopping ads, and aim to allocate spend according to the value of that traffic to their business.

For instance, some of our customers are interested in attracting bottom-of-the-funnel traffic rather than top-of-the-funnel traffic. These customers have a campaign structure that allows more spend to flow to branded, long-tail search terms, rather than generic ones.

Other customers, also focused on the bottom of the funnel, segment their search terms based on SKU numbers, part numbers, and sizes. And there are many other approaches beyond these, depending on a retailer’s business goals.

Ultimately, we’ve found that search terms can benefit nearly any retailer. It’s a matter of starting with your goals to determine how to develop and apply the strategy so that spend is always driving the best possible ROI.

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