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Keeping Up With Google: What Are Merchant Card Ads?

Google is testing out new automation features on Google Shopping. The latest experiment is Merchant Card Ads, an automated mobile ad format that showcases a single product listing from a retailer’s feed as a standalone ad on the SERP. This ad format typically replaces a retailer’s paid search ad and sits underneath the shopping carousel.

In this installment of Keeping Up With Google, we break down what Merchant Card Ads are, and how they might forecast a significant shift for the platform.

Release Date:

Brands started noticing Merchant Card Ads during the week of Nov. 8, 2021. As is often the case when testing new ad formats, Google rolled out the update to a small selection of large, enterprise retailers. If the new automated ad format proves effective, Merchant Card Ads may become more widely available.

What It Does:

Merchant Card Ad Merchant Card Ads appear automatically for trademark keyword searches on the mobile SERP. Although Google shares no data on the performance of these specific ads, it claims to only show them when they believe the ad will improve performance. Likely, Google is using audience demographic data and past search behavior to tailor results to shoppers.

The ads use the product image and description from retailers’ product feeds, and the ads appear directly beneath the shopping carousel. For example, a trademark keyword search for “Adidas” triggered the following Merchant Card Ad, which suggests a specific style and size personalized to the shopper.

Which Channels:

Merchant Card Ads currently only appear on the mobile SERP in English and for retailers targeting U.S. shoppers. 

What It Means for Your Business: 

With these updates, Google is moving toward a set-and-forget approach to its advertising platform to make search ads accessible to a wider range of retailers.

Although this automated format could improve performance for retailers, the lack of data on performance limits retailers’ ability to learn from performance and apply those learnings to other campaigns, or even other ad platforms. For example, if there is a certain product that is performing particularly well for a subset of the retailer’s audience, it’s not possible to glean that from Google’s reporting or retarget that audience on other marketing channels.

The position of the ads also could have a large impact on paid search strategies. Many retailers invest heavily in trademark keywords like “Adidas” or “Kitchenaid” to capture shoppers who are ready to purchase. If Merchant Card Ads become more widely available, they could effectively replace some or many paid search ads that target trademark keywords. How retailers manage their paid search strategy and allocate budget would shift dramatically.

It’s too early to say if Merchant Card Ads will become a permanent fixture for Google Shopping, but the ad format demonstrates Google’s heightened focus on seamless automation.

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