101 on Google Shopping in Preparation for the Retail Season

by Dominic Bowers (CM at Conversion Science) Oct 05th, 2017

We’ve come a long way since Craig Neville Manning introduced his model for the Google Product Search in 2002.  In 2012 this GPS evolved into the Google Shopping Arena.  There was a caveat; in the form of the Pay-to-Play model.  Nonetheless, Google Shopping has become quite the platform for PPC Marketers, Clients and Users alike.   Conversion Science and similar digital agencies immediately understood the need to harness this potential and the rest, as they say, is history.

It is true that Search (Pay-Per-Click Ads) is largely text based.   It was early in the game that Google saw the need to bridge the gap with dynamic and visual advertising, to give the user “more ways to find ideas and inspiration as you shop and engage with your favourite brands” (TechCrunch retrieved Oct 1st 2012).

As with any digital introduction, our Conversion Scientists had to learn the basics quickly.   In 2017 side ads were banished, extended ads introduced and Shopping took precedence on the SERP.  Google Shopping had officially landed in South Africa.

After all, everyone knows that Google Shopping is an indispensable part of the PPC portfolio.   It speaks to the audience on all important levels; Price, comparison, visual interpretation and let’s face it, it just looks great.

It is October now.  The retail season is just around the door.   So, let’s get to grips with the most fundamental aspect of GS (the Merchant Centre) and if you are managing your campaign in-house, you could certainly benefit from these tips.


The Merchant Centre is where magic happens in Google Shopping. This is where your product data feeds live, eat, sleep and sell.

A product data feed is a list of all products that your business sells; the inventory so to speak. This is a list in a special format required by Google with attributes that describe your products. Some key attributes of your product data feed list include:

  • ID – A unique ID is required to identify your product.
  • Title – i.e. The product name; this will be the text that is shown when your ad is served.
  • Description – This text describes your product and will be shown when your ad is served.
  • Product category – Here you can choose from Google’s predefined categories.
  • Product type – Categorize what type of product this is.
  • Item URL
  • Availability status – In stock or not
  • Price


It is crucial to organise and arrange your products in the feed. Google Shopping becomes a far easier tool to manage when working in tandem with a systematic product feed. It is advisable to have processes in place to update product info, availability, and pricing. And, should the need arise, to add or withdraw products with relative ease

Master Tip:  It is of the utmost importance that the feed is always updated, because if your data feed doesn’t match your website, Google will not show your product ads.

Some companies update their feeds manually by using Google spreadsheets, some use third-party services, and some use software developed to this end. Using a Google spreadsheet certainly gives one the most control, yet it is not always feasible to manage very large inventories in the latter space.

An organised data feed is a huge factor in the success of your Shopping Campaigns.

A few important things to keep in mind:

Shopping campaigns don’t use keywords to determine relevancy, so make sure your product titles and descriptions are keyword-rich but also appealing to the browser who is viewing your ad; Google uses this data to see if your products are relevant to the search query.

More Master Tips:

  • With Shopping Campaigns, you can add negative keywords to cut unwanted traffic, but be careful in doing so; you don’t want to eliminate too much of your traffic.
  • Make sure prices are 100% accurate– Google will not show your products if this information is slightly out of kilter. Ask yourself whether your prices are net of Vat or General Sales Tax
  • If you are advertising to multiple countries, you’ll need a product data feed per country. Shopping Campaigns in AdWords are country-specific, so you’ll have to set up a new campaign per sales per region.
  • Product images can make or break your ads – make sure your images are high-quality. No edited or watermarked product images – the images should be of only the product that you are selling. “Family-friendly” images are best and least likely to get suspended.
  • Make sure all landing page URLs go to live pages and not 404s/dead pages – Google will not show your products with dead links.

Yes, we have come a long way since the now redundant product search.  There is still much to learn with a view to optimising Google Shopping but that is what Conversion Science is about.   Learning and honed Search Skills.   There is little to beat the excitement of seeing one’s product, in pride of place at the top of the SERP.  And as we prepare for the retail season, we cannot think of a more festive way to project our clients to this spot!