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Drive Profitable Growth at Scale with Google Shopping Campaigns




Paul: Hello and thank you, everyone, for joining us, SEMrush family and friends, and search marketers around the world. Today, I've got the great pleasure of hosting this webinar with Duane and Andrew. We're going to be talking about driving profitable growth and scale for Google shopping campaigns. I would introduce the two guys, but they can do a much better job of doing it themselves.

Duane: My name is Duane Brown. I have a small ad agency up here in Canada, the Great White North, as some people refer to it. 80% of our business is e-commerce. We have a few tech and SaaS clients here and there. Our clients are in America, Canada, we've got a big UK client that sells like dirt bikes and things of that nature.

Andrew: I've been in search since 2010 and my latest venture is SavvyRevenue, which is a Google Ad-specific agency that solely focuses on the e-commerce market. Again, all we do is really feed optimization in Google shopping with a tad bit of search blended in there. 

Paul: Duane, I believe you've got a great presentation for us. I'll let you take the lead.

Duane: If we're going to talk about shopping, we could talk about a million things, there's tons of features, there's tons of toys, there's tons of betas going on right now. 

I thought we'd do this webinar and really just hone in on custom labels. Now I don't know necessarily how the other two presenters with me feel about custom labels, I think they're very positive about it.

I've often met a lot of people who do Shopping and just ignore custom labels like they're not an important thing. I think they are the hidden weapon that make your campaigns just a lot stronger and when understand what's going on. And we're going to talk about that today.

We're going to talk about what custom labels are because I want to make sure we're all on the same page. Then we're going to talk about why you want to use it. And then we're going to go through examples of how we use it. These aren't necessarily examples we do 100% of the time for the clients. 

Every client we have is totally unique when it comes to shopping. But these will give you some really good ideas of how you might use custom labels, just to make organization, optimization, reporting and bidding a lot stronger in your shopping campaigns.

What Are Custom Labels in Google Shopping Campaigns?

What are custom labels? Custom labels are attributes you can put in your shopping feed. You can have a custom label from four down to zero. 

When you're in your shopping campaigns and you've gone down past the ad group level, you have a lot of options on how you want to break out your campaigns. If you're a multi-brand seller, you know, we've got a toy client that sells 40 different toy brands, you might want to break out things by brand. 

You've got ID; that's the ID for your SKU. You've got your condition; whether it's new or used. You also have product type. You may break up your things by different types of product, whether it's a clothes company. Right? If you're a toy company, like our client, you might have stuffed animals versus racing cars versus other product types. Obviously, you've got channels and channel exclusivity.

Then the last item, that you may or may not see sometimes or you may miss, is called custom labels. And so when you choose that, you get to pick what your custom label is.

We onboard a lot of our clients, we find, at least for us, and Andrew's experience may vary, and Paul's experience may vary as well, the interesting here what they think about this, is we find that 90% of our clients are just not using custom labels.

If I want to be able to separate and organize my stuff in the feed, it's not really easy, and so you just feel like you're wading through lots of trash and garbage to get to what you want, which is not good.

I think that's really important to understand that if your feed is really disorganized, that means you're missing on 80% of the work. We often believe that 80% of the work of your shopping campaigns is in your shopping feed. 

It's not in your campaign organization. It's not in your campaign structure. Those are important. Those are going to help you figure out what you need to do. But if you're going to put any work in your shopping campaigns, it's going to be in your feed. That means you need to use custom labels because they are the cat's pajamas and, honestly, they make life 100% easier.

Why You Should Use Custom Labels

Why do you want to use custom labels? You can use custom labels outside of organization. You can use it for reporting. You can use it for monitoring your bids. You can use it for bidding. 

For example, it's winter up here in Montreal, and pretty much most of Canada, we have winter now, so that means like winter coats are selling really quickly. That means I want to know which of my winter coats are selling. Sometimes some years you sell a lot of red winter coats, a lot of black winter coats. Using custom labels will help you figure out which of those colors you're selling and which you're not so you can push your bids.

When you use custom labels, you could think of color, gender, best-seller, seasonal stuff. When it comes to a shoulder season, where it's the end of one season and the start of another season, you might want to adjust your bids depending on how hard you want to push those items in the lead up to a new season or as you end one season.

There's lots of ways you can use custom labels to organize your stuff. Here are some examples that we've done for clients and other things we found really popular. We have gender, obviously. We've got male, female, and kids. Some people say, "But, Duane, I can use the gender attribute in your shopping feed”, which I think is really great, but the problem with the gender feed standard that you have in the shopping feed is that it doesn't let you break out kids stuff. 

If you sell male stuff and female, or adult males and adult female stuff, and you also sell kids stuff, like our client who has a winter coat does, it's not easy for you to say that these are the kids’ stuff in your shopping feed. But by using custom labels, you can say these are the male stuff, these are the women's stuff, these are the kids’ stuff. Now you can break up your campaigns at an ad group level, or ad a campaign level and say, "These are all the kids’ stuff. Put them in this campaign. And put this in this ad group over here."

We've got a client who sells bamboo PJs, which is really cool. Using custom labels to label this stuff that is bamboo versus not bamboo...we want to break up the bamboo stuff because the bamboo stuff is a higher price point than the organic cotton or things that are not bamboo.

Then, depending on what you sell, you may have items that are high margin or low margin, you might want to label those. You might have things that are exclusive. We label exclusive stuff because we want to push the bids harder on those items. 

I've not used the size attribute, but you could eventually say that "I want to label everything by the size of the shoe, or the size of the product," because maybe you find out you sell lots of smalls and extra small versus maybe large or medium stuff.

You could do a “new product push” custom label, which basically means anytime you get a new product in for that client it goes into that label, and so you can push a little bit harder when it's new.

Obviously, weight is very similar to shoe size. If you sell things that are like 100 pounds and 25 pounds and you want to be able to break that out a little bit to see what sells, you could do weight as well. 

We talked about color earlier, but the other one that I really like is price point. Depending on what you sell, you may have lots of products that span $25 all the way to $1,000. Custom labels to break up the price points for all your items is really great because you usually have a higher margin on more expensive items, depending on what you sell. 

That means you can be more aggressive with your bids on higher price stuff. And if you don't have your items broken out by price, you're not going to know which items you can easily push the price on based on the price point.

These are all the different ways you can use custom labels. You've never used all these examples, obviously, with every client because you only have options zero to four custom labels, but this will get you thinking about what you can do when it comes to custom labels and how you want to organize stuff.

Two examples of how you might use the gender attribute in your custom label is, you might have, the first product level would be gender. You might break it down by price point after that because you want to separate, let's say, your men's, and your women's, and your kids stuff because you know you sell more kids stuff and women's stuff. Within each of those, you want to break it down by price because you know you've got a wide spectrum of prices and you want to be able to push the price for the right items and push the right bids for the right items.

And then you might want to do SKU ID. If you don't sell a lot of items in a certain ad group or certain product group, you might not do SKU IDs. But if you've got like 100 items in a certain price point, you're definitely going to want to do SKU IDs so you can figure out which of those SKUs are actually selling.

Then, if you go to example number two, the difference with that one is you still have gender at the top but, then you might break out material because you might sell items that are bamboo, and organic cotton, and some might be synthetic leather. From there, you might want to break down price point and SKU ID because, obviously, if you got different materials items they're going to have different price points, which means your bids are going to be really different.

If you're, let's say, Amazon, or a brand that sells lots of other brands within your parent company, you might want to break out things by in-house brand so you can separate what sells. Then you've got product category, price point, and SKU ID because you want to know how much money you're going to make if you're Amazon. 

The other example, obviously, is clearance. You've got clearance stuff, material, price point, and then SKU ID because you want to obviously make sure you're selling the right items at the right price point.

That's kind of it in a nutshell. For most clients, we say sales, price point, or color, or exclusivity, or sale are kind of the three that we use as standard for every client. Unless the client, like a jacket client, has like pretty much one price point or two price points, we wouldn't use the price point custom label. But if you've got a variety of prices, we'll use the price point. 

The custom label can be anything you want as long as it’s words that you can understand and figure out what they are you can make it into a custom label. The only thing limiting you is your imagination because it's like a blank canvas of being able to customize, organize, and just make your shopping feed as sexy as it can be.

Applying Custom Labels to Shopping Feeds

Paul: That was great, Duane. Thanks for sharing that. I think what we need to address here is some other people are saying, "Is this something to do in a feed?" I mean, how do they apply those custom feeds? Joe's asked, "Is there a full list of custom label attributes?"

Andrew: I think the greatest misunderstanding comes from how do you actually add that to the feed. Because the standard connection into the merchant center is that you just have your standard feed from your e-commerce store and you send it directly to the merchant center... and it doesn't really let you do anything specific to the feed.

What we do, and what Duane does, and what many other people do is that they use a tool or a feed optimization tool. It's basically where you send your feed into and then you make the changes you want. You can create some rules. For instance, say, okay, if product category equals X, then apply this in the feed for the custom label, and then from there, you send it over to the merchant center. 

That way every single time you run it gets updated with the extra fields or the extra data or the other optimization efforts that you want to apply to the feed. And that's where the confusion often happens because that's one of the best ways to add these extra values if you can't get it done directly in your e-commerce store in the feed.

Duane: Yeah. I mean, we use Feedonomics for all our shopping clients, but one. We use Feedonomics, there's FeedArmy. There's tons of tools out there where you can, as Andrew said, pulling your feed from Shopify or Magenta, wherever it sits, organize it, transfer it, add your custom labels, then push it to your merchant center.

Optimizing Product Descriptions and Titles

Paul: Now, on the topic of feed optimization, one of the things that I think that a lot of people don't realize is that within your product feed, you can have a description up to 5,000 characters. Now obviously, we don't have an Amazon type feed, which a lot of them look pretty bad, is there anything that you guys can share as far as optimizing the description of the title? 

Duane: The way I viewed it, especially in the last six months, and especially at Google, they're trying to push machine learning or AI, whatever you want to call it, and so that's meant Google's put a huge emphasis in trying to study and read the product images and what's in the product image. 

For example, if you sell a black dress, but your product title doesn't say black dress, it just says dress or something like that, Google, all things being equal, will pick up that is a black dress and show the black dress, return someone's search for black dress.

Even with that said, I would still say optimize your product title as much as you can, optimize your product description as well. Try to make it like a nicely formatted product description so it's easy to read and understand. Don't just dump huge amounts of paragraphs in there because, if you need to go and change something in the product description later, it becomes a lot more difficult.

You also want to kind of be careful what you have in your product description. For our toy clients, they sell racing car blocks. This racing car block is kind of like Lego when we were all kids. You can take the blocks and you can make like a police car, and a race car, and a motorcycle. “Motorcycle” keyword is in the product description. We will show for these motorcycle brands even though we sell a kid's toy that you can just use to make a toy motorcycle. 

Try to think of ways that Google can misunderstand that product description. And then, put as many negative keywords as you can in your regular shopping campaign so you don't waste money on irrelevant searches. Andrew, have you got anything on that at all?

Andrew: In fact, we actually completely discard the description. We haven't seen any real success with spending a lot of time on optimizing the description. Because if it's a keyword we want to have in the description, usually we'll have it already in the title or work it into the title. 

Organizing Shopping Campaigns with Large Product Catalogs

Duane: JP has asked, "How do you best use product labels to help in search query targeting for custom product business. We own a multiple shop selling custom products, custom wine glasses, et cetera. We're very large 100k plus catalogs. Can you provide some insights into the way custom product businesses can differ from brand products retailers and how labels can structure campaigns and ad groups and custom products?" 

I think what they're asking is how can we use them to optimize the campaigns pretty much, which is what the labels are all about, essentially, is to help you better structure your campaigns and target the correct keywords and control those negative keywords around those specific products.

Andrew: There's nothing better than a good question with 100k custom personalized product store. They can all have different personalization or customizations to them. All the products are generic so there isn't like brands or anything else of the sort. 

With that being the case, then I assume we have like 100 or 500 potential variations per product. That becomes an issue when you send all those product variations into Google Shopping because, all of a sudden, you're getting a bunch of data of small variations that's basically the same product.

If that's the case, then I would use custom labels to highlight the top five to 10, to 15, whatever is suitable for this particular store, to find the organic best sellers. What are the products, what are the SKUs that sells the best that we want to focus the most on in Google Shopping? Then have that campaign or those campaigns for those terms focus more on the shorter keywords, like, let's say, custom keychain. 

And then the longer more custom long-tail keywords, like the yellow silicon keychain for boys aged 12. Horrible example, but you get the idea. We'll focus on those terms more in the long-tail aspect of the campaign. Split it up like that so you don't mix and match the long tail and the short tail terms.

Duane: I think even in that business like Andrew said, there's only going to be a few products that probably make up most of your revenue. I'd say put your energy there. Just focus on that.

Andrew: If I can just jump in, Paul. I want to make sure nobody misunderstands custom labels, they don't have any impact on what search terms your products appear for and you can put in ABC in all your custom labels and it will have no impact on how your shopping ads actually appear in shopping. This is solely in order to structure your campaigns better so you can do better bidding, better reporting, and better campaign work. Just so we address a bunch of comments.

Using Google Sheets / Excel to Manage Product Feeds

Paul: But, yeah, we've been we've had loads of great comments going on. One of them was mentioning... the Google custom sheet. “I don't know if you have used that at all, the Google sheets add on”. 

I've used that personally with some smaller clients where they've only got a handful of products. But how have you guys used it? Have you guys used it at all and added it as like a supplement feed?

Duane: You definitely can use it as supplement feed. I'm smart, Andrew's smart, Paul, you're a smart guy as well, obviously, but there's only so much time I want to spend updating a feed by hand. For a couple bucks a month, you could be on Feedonomics or the other tools out there and just know that your data is always synced and always updated and you don't have to worry about pushing it out to all the other platforms.

Andrew: Yeah, I agree. It's definitely possible to do. I think that many people are asking that question. Our clients also come to us with that and say, "Hey, we run all these workarounds and use Google sheets and Excel and all this stuff." I think it's just that that practice, that process with taking your feed, putting in a feed optimization tool, and then sending it into merchant center, that's something that's so out of the realm of what most people relate to PPC work.

It's not something they're used to. I think that's why many people are trying to go, "Hey, I like Excel. I like to work with Excel. Let me optimize it through Excel." And we really don't see any use case for doing that, at least at scale. Above 20 SKUs, then I wouldn't touch it with a Google sheet.

Duane: Cool. Yeah. I was going to say, even just like A/B testing new product titles, right? Being able to A/B test your stuff in shopping, especially if you got 500 products or 1,000’ one client has got 50,000 SKUs with us, I just don't want to do that by hand. My time is money and there's other places you could spend that versus making sure your Google sheet feed is perfect.

Custom Labels and Reporting

Paul: We've got some more questions come through from Captain's Barber Shop and Joe as well. They're both asking about, do the custom labels get pushed into Analytics?

Andrew: I want to go on the record and say no, I have not seen it. The way that I like to use custom labels for reporting is to try to find some segments or some factors that can influence conversions. One of the custom labels that we like to apply is shipping. We'll have X amount of products that ship in a two- to four-day range in an X amount price. There's just certain categories for certain markets where you want to have it immediately. 

I'm looking for USB hubs, I want to have them immediately. I'm ordering a TV stand, I can wait a week, I can wait two weeks for the right product. Just being able to locate or analyze that data point and see how the conversions relate to how the shipping changes is something that we use quite a lot to try to make decisions on how do we want to optimize this moving forward.

Because all of a sudden you can see the certain categories don't do well if the shipping is very long. Then we'll either exclude it or move over to other campaigns where we'll work with a lot lower bids or try to highlight, or prioritized products that do have faster shipping even though this might not be the best selling product in that category normally.

Duane: Yeah. I think the only thing I'd add to that I think if the person is looking for reporting, because I guess that's why they asked if the labels go into Google Analytics, the tool we use for our top clients is called Optmyzr. 

Optmyzr will attach to your merchant center; it will attach to your Google Ads account pulling all that data. If you want to build reports on certain custom labels and product ID, or certain custom labels and brand or certain custom labels and product type, you can build that on Optmyzr and then just have a report generated whenever you want for your client. That's a great place if you want to be able to pull in the custom labels and a lot of other data and have a report built for it.

For now, I don't see Google Analytics having that as an option in there. Because really it's just a way for you to organize your staff and bid for your stuff within Google Ads and Google doesn't see it as something you need to track within Analytics, at least right now.

Negative Keywords and Shopping Campaigns

Paul: How would you guys advise the listeners on how to pick up on negative keywords?

Duane: Yeah. I think that kind of depends on how you structured your campaigns, in your ad groups, in your product groups a little bit. For a lot of stuff, we've got negative keyword lists, so we have four or five standard ones we apply to a lot of clients that are just things that we don't want to show for. 

Within each individual client, we'll have custom lists of negative keywords we don't want to show for. I gave my example earlier of the toy client who's showing for Harley-Davidson and other motorcycles, that's the thing where we don't want to show for that. That client also had stuff showing for kids jackets because they sell doll accessories, and the doll accessory was like a little doll jacket.

Sometimes it's things you just pick up as you go and you're like, "Well, if I'm showing for girls coat, I'm as well add kids' coats, boys' coats, jackets, parkas, and all those derivatives and apply it at a negative list level so it doesn't show up in any of my campaigns, whether they be search or shopping. 

I mean, sometimes we'll do stuff at the ad group level. For my pajama client who sells both the bamboo and the non-bamboo, we'll put the bamboo word as a negative and the non-bamboo ad, we just don't have it show up there because that ad group has, you know, the cotton hats, the organic stuff things are just not made out of bamboo.

It all comes down to how do you structure things and so that's why it's really important to plan your shopping feed early, plan how you want to organize things. That way, when you set up your shopping campaigns, you understand okay, I need to put these negative keywords in a list, I need to put these negative keywords at ad campaign or ad group level. 

Keep things as organized as you can because negative keywords can get out of control and you could just spend days building lists and just drive yourself bonkers. 

Andrew: Yeah. I'd say, just to mention a small comment there, it really comes back into how well are you restructuring your ad groups. If you don't split your products into ad groups based on those categories, you can't apply negative at those levels.

In certain products, Google is horrible at matching with search terms. Cables, USB-C cable, you'll get USB-A cable, you'll get USB cable, you'll get a bunch of horrible search term matches where it really makes a lot of sense to spend 10, 20, 30 hours to simply just go in and exclude bad matches through negative keywords on an ad group level.

And then there's cases where Google's great at matching search terms product where you really shouldn't be spending any time on. It's very individual and you can always see if you have a good ad group structure, you can match the product to the actual search term that appeared and then define, is this something that makes sense for us to spend time on?

Final Tips on Optimizing Shopping Campaigns

Paul: We've come to the end. Just give us two quick tips, guys, on what the users and listeners can do to really sort of like help optimize their shopping campaigns. 

Duane: I mean I think the two big things, and this is not just a like a Black Friday thing, it's a year-round thing, is the only thing to think about like, how do people search for what you sell? That is the biggest thing. If you understand how people search for your products, you can optimize your shopping product titles a lot better. 

Search ads, shopping ads are based on the idea of someone searching for something. I think to really understand your customers is really valuable. 

Then beyond that is just you always just have to keep on updating and maintaining your shopping feed. Right? Uploading your shopping feed to a tool is not optimization; that's just uploading it to a tool. You need to go in and put a little work. 

Every six months, every three months, no matter how many SKUs you sell, you just want to go in and review what you have going on shopping and making sure it's the best it can be. Run A/B tests whether it's your brand name at the front of a title or at the back of the title. Does a picture make sense when I show the image dead-on versus at an angle? Does it make sense if we have a light gray background image versus a white background of our image? 

It's just really trying to push what you do at shopping beyond the basics, because anyone can do the basics whether you're in-house or an ad agency or whatever the basics isn't good enough you want to excel at shopping and out-do your competitors.

Andrew: I'm just here to say whenever you're sitting with shopping and you don't know what to do, it's most likely because you haven't structured your campaigns properly. You haven't looked at, how do we split out? 

Like we do in search, how do we split out the different categories in different ad groups? What kind of brand category or product type, or combination should we make in order to make sure that we keep certain sub-segments or sub-categories of products bundled together? From there, we can analyze the performance of these subsections and set the appropriate bits, higher, lower, negatives and all that.

For me, it all comes from the ability to set the right campaign structure, which depends on how well your feed is. If you're selling running shoes and the only category you have on all your products are running shoes, you're only selling running shoes, and you haven't split that up into the different types of running shoes, then you can't structure your campaign after it. A lot of things come back to the feed, making sure that that has enough granular data so you can build your campaigns out based on it

Paul: It's all about planning for me. And you mentioned trainers. One of my clients does actually sell running shoes, but they sell sprinting shoes as well. They've got the spikes, the sprinting spikes. It all comes down to planning and that hierarchy so that you understand how their products are segmented out and that.

Yeah, okay. Trainers are trainers and shoes are shoes. But running shoes and sprinting spikes are two completely different things, and that's where you need to get that architecture right.

And the only other thing that I would say to the listeners, as you guys have gone over some really good ones, but for me, it's test free shipping. Incorporate that cost into your product and see if that free shipping is that trigger that people need to really sort of drive that extra, I mean, five, 10% conversion on your shopping campaigns. But, yeah.

Duane: I agree with you, testing out free shipping and how you present it to your customers is a great test to run because every brand is really different on how they offer free shipping. And people, it's not that they don't want free shipping, I think people want their items as fast as they can get them and shipping free doesn't necessarily need to achieve that.

Paul: Yes. Good point. Sales always win.

Duane: Thanks everyone for showing up, I appreciate it.

Paul: Bye.

Andrew: Thanks, guys.