Mar 11 2019
Basis Technologies

10 Shopping Feed Optimization Techniques for Better Retail Advertising


Employing Google Shopping has become a dominant advertising strategy for retail businesses in recent years. Early adoption was slow, but now Google Shopping ads make up 76.4% of retail search ad spend and receive 85.3% of clicks from Adwords or Google Shopping campaigns. There are many opportunities for retail businesses to gain visibility and drive sales of their products using Shopping feed optimization techniques. But it isn’t challenge-free.

The Search Advertising Landscape Today

Google Shopping has become so popular that the market is already saturated. Every retail marketer has a number of strong competitors they’re fighting against for rank and visibility in search results, and this competition is only set to become harder as more retailers enter the market.

In the past, the most expensive and competitive keywords were bottom of the funnel, suggesting shoppers had immediate purchase intent. Today, though, many advertisers target high-funnel search queries, driving up competition across the sales funnel. It’s no longer possible to save your advertising budget by targeting different points of the buyer journey. Everyone’s fighting for ad space, and it’s not going to get any easier.

Google has done an excellent job in recent years of catching up with Amazon in the retail search-advertising space, and they continue to roll out new features that make it possible to surpass them. A good example of this is Shopping Actions. Retailers who opt into this program can have their ads appear on Google Express, Google Search, and Google Assistant.

As more search advertisers start taking advantage of features like this, the landscape is going to become more competitive. Simply jumping on each new feature bandwagon Google introduces won’t be enough. The one thing that can relieve this issue is developing a feed optimization strategy that outperforms the rest.

10 Important Shopping Feed Optimization Techniques

The good news is that there is a long list of ways to optimize your Google Shopping Feed, and very few retail search advertisers are taking advantage of them all. The best way to stand out in a crowded marketplace and outperform the rest is prioritizing Shopping feed optimization. Here, we outline some essential techniques you need to be executing.

1. Start With Your Images

Your product images are one of the most important Shopping feed optimization techniques to focus on. They appear prominently in search results and can have a huge impact on click-through rate, or CTR. Including quality, relevant images alongside your products is just good e-commerce practice, whether it be on your website or in your Google Shopping Ads.

Here are some quick tips for your images:

  • Use high resolution photos (minimum 800 pixels)
  • Avoid using images that obscure the product in any way
  • Include at least three images
  • Ensure each image teaches viewers something new about the product

You can also try out different kinds of images and test which ones perform better. For example, you can compare the performance of basic white-backdrop product images versus lifestyle shots.

2. Optimize Product Titles

Your product titles are another valuable element to consider. It’s important to include keywords as part of your product title, as this impacts what search queries your product will appear for. Your product title is also the most prominent aspect of Google Shopping results besides your image. Including relevant keywords in the title also helps search engine users feel like they’ve found what they’re looking for.

One thing you’ll want to do is ensure your product title includes a target keyword towards the beginning. But, there are other strategies you can use to optimize your product titles further. For example, you can include your brand name in titles to appear more relevant for branded keyword searches. Or you could include other details people might search for, such as size, color, material, etc.

You need to choose a single strategy here or risk creating long and unruly titles. Use insights from keyword research to determine what information is most important to include in your product titles.

3. Optimize Product Types

A lot of advertisers don’t see the value in organizing their product types because they don’t have a direct impact on how Google categorizes and ranks products. But they are a powerful tool you can use to understand the performance of the different kinds of products you offer and make changes to your strategy accordingly.

First off, if you use your e-commerce tool (e.g. Shopify or Woocommerce) to generate product types for you, there are going to be some errors. Some products will be miscategorized, or you could end up with duplicate product types. Take the time to go through and fix these errors: it will be worth it for the insights they provide.

Divide your product types into clean, logical categories, then start using this as a factor when monitoring campaign performance. Error-free product categories can offer unique insights into performance improving opportunities that you may not discover otherwise.

4. Create Detailed Product Descriptions

Most ecommerce retailers today don’t take the time to create unique descriptions for their products. They stick with manufacturer default descriptions or use the same generalized description for a wide range of product variants.

Just like your product title, the description is another way Google can understand what your product is relevant for. They’ll also highlight keywords in your product description that match user search queries. Ensure that you include specific information here so you can outperform competitors that take the trouble. You should:

  • Write a detailed description (Google allows up to 10,000 characters. Shoot for at least 500)
  • Include your target keyword (whatever keyword you’re targeting in your product title should also appear in your description)
  • Include product specifications (e.g. technical specifications, special features, sizes)
  • Include variant details (e.g. color, material, pattern)

5. Choose the Right Google Product Categories

Using product categories as a data feed attribute is entirely optional, so most advertisers don’t use it or only select the most general category descriptions for groups of products. For example, a sporting goods retailer selling sports uniforms could categorize their products as:

  • Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Uniforms > Sports Uniforms

Or as:

  • Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Uniforms > Sports Uniforms > Baseball Uniforms
  • Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Uniforms > Sports Uniforms > Basketball Uniforms
  • Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Uniforms > Sports Uniforms > Football Uniforms

Most search marketers don’t go this granular because it’s a tedious task. But it’s worthwhile if you want to help Google fully understand what kind of queries your products are relevant for.

The good news is if you already did the hard work optimizing your product types, then it will make choosing your product categories much easier. You can download your feed to a spreadsheet, sort by product type, and then start adding in product categories in a new column.

6. Use GTINs for Feed Optimization in AdWords

GTIN is the acronym for Global Trade Identification Number. This identifying number shows Google that a product is unique. In some cases, Google requires a GTIN before approving a product for Merchant Center, but not in all cases. If you haven’t been using GTINs for your products up until this point, you might want to reconsider.

Using GTINs opens your products up to new opportunities to gain visibility in search results. If a number of retailers sell the same product, Google can categorize them together in the same auction based on the GTINs. This opens up the possibility for your ad to appear as the sole result for a Product Listing Ad for high funnel search queries. Google also often displays a banner of Google Shopping results for queries like “best of X” or “top X.” Your ads will only qualify for these results if you include GTINs.

7. Automate Google Shopping Feed Optimization

One of the most essential aspects of Shopping feed optimization today is automation. Every Google Shopping campaign draws information from your merchant feed, made up of structured data about what products you offer. Managing this information in a spreadsheet only works for the smallest businesses. It quickly becomes unruly when you have more than 20 products, let alone hundreds or thousands.

Google Ads developed automated feeds as a solution to this problem. Automated feeds essentially scrape your web pages to see what products you currently have on offer, then automatically generate relevant feed information based on this data. Automated feeds are extremely important for campaign optimization. For example, you can avoid wasting ad spend promoting a product that’s not currently in stock. Automated feeds can interpret stock information from your website and automatically update your campaigns to reflect this.

Automated feeds are the most beneficial when everything on your website is accurate. Otherwise data feeds can include broken links, improper product titles, and other issues. You can also end up including poorly performing products in your advertising campaign inadvertently. 

8. Test Feed Variations

At this point, you’re well aware that Shopping feed optimization techniques can be operationalized in different ways. There are different ways to optimize your product title, description, product categories, and more. If you really want to create the most optimized feed for Adwords, you should take the time to test different strategies.

Even if your Google Shopping feed is created automatically, it’s easy enough to create additional feeds to compare performance. “Supplemental Feeds” are a unique type of feed you can create to have standalone data on performance. You can’t add or remove products from them, but you can duplicate a primary feed then make changes to that existing data to test feed variations.

Supplemental Feeds are a powerful tool with which to experiment on performance data and understand what elements of your feed are most effective. You can also take advantage of custom labels within your Supplemental Feeds to drive even more insights. For example, you can use custom labels to group products in ways that are significant to your business, such as new versus old products, price categories, sale versus full price, etc. The performance insights you gain from Supplemental Feeds can inform mass changes you make to your primary feeds to improve campaign performance overall.

9. Use a Goal-Oriented Automated Bidding Strategy

Put simply, automated bidding is essential for keeping up with the competition. Automated bidding allows you to bid more effectively and take advantage of micro-changes in the market. This simultaneously reduces neccessary ad spend and improves campaign performance.

Google offers automated bidding options for Shopping campaigns that you can set based on your campaign’s historical performance and future goals. Or you can rely on Smart Bidding to target overall performance for you.

Choose an automated bidding strategy that helps you beat out the competition in the areas that matter most for your business. And if Google’s preset automated bid strategies don’t match your current goals, third-party tools can. 

10. Take Advantage of Merchant Promotions

Merchant Promotions is one of the Shopping feed optimization techniques with the most obvious performance benefits. Merchant Promotions is a feature that allows you to add special discounts, free shipping, or free gifts to your Shopping ads.

Once you submit a product feed to Google Merchant Center, you can start creating promotions. Create and optimize your Merchant Promotions so you can drive conversions, boost CTR, and attract more traffic.

Summing Up Google Shopping Feed Optimization Techniques

There are always ways to improve your Google Shopping feed. Every time you add a new product to your ecommerce store, there’s a new opportunity for optimization. There’s no getting around the fact that ongoing feed management is essential if you want to stay competitive as a retail search advertiser.

Advertisers have two options when approaching their Google Shopping feeds: either take on the necessary leg work to create the most accurate and optimized data feed, or use automation technology to stay ahead of the game. Google Ads provides some internal solutions for automated Shopping feed management. But there are also a variety of third-party feed management tools that can provide advanced insights and optimizations. Invest in automation technology and use it to its full potential. This ensures the payoff outweighs the cost and drives business growth through retail search advertising.