Google offers a number of platforms (or destinations, as they also call them) specifically designed for e-commerce merchants to promote their products on Google. Over the years these have evolved, some changing names or context along the way. If it’s not already somewhat confusing for the newcomer to figure out what does what for whom, they also throw into the mix a number of other platforms that you’ll have to use in conjunction with their core destinations. Compounding this: available help documentation that still refers to now obsolete or repurposed names.
Since one or more of these platforms should be an essential piece of your marketing arsenal, let’s have a quick review of each and give you some clarity when you start to consider where to start building your first campaigns.
Google Merchant Center
To run on any of the Google Shopping destinations, your first stop is the Google Merchant Center (GMC). It’s the bridge between your store and your chosen Google destinations, a digital warehouse or repository for your store’s products and key setup information required by Google to set up your account and to promote your products.
To cross this bridge and move your products from your Shopify store into the Google Merchant Center, you’ll use the AdAmplify Google Shopping app. It seamlessly uploads your products into the GMC and keeps them current when changes in your Shopify store occur (e.g., new products, revised product descriptions, inventory changes, pricing updates, etc.). All of these are managed for you so the Merchant Center is feeding current information to your chosen Shopping destinations.
This is Google’s online “marketplace” where your products can be presented to consumers searching or browsing Shopping. Google Shopping is evolving constantly. One of the newer innovations for Google Actions’ merchants is that, in addition to their products being displayed when users search in the Shopping tab, they also have their own branded space where all their products are displayed.
The biggest change is that Google Shopping now has the capability for consumers to purchase your products using the Google universal shopping cart while on the Shopping site. And you can now choose any mix of three destinations once you’ve uploaded your products into the GMC: Surfaces across Google, Google Shopping ads, and Google Actions. These in combination have been shown to out-perform Google text ads, converting at a 30% higher conversion rate.
So, let’s have a look at the three destinations available to you:
Surfaces across Google
Surfaces across Google is a new free destination that displays your products to consumers on Google Shopping, Google Search, and other Google platforms, including Google Images, Google Lens, and YouTube.
Surfaces across Google’s basic listings are the easiest of Google’s three destinations to manage. Other than uploading your products to the Google Merchant Center using AdAmplify’s Google Shopping feed, there is nothing more you need to do to make your products eligible for display in Surfaces across Google.
You should take advantage of the full capabilities of Surfaces by qualifying for Enhanced Listings (available only in the US currently), which allows users to purchase your products right in Google Shopping. There’s more involved to qualify for Enhanced Listings, as you need to meet Google’s requirements which means a bit more initial set up work on your part. (more on that here)
Did we mention that this is a free program from Google? It’s part of their initiative to have the richest and most extensive shopping experience for consumers by providing the deepest possible selection of products. If you do nothing else on Google Shopping, don’t pass on the opportunity to promote your products through Surfaces across Google.
Google Shopping Actions
Google Actions was released in 2019 and is a close cousin to the more established Google Shopping Ads. In fact, aside from the small shopping cart icon in the corner of the ad, they look much the same. But looks is where it ends! Rather than a pay-per-click model, Actions is based on a cost-per-sale model, not a pay-per-click model – meaning that you only pay Google after a purchase is made in its universal shopping cart by a consumer. Google records the order details in the Google Merchant Center (where AdAmplify seamlessly syncs to your Shopify store so you can fulfill as you do your store orders).
When Google pays you, it deducts a small commission (averaging 12%) from the payment as its cost. What’s not to like about this? You’re actually financing each purchase after the fact with the money you earn from a sale. And Google looks after the frontline customer support! There are a few “downsides” though: customers must opt in to giving you permission to subsequently market directly to them; and Google can issue refunds directly to the customer (which of course will be deducted from a subsequent payment).
AdAmplify’s experience though, in running our Navago marketplace on a similar cost-per-sale model with retailers directly fulfilling the orders over the past two years, is that refund rates overall were less than 1% of overall revenue (and these tended to be caused by out-of-stock issues or goods damaged in transit).
Unlike Shopping Ads, you don’t have to create and manage campaigns for Actions using Google Ads. You do, however, need to maintain your Google Retailer Standards Rating, their assurance that you meet your delivery commitments (and that returns are minimal).
For more on Shopping Actions:
Google Shopping Ads
Not to be confused with Google Ads (see below), Google Shopping Ads offer much more than their older brethren, the simple text ads – they show users an image of your product, along with such information as its title, price, your brand name, and any applicable promotional discount. Shopping ads display your products at the top of the search results – above the paid and organic text ads.
With Google Shopping Ads you’re promoting your products to qualified prospective purchasers when they’re looking to buy. Properly configured and tuned, this is one of the best advertising channels to reach relevant purchasers. Once on your site, you have the opportunity to engage them, and convert them to subscribers and purchasers, upsell them, and promote your products to them through email and retargeting.
AdAmplify’s experience is that after the run-in period, getting our campaigns up and tuned, we were able through optimizing the program to generate a positive return on our ad (ROAS) spend (e.g., more than $1.50 in revenue for every $1.00 spent). Over the past two years, 9.9% of our total Google Shopping Ads revenue came from subsequent purchases from users first introduced to us through Google Shopping Ads.
When a user clicks on one of your Shopping Ads, they are redirected to the relevant detailed product page on your store’s site. Similar to pay-per-click text ads, Google charges you a fee for the clicks on each of your ads.
Google Ads was the platform originally developed to manage pay-per-click text ads going back to the early 2000s. It is now also used to set up and manage Shopping Ads campaigns. Once your products are uploaded to the Google Merchant Center, you’re ready to have your products shown on Google Shopping. You start by linking your Merchant Center to your Google Ads account. Once linked, you can set up one or more campaigns, establishing your daily budget for each, and associating each campaign to keywords, as well as negative keywords you don’t want your ads served up against; audiences; and geographic locations).
You also define whether your campaign’s goal is to maximize clicks or conversions; and once you’ve reached a milestone number of sales (a minimum of 20 conversions in the past 45 days), you may convert your campaign goal to one maximizing return on ad spend (ROAS) and set a goal (e.g., 400% – $4 of revenue for each $1 spent). Google then uses these settings and their algorithms to meet or beat the goal you set.
Running all three of these programs (Surfaces across Google, Shopping Ads, and Shopping Actions) is highly advised, as they are each targeted to a particular buying demographic, from casual browsers on through to committed shoppers looking for a specific product. So, no matter where the user is in the shopping funnel, you’re able to target her or him with relevant products. All cost-effectively.