By Dennis Last update November 22, 2017 Comments: 17


Starting with Google Shopping is a walk in the park for some, and a serious headache for others.

But if you’re using a good e-commerce platform, your data should be in the right format and setting up your first Google Shopping campaign is pretty straight forward.

You only have to upload your product feed and Google will do the heavy lifting.

Their system automatically matches your products with the appropriate search queries and creates specific advertisements to draw users to your store.

That requires a lot less work compared to running advertising campaigns on Google Search.

But less work also means less control for the advertiser. That makes it harder to know how you can improve your Shopping results.

Sure, you can increase your budget, but there are a lot more profitable things you can do.

In this article we’ll discuss a two step approach to find and fix the pieces of your Google Shopping campaigns that are under performing.

Bonus: Don’t get lost in the details. Grab our free Google Shopping optimization checklist that will help you generate more profits from your campaigns! Grab it here!


Step 1: Spy on your competitors

One way to judge how your Google Shopping campaigns are doing is to compare them to your competitors.

With a bit of digging the Adwords platform gives you plenty of data about your competition. Let’s look at the more useful ones:

1. Impression share

This is the ratio of the amount of search results your advertisements appeared in compared to all the potential search results it could have appeared in. A 100% impression share (IS) means your advertisements appeared every time someone searched for a relevant keyword.

The two reasons why your ad might not show every time someone searches for your product are: insufficient budget & low ad rank.

To see this in your Google Adwords account, goto the Campaigns tab, select the Columns dropdown, click Customize Columns, Competitive metrics and add Search Impr. share, Search Lost IS (rank) and Search Lost IS (budget), then click Save.

Example of Impression Share for Google Shopping campaigns
Example of Impression Share columns in Google Shopping campaigns

If there are a lot of search queries and you have competitors that are willing to spend $200/day and you are only spending $10/day, your ads won’t show every time someone does a search for your products. Adwords will indicate that you lost impression share because of budget = Search Lost IS (budget). If you increase your daily budget you’ll raise this part of your IS.

For every single search query, Google identifies which advertisers want to appear and what advertisements they want to show (which image, title, description, landing page, etc.). From all these data Google calculates a Quality Score. This score indicates how relevant Google thinks your ad is to the search query in question.

If Google indicates that you have a low impression share because of rank =Search Lost IS (rank), it is because it thinks that your ads aren’t very relevant. In turn your advertisement will show less and you’ll pay more per click.

This is where the biggest potential is for most campaigns, but it is also the hardest part to get right. This is because you can’t  directly influence the Quality Score.

Read on to learn how exactly you can improve the relevancy of your advertisements. This will improve the CTR, which on it’s turn influences your ad rank.

2. Auction Insights

While the Impression share metrics give you an overview of how your account is doing, the Auction Insights report compares your impression shares to those of your competitors. It shows you which competitors are bidding for the same advertising slots, how many times you appear together (=Overlap rate) and how many times you appear in a higher position than your competitors are (= Outranking share).

To see this in your Google Adwords account, select the Campaigns tab, click the Details dropdown, Action Insights and pick All.

Example of the Auction Insights report for Google Shopping campaigns
Example of the Auction Insights report for a Google Shopping campaign

In the example above the store has got the highest impression share of all advertisers, it mainly appears together with the store in position number 2 and it is outranking most of the other stores.

This is a good check to see what kind of competition you’re up against.

If you see or some other big players in the report, you know it’s going to be hard to match them budget-wise. So instead of blindly raising your budget and hope to out-do them, you can try to figure out which product categories or brands they are spending hard on.

Do this by running this Auction Insights report for different campaigns or ad groups.

Maybe it’s more profitable to spend your advertising budget on brands or categories with less competition.

3. Benchmark metrics

Adwords will also show two benchmark KPIs for Google Shopping campaigns: Benchmark CTR and Max. CPC. These are comparison stats for other advertisers on Google Shopping with products similar to yours.

The Auction Insights report might show that a certain advertiser appears above you most of the time. These benchmark metrics can tell you why that is happening.

Example of the Benchmark CPC & CTR for Google Shopping campaigns
Example of the Benchmark CTR & CPC for Google Shopping campaigns

To see this in your Google Adwords account, goto the Product groups tab, select the Columns dropdown, click Customize Columns, Competitive metrics and add Benchmark CTR and Benchmark Max. CPC, then click Save.

A click through rate (CTR) lower than the benchmark might indicate that your max cost per click (CPC) for that group of products is too low. By raising it, you can become more competitive.

These benchmark metrics are available on product group level. Use it to dig into your different product groups and discover the parts where you are under performing compared to the benchmarks.

If you are only using one product group, it might be a good idea to split it up in different groups to monitor the performance of those products.

Another reason your CTR might be lower than the benchmark is if your ad rank is too low, or if your products are triggering broad searches. We’ll deal with both further down in this article.

4. Bid simulator

The Bid simulator will crunch data like quality scores, your own bids, competitor bids and show what effect changes to your budget or bids will have.

You can see this in your account if your campaign has the Limited by budget status.

Open bid simulator in Google Shopping
Open bid simulator in Google Shopping

If you click the little graphic icon, the Bid simulator will open up:

Bid simulator in Google Shopping campaigns
Bid simulator in Google Shopping campaigns

It’s a good way to see what would happen if you would raise your budget or max CPCs by 20%.

But bidding higher will not always solve your problems. There usually is a sweet spot for your budget, the quality of your account and the sales you generate.

When you are using the tools above, try to look on the product category or brand level instead of looking at the overall account.

That way you can more easily discover what’s working and what is not.

Bonus: Don’t get lost in the details. Grab our free Google Shopping optimization checklist that will help you generate more profits from your campaigns! Grab it here!


Step 2: Optimize your own store

From the analysis above it becomes clear that there are two things you can do to improve your results:

  • Throw more money at it
  • Increase the relevancy of your advertisements and products

And while many of your competitors might simply increase their spending, you can take the smarter route and figure out how to optimize your campaigns by improving your product feed. (And afterwards increase your spending anyway and totally crush them!)

Serving customers more relevant ads mainly comes down to using the right keywords. You might think that Google Shopping doesn’t have anything to do with keywords. And indeed, the Keywords tab in your account is pretty empty.

Empty keywords tab for Google Shopping Campaigns
Empty Keywords tab for Google Shopping Campaigns

But the real gold is hidden behind a menu.

Search Terms report in Google Shopping Campaigns
Search Terms report in Google Shopping Campaigns

The Search Terms report will show you the exact keywords that people have used before they clicked on your ad.

To see this in your Google Adwords account, select the Keywords tab, click the Details dropdown, Search Terms and pick All. Let’s dive into how you can use this keyword data.

1. Improve the data quality of your store

You can use the actual words people use to search to find your products to make your product titles and descriptions more relevant. When a product title exactly matches with a search query, the click through rate will be a lot higher.

That’s why it’s often interesting to include a brand or specific color in your title. But don’t try and stuff keywords into your titles that don’t belong there, you’ll only harm your performance.

Character limit in Google Shopping results
Character limit in Google Shopping results

Google Shopping also cuts off the product title after 50 to 70 characters, so to make sure your whole title will show, try to stay below 50. In the screenshot above for example the first title got cut off after 65 characters.

If there are Product Listing ads appearing in the general search results, you get even less space. There is no description and you’ve only got 25 characters to get your message across. That’s why Google suggests to put the most important keywords at the beginning of your product title.

Character limit for Product Listing ads
Character limit for Product Listing ads

Sweet bonus: if your are spending time to improve product titles and descriptions to optimize your Google Shopping campaigns, it will also improve your non-paid search results.

2. Find the losers amongst your keywords

Because Google uses your actual product information to match with user searches, there are usually few completely irrelevant search queries in the Search Terms report.

What does appear often are keywords that generate a lot of impression or clicks (which means a high cost), but result in a very low amount of sales.

High volume, low conversion keyword
High volume, low conversion keyword

In the example above, the keyword generates a lot of impressions and has a low CTR, compared to other keywords in the account. It also has a low number of conversions which results in a high cost per conversion.These often are people looking for brand names. And since they are still researching what products are out there, chances are that they want to see an overview of all the products of that brand.

But unfortunately that’s not how Google Shopping works.

Google will present a couple of products to the users. And the chance there one random product in your store matches that search, is rather low. That’s why the CTR is that low.

So especially if you’re on a limited budget, look for keywords with a high number of impressions and a low conversion rate. These are eating away clicks (and dollars) from the keywords that can deliver you sales at a better price. You can exclude these keywords by adding them as exact negative keywords.

To do that, make sure you are in the right campaign and ad group, and go to the Keywords tab. There scroll all the way down and you’ll see the Negative keywords section. Click Add and enter the keyword between square bracket and click Save. That makes sure only searches using this exact search query will get excluded.

For example: if your ads are triggering a lot of searches for the keyword nike, but it isn’t resulting in a satisfying results, add [nike] as a negative keyword. Search queries like nike free 3.0 shoes will be unaffected and still trigger your ad.

3. Eliminate irrelevant searches

In the Search Terms report you’ll also find searches that are totally irrelevant for you. And the first time you open this report, you will have a lot of keywords to sift through.

To make it easier to edit, you can copy/paste or export the list to Excel. But you also can just scroll down the list.

If you find irrelevant keywords you can add these as negative keywords. And since we don’t want to appear next to any related searches neither, we will use a broad or phrase match type to exclude them.

For example: if your store sells board games but you see a search query for playstation 3 games, you will want to exclude that one. You  can do this by simply adding playstation to the negative keywords list. To do that, make sure you are in the right campaign and ad group, and go to the Keywords tab. There scroll all the way down and you’ll see the Negative keywords section. Click Add and enter the keyword and click Save.

Next step: Go even deeper into Google Shopping optimization and Grab our free optimization checklist that will help you generate more profits from your campaigns! Get it here!

About the author


Dennis is the main guy behind Store Growers. He's never had a job that he didn't invent himself and loves that freedom.
In writing articles, creating courses or working with ecommerce clients he has one goal: to create more freedom for online store owners.

17 responses to “How to Optimize Your Google Shopping Campaigns

  1. Thank you for clarifying what all of these terms mean and how they relate/impact the campaign itself.

    Great article!


    1. Hi Em,
      Yeah recent changes have removed that option. But there is a way to quickly calculate this yourself:
      Take your Search impression share and subtract the Search lost (rank) from it.

      That will give you the impressions you’ve lost due to a limited budget!

  2. Wow, I couldn’t figure why 1 product group seemed to be getting all the clicks. I was shocked to see the search terms it was showing for – especially when other product groups are better suited for some of the keywords. I will re-check my title tags, but I’m certain most of them have been optimized for specific keywords (using a great SEO tag manager app on Shopify)…could the alt tags on the photos be influencing this?

    1. Hi Sharon,
      That’s pretty annoying indeed.

      The search queries that Google Shopping is matching your products to are based on the information you provide in your product feed:
      – product title
      – product description
      – product categories

      Besides that, it will also use the product identifiers to match it with synonyms and related keywords that other stores are using.

      For example: your product title is “Excelsior notepad ruled” while another advertiser calls is “Excelsior notebook”.

      So to track down what’s going wrong: check what data are coming through in your feed via Google Merchant Center, update your product information to avoid certain search queries & add negative keywords to exclude those searches.

      Check this article to learn more about shopping feeds:

  3. Hi, Dennis. I just wanted to say thanks for putting this article together with tremendous detail. I’ve been using Google Product Listing ads for a couple of months now with some success. I always felt I could be doing better and this has certainly helped.

    With the competitive metrics I was disturbed by the fact that my ads were showing less than 50% of the time. However, when benchmarked against competition I found that there weren’t doing much better.

    My one concern is trying to work into the content phrases or keywords that users are searching for versus the ones I’ve already selected. A lot of times I find that searchers are abbreviating terms which I’m not comfortable doing in my advertisements or product pages. Thoughts?

    1. Thanks for your kind words John 🙂

      If you’re running regular text search ads there are many things you can do to specifically address these abbreviators. But with Google Shopping there isn’t much you can do.

      I’ve found that Google has gotten pretty smart at these kind of keyword variations. So I would look through your Search Terms report to see if these abbreviations are there.

      If they are, you can rest assured that your product ads are appearing.

      If they aren’t, there are ways you can include these kind of keywords without putting them out there. You could edit the product description you send through in your feed to add some extra text. But this is a pretty cumbersome process so I would see if it is really necessary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *