Pros (and Cons) of Google Smart Shopping After Running Them For A Few Months

Posted 8 months ago by @megroy_

Hey guys, It’s Meg here. 

And listen up, folks, because I’m about to make an important proclamation about a topic near and dear to me. Admittedly, I have been hesitant about Google machine learning and automated campaign types. 

Maybe it’s my tendency for being a control freak or maybe it’s because advertisers lose insight into what is actually pulling the levers for performance optimization. Who knows? But here it is:

 I, Megan Roy, do hereby proclaim that I am (so far) a semi-convert for Google Smart Shopping campaigns.

There I said it, though I guess it seems I’m still a little hesitant to be 100% evangelist for smart shopping. I would like to point out that there are a few cons to smart shopping, but we’ll get into the nitty gritty of pros and cons later.

What is Google Smart Shopping?

In its quest to goal optimized everything, Google announced smart shopping earlier this year and soon after released the campaign type to advertisers. Basically, smart shopping campaigns take the manual work out of launching, optimizing, and overseeing shopping campaigns. Its main goal is to simplify management and expand reach. Ok let’s jump into weighing if this campaign type is for you!

Should You Launch Smart Shopping?

  • Simplicity of set up
    • You can use your existing product feed! Simply create a new campaign, toggle smart shopping, set a budget, create a display ad, and note country of sale. That’s it.
    • Google pulls from the product feed and tests different combinations of text and images to show the most relevant ad.
  • Replaces display remarketing (includes YouTube, Gmail, and Display Network)
    • A key component of the smart shopping campaign is expanding reach of the product listing ads. The way this is happening is by expanding the reach and optimizing performance on other channels.
    • No longer need to create separate campaigns for YouTube, GDN, and Gmail that use a shopping feed.
  • Bids to maximize conversion value with option of target ROAS
    • Shopping is a funny campaign because it doesn’t use keywords, only information within your product feed (note: make your product descriptions and columns detailed).
    • It’s end game should be to deliver sales. Smart Shopping bids to maximize the conversion value. In other words, it uses data points from users to determine if they’re likely to convert and bids up or down with the goal of getting as much conversion value as possible.
    • You can also set a target ROAS if that is a KPI or if you would like to balance conversion value and investment.
  • No more over segmenting and campaign priorities
    • Only one shopping campaign does it! No more campaign priorities, segmenting campaigns by products, etc. You only need to create one smart shopping campaign for your entire product catalog, and Google does the rest.
    • However, you should still segment your products by product groups within the campaign if your catalog is large.

  • Must have transaction-specific value within conversion tags
    • This is a little tricky and requires some knowledge of code or a buddy who is familiar with Javascript.
    • Since smart shopping optimizes to conversion value, this means that each product will need its own value. If I’m selling clothes on my online store, a pair of pants may be more expensive (therefore another conversion value) than a T-shirt.
    • Event snippets should be placed on the site that dynamically pass the value of the conversion into Google Ads.
    • Also, side note, you can only launch smart shopping after capturing 20 sales on a standard shopping campaign.
  • No visibility into keywords
    • Probably my biggest loss for this campaign type. Currently (crossies for the near future), there is no way to tell if a conversion is being attributed to a branded search versus a non-branded search.
    • Therefore, it’s hard to analyze if the campaign is capturing conversions for mid to upper funnel terms. For example, my cost/conversion for the campaign is not segmented if someone converted on a search of “blue jeans” vs “Meg’s Blue Jean Company dark denim size 8.”
  • Targeting limitations
    • Some targeting is not available currently. This includes negative keywords, ad scheduling, device targeting, audience targeting, etc.
    • One would argue that if Google is using its power of machine learning and all those billions of data signals, it doesn’t need little ole Meg to tell it to not serve an ad at 2am on a Tuesday because most people aren’t shopping for blue jeans at 2am on a Tuesday.
  • Reporting Insight
    • Besides keyword conversion data, this is my next biggest loss. As of right now, advertisers can’t segment (that includes conversion data and budget) by search, display, YouTube, and Gmail. Performance across each of these channels varies drastically, so looking at CTR and CPC for the campaign may be skewed when comparing data to previous shopping campaigns. 

Does Smart Shopping Work?

For me, I have seen more conversions and conversion value produced at same investment levels for my clients. This has also positively impacted cost per conversion. However, I am never going to definitively say something did or did not work because there are SO MANY factors that come into advertising that can impact performance for one channel or all channels.

If you’re asking Google, the two case studies in their blog post about Smart Shopping have seen great success. Newlentes, a Brazil based contact lens company, saw 57% more revenue and 61% higher ROAS with smart shopping. Turkey-based had similar results with 23% more revenue and 9% increase in ROAS.

So there are some things to think about before you launch a smart shopping campaign. Do you want very granular reports (ie keyword and channel) to demonstrate attribution? Or do you just want to get the best possible results and use automation? It’s up to you. And I always say, if you’re on the fence, test it! If the budget allows, create a test and compare performance.

If you have any question about smart shopping or search in general, let us know!