EP 321 Transcript | Google Smart Shopping Campaigns with Kirk Williams

By Site Strategics
August 6, 2019

Speaker 1: 00:01 On this episode of Edge of The Web.

Kirk Williams: 00:05 Schema is, in my opinion, the way that Google is eventually going to do all feeds and… So yes I know, as soon as you say anything like that there’s a million match, “But it’s not ready,” and you’re like, “Right, I know.”

Speaker 1: 00:23 Your weekly digital marketing trends with industry trend setting guests. You are listening and watching Edge of The Web winners of best podcast from the Content Marketing Institute for 2017. Hear and see more at edgeofthewebradio.com. Now here’s your host, Erin Sparks.

Erin Sparks: 00:45 Let’s introduce Kirk to our audience. He’s the owner of ZATO, it’s paid search and social PPC micro-agency of experts. He’s been working in the digital marketing space since 2009. He’s been named one of the top 25 most influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero for three years in a row right after he was on our show by the way. I just want to make that correlation there. He’s written a number of articles on many industry publications such as Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Bing and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts such as this and webinars.

He’s also a host of a weekly #PPCchat on Twitter as well as an avid conference speaker, he’s all over the place. Kirk, it’s great to have you on board here, returning to the show. I want to let our listeners know, he actually has a very unique path getting to marketing. He came from seminary school to jump into marketing specializing in PPC. It’s almost like you’ve given us a christening of sorts, the marketing space out here. I mean, we really appreciate that, but give us your backstory in your words. There is the official bio, but let us know how you got here.

Kirk Williams: 01:59 Yeah. I mean, I can pray to start the show if you’d like.

Erin Sparks: 02:03 Very good. All right.

Kirk Williams: 02:04 No, no. Yeah, so it was actually while I was in seminary, believe it or not, and I was working overnight at Target doing some back-stocking stuff and thinking, “I don’t care what job comes along next, I will take it because I am exhausted,” because I was working nights, going to school during the day. At some point in there saying hi to my wife and sleeping somewhat, so marketing was the job that came along and got into it, started doing some content type stuff.

It was just at a little eCommerce company that said, “Hey, do you want to run these Google AdWords things, right? Why don’t you figure it out, and do it, and we’ll pay you, and you can learn on the job.” And so I thought, “Yeah, that sounds kind of fun,” and developed a love for it. Long story short, I started getting my own clients. Eventually went out on my own and that’s, I think 2011 is when I started ZATO. It was called KE Creative back then. I’m terrible at naming things, all right. I do like ZATO though, that’s better.

Erin Sparks: 03:11 I think you’ve been asked that question about how you came up with ZATO so many times. I was going through some of the interviews that you’ve had and that always comes up. We asked you last time you were on the show but give our listeners what the background of that particular word is.

Kirk Williams: 03:26 Yeah. Again, a hail to seminary. That comes from some of my Greek studies, so ZATO back in the biblical Greek, coinage Greek, not even spoken anymore. If someone’s like, “Hey, cool, I know Greek too,” and they started talking to me I’m, “I’m sorry I’m out.” But ZATO means like to seek out, so to search, right? Kind of a little bit of pulling that in and using that kind of a cool meaning.

Erin Sparks: 03:54 Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. We were able to pluck you away from seminary school and hopefully, God is not mad at us for that but you’ve-

Kirk Williams: 04:06 I finished.

Erin Sparks: 04:07 You’ve joined the ranks of the top PPCers and one of your core competencies and one of the torches that you bring up on high are the Google Shopping Ads, right?

Kirk Williams: 04:21 Yeah. I love them. It’s not even just that, that’s just what I started doing and thought, “Oh, cool.” Well, I write in these but I actually really genuinely do enjoy Shopping Ads. That worked with the clients we were getting and I have tried to really know everything about them. I’m actually going through all the policy documents in spare time, and just like reading through them again. It’s amazing how many things I’m still just learning and this is just Google’s public policy documents on Shopping Ads but there’s pages, and pages, and pages, right?

Erin Sparks: 04:54 That’s your light reading. Whenever you’re relaxed you just go through the policy ads.

Kirk Williams: 04:57 Yeah. Some of my light reading, yeah. It’s amazing how much you could still learn about this stuff, so.

Erin Sparks: 05:03 Excellent. Well, to the newly initiated, or the agencies, or the companies that listen to the show and they haven’t jumped into the Shopping Ads. Give us a bit of a picture here, and these are Product Listing Ads PLA, and they’re featured across Google Search and shopping results but break it down to us. What do we see whenever we’re experiencing a Shopping Ad?

Kirk Williams: 05:28 Yeah, so I think seeing is a big part of it. Shopping Ads are in text-based search, right?

Erin Sparks: 05:28 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kirk Williams: 05:33 And of course, again, now there’s all of this other random stuff that Google throws in for you SEOers with all the images and stuff?

Erin Sparks: 05:41 Right.

Kirk Williams: 05:42 But really, especially when Shopping Ads first came out, it was all of a sudden you’re in text-based search and you’re seeing, “This is a product I’m interested in and now I actually see the picture of it.” So, I can visually tell at an instant, “Oh, that’s the one I’m interested in,” and really a big deal for things like apparel. Then you also see the price and then ratings, things like that.

Really a core part that actually a lot of times people forget about Shopping Ads is they further assist with trust as well because there are such requirements for Shopping Ads, especially for landing pages that you don’t really have for text ads. That is actually a big deal too, so for the most part with a Shopping Ad, sometimes people sneak things through until Google disapproves them.

But for the most part, if you see an ad that says, “Hey, this product is 29.99,” and you click on it. You’re going to get to that product and it’s going to be 29.99 and so, because of that they have that visual element, that trust element. You can quickly and easily see what you want as a product. They just they work great. A really crucial difference on the back-end, for those of us running them though, is unlike text ads, where you are bidding on a keyword basis until someday Google decides to kill that and goes all audiences, right?

I hope they don’t do that but with Shopping Ads, you’re submitting a feed of your product data and then Google is matching search queries to your product feed data. That’s a really crucial difference because you actually can’t say, “I want to bid on this keyword specifically.” You have to make sure it’s in your product feed and do some other things too.

Erin Sparks: 07:25 Yeah. There’s a huge realm of optimization for competitiveness in the Google Shopping Ads but it is one of the key factors. Like you brought up, it’s the visual component of the search ads and this came into being and you’re the expert here, but it hasn’t been like maybe three years tops, three or four years? Actually, it’s been further than that hasn’t it?

Kirk Williams: 07:49 Yeah.

Erin Sparks: 07:50 It’s been around for at least a decade. Sorry, I was just thinking on the fly there.

Kirk Williams: 07:54 I cannot remember exactly when. They’ve changed the name a bunch of times. It was like Frugal and product [inaudible 00:08:01], stuff like that. I want to say it was about a decade. I started in 2010 and when we started doing Shopping Ads, it was still free. Yeah, I don’t remember when [crosstalk 00:08:16].

Erin Sparks: 08:16 It’s been around a while. The visual component, I mean, this is predating the Pinterest ads and all Instagram ads and what have you. I mean, this was the most attractive area for your search dollars to be able… if you’re an eCommerce platform, we got to stress that too, right? Is that these are items to be transacted on right then and there?

Kirk Williams: 08:38 Yeah. That’s one of the requirements, is you have to have the ability to check out with this product in a cart, enter money and then finish the transaction right on that site.

Erin Sparks: 08:50 This ad space also provides an additional real estate for your brand because it’s not a direct click through to the landing page. You’re in the Google merchant shopping environment, right? And, you’ve got products against products where you’re being compared to other vendors of the same product, is that correct?

Kirk Williams: 09:10 Yeah. If they do click on your product listing ad, they will then get to your website. But yeah, within like, especially in the shopping tab or in the search, yeah there’ll be a few. Usually there might be like six up top and then it’ll be you against your competitors that people can see and compare prices in that, so.

Erin Sparks: 09:33 It’s another area where your brand can exist outside of your own website, so it’s territory to be able to optimize. It features products to the top of the search, so there’s great real estate at the top, as well as even before the organic listings obviously. These ads can also include additional information that boost engagement such as prices and reviews as well as special promotions, correct?

Kirk Williams: 10:01 Yeah and so, one of the things I was going to note real quick too is with the SERPs, with Shopping Ads you can have multiple Shopping Ads in one SERP. That’s actually somewhat unique as well. Text ads, you can only have one.

Erin Sparks: 10:13 Huh?

Kirk Williams: 10:15 Yeah. If you really want to go to town and really bid aggressively in that, you could have a SERP that only has your client or your brand Shopping Ads. You can battle it out that way as well. Google allows that, at least for now. But yeah, so promotions and yeah, ratings is a big one, right? Once you start working with someone like Trustpilot or whoever, Google’s customer survey is in that is as well. You’ll get those and then those will show in your products and typically you’ll see some sort of a boost from those obviously.

When we have those, we actually like to pull those in and identify top reviewed products and then, we’ll put those into a custom label and even advertise to them specifically. Again, back to that point of really a bunch of optimizing your products in shopping is trying to figure out group products well. Figure out what are top performers in a way that you can bid uniquely on them and position them well, so.

Erin Sparks: 11:22 Can you also connect these different products together in bundles or does Google actually look at the relationship of these different products to each other?

Kirk Williams: 11:35 Yeah. There are different ways that you can tell Google and so, a number of different ways and that’s again where your product feed comes in. Like product type is a crucial way of communicating to Google that your products are related. That maybe even there’s a hierarchy there and that gives them contextual ranking signals that they’re actually starting to use more and more with product type.

I’m not sure if this was caught when I froze out randomly but Google product categories actually used to be required. That was a big deal and it’s not as much anymore because that was Google’s way of categorizing and they started to realize there’s… Basically, from what was communicated to me, they started to realize that, “Hey, you all give us your hierarchy and all of the ways that your categories and products are, so we’re going to start using that a little bit more for our ranking,” so product type is one.

I mean, there’s a lot of other options. Item Group ID is another one and that’s where you lump variants into each other, so your product SKUs. You will have this size shoe is size 10 but then there’s a black shoe, there’s a red shoe, there’s a yellow shoe. All of them get an Item Group ID. You can build bundles and then submit them as bundles with the bundle field, multi-packs-

Erin Sparks: 12:53 Sweet.

Kirk Williams: 12:54 … there’s a lot of different ways you can do.

Erin Sparks: 12:55 Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Now my SEO is taking me off at a lane here. We look at schema on a regular basis on the on-page optimization. Does schema play a factor in influence or ranking a score? I want to go to a ranking score for these ads but you’re actually doing that, you’re optimizing these ads. Does schema play a role here?

Kirk Williams: 13:21 Schema is, in my opinion, the way that Google is eventually going to do all feeds and… So yes, I know. As soon as you say anything like that, there’s a million march, “But it’s not ready,” and you’re like, “Right, I know but that doesn’t mean that-”

Erin Sparks: 13:39 That’s going to be our headline for the show, you realize that?

Kirk Williams: 13:44 Yes. Well, you will get controversy. No, so that’s… Not all of that is just a guesstimate. Google has actually, I believe publicly sometime in the past at some marketing live or something, they announced that they were working on basically a feedless system utilizing the data on your site and someone actually just tweeted out a policy page. For some reason it’s not in the U.S., I’m not quite sure but they tweeted out a policy page that was totally public for some other countries that it was going through some of this.

Basically, an option for when you, do you want to submit a feed by XML, then one of those is by site scrape and so they’ll be utilizing schema more and more for that. I think what’s going to happen, and I’m not actually totally against this because it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Google could start to make that a requirement if they wanted some day and sure that would be a pain but also if that was a thing that just… When they required GTINs, right, and that was a pain and then guess what? Everyone did it, right, because we wanted to advertise.

Erin Sparks: 14:56 Let me ask you that because as soon as you go into Schema, and I’ll park it here, then you’re dealing with… Honestly, you’re dealing with software, shopping software, say that 10 times fast. Shopping software that has to be able to crank that out and instead of being able to control explicitly what your feed is, you’re now relying on additional factors of your platform to be able to give you that same categorization, sub-categorization and there’s product association. That’s a big risk, would you say?

Kirk Williams: 15:28 Yeah. I think that’s where I got cut out is because, I think what’s going to happen is some of your core stuff is going to be all automated. By the way, this is already happening with pricing and status, so in stock/out of stock.

Erin Sparks: 15:45 Wow, cool.

Kirk Williams: 15:46 Automatic item updates are already in place, so we utilize them for most of our clients already. Where Google says, “Oh hey, your pricing in your feed says this but your pricing on the website says this, so because you gave us permission, we just went ahead and updated your finalized product in Google Merchant Center. We just updated the price to what your landing page is. That way we didn’t have to disapprove the product.” That’s already in place. It’s already been running for a while.

Erin Sparks: 16:13 Got it.

Kirk Williams: 16:14 You already have stuff like that and so what it will be, is you’ll have things like… so we have supplemental feeds. Google is cranking out updates for feed rules, which are really cool if someone is doing shopping and they’re not digging in. There’s already a mechanism to be able to submit manual product edits if you’d like and so again, I think it’ll be like, “Hey yeah, scrape my site, grab the title, price,” like the easy stuff, right?

Erin Sparks: 16:49 Right.

Kirk Williams: 16:50 “And here’s a supplemental feed matched to the item IDs,” and that’s where we submitted unique product types, things like that. I don’t think it would be that complicated.

Erin Sparks: 17:00 No. In fact, that’s the juice that that’s what companies such as yourself are going to be excelling in because as things get standardized and screen scrapes gets standardized as product delivery. That’s going to make this so much easier because that was one of the trials or the threshold, is to be able to get into the merchant area and be able to move that content. Then you got to work with your developer making sure that they know how to export the XML feed correctly, so you had a number of challenges. But if Google already knows your product, then it’s already giving you a seat at the table, right?

Kirk Williams: 17:39 Yeah. I’m just, I’m not against them scraping the site as long as we can do edits and again, because of that… Like we already have to have all this data, it’s already out there. Right now, it really is almost walking through this extra step to do it exactly how Google wants it. Again, agreed it’s not… Like if they pushed it live right now, sure, there would be problems but again to the point of, “Hey, as an industry if we continue moving forward and seeing some of this stuff.”

Another interesting thing on this topic too is something called Advanced Data Extractors. These are buried on some policy page somewhere in Google that I could hope to find again but they’ve already noted that they’re working on data with, through… They’re working on things through machine learning to identify non-standard schema, so if you do have… and that to me is also going to be a crucial aspect to this.

Where basically like, hey, if someone says title and not exactly how Google wants to do the title, but with their machine learning they go in and they look at the page. They say, “No, yeah, this is the title,” even if they didn’t add it with the correct mark-up. They’ll still identify that. Again, they already have that program that they’re working on called Advanced Data Extractor. I really think that that’s the direction they’re going in, is feedless for the most part, so.

Erin Sparks: 19:04 Wow. Game on, get your schema straight folks that’s the lesson of this particular topic. All right, so jumping in back over to optimization. The average cost per click has gone up and the spend on channel continues to rise over and over, making acquiring new business and new customers through Google Shopping Ads a bit more difficult. That kind of leaves users wondering how to use AdWords in 2019, 2020.

You have a lot of experience in the Shopping Ad optimization space. Can you help us unpack some and give some tips to the users out there that are going up against a big box eComm. shopping environments. Can you roll through some of the best things that they can do in regards to optimizing their feed?

Kirk Williams: 19:58 Yeah. Within Google itself or Bing you’ll actually go in and create the campaigns for your Shopping Ads and I think a really, really, really crucial aspect of doing shopping well is setting things up well. Because you’ll have some level of optimization moving forward but for the most part you want to really think through and set things up well in a way that allows you to have… I like to say when I’m speaking at sessions and stuff, you’re wanting like products grouped with like products for the purpose of bidding well. 

Again, because the difference between shopping and text is keywords and not keywords. When you’re setting a bid on a keyword in search, you are in a really cool way and this is why I hope that keywords never go away because keywords are literally like a single person somewhere out there telling us marketers, “This is my buying intent, this is exactly what I’m interested in and I’m communicating that to you.” I mean that’s gold, you know?

And so, Google is like, “Hey, cool, so we should allow people to bid and set a bid based upon how much they want to spend based upon buying intent, purchase intent.” Awesome, right? Google, “Congratulations, you’ve started this, what are you [inaudible 00:21:25],” however that works, right? But Shopping Ads, you’re not bidding on the keyword, so you’re bidding on the product group level. Kind of segmenting things out into campaigns in that so your product groups have those like products.

For instance, you don’t want to be bidding on a product group that let’s say like all your Lego’s, all right I like Legos. You have a $2,400 Lego, some Star Wars crazy. You can’t buy them anymore. It’s really expensive. You have that in your product group and then you have one of those 24 cent little Lego extractor two pieces, right? if those are both in the same thing and then you have $1 CPC set on that. Again, that’s probably not a smart way to do it, right? You’re bidding up to a buck on those things.

Then that also gets into the levels of queries as well and that goes into a whole different topic that we could cover if you wanted. But there are also advanced ways to somewhat hack the system with shopping and be able to bid a little separately based on general query purchase intent as well. There are ways to set that up as well but basically, setting things up so that you’re bidding well on like things is really crucial to shopping.

Erin Sparks: 22:47 Given your example of Star Wars Legos. You do have the big Star Destroyer, don’t you? Look behind him everybody. I mean, look at the stuff on his wall, but you’ve got the Star Destroyer, don’t you? You’ve got the Lego Star Destroyer?

Kirk Williams: 23:03 Yes. Full Confession, I like transparency. This is the knockoff China version.

Erin Sparks: 23:12 No, he didn’t.

Kirk Williams: 23:14 I know. I did for that one. I didn’t have $2,400 to spend on a Star Destroyer.

Erin Sparks: 23:21 See, the problem is I knew exactly what he was talking about. I went right there. At least it’s not the Mega Bloks version, right?

Kirk Williams: 23:28 Yeah, there you go. But yeah, I mean, now half of your users probably dropped off the show because, “Goodnight, that Kirk.”

Erin Sparks: 23:36 Yeah, exactly. He couldn’t commit. He just-

Jacob Mann: 23:39 I think Mega Bloks would be like one to one ratio, wouldn’t it?

Kirk Williams: 23:41 Yeah. It’s literally just a block. That is true.

Erin Sparks: 23:48 All right. Pulling back around. Sorry, I had to go there. It was too good to pass up. You’ve got these different keyword bidding strategies and it’s all about intent. It absolutely is, but you also have a lot of rule based bidding strategies, and an audience targeting in the Shopping Ads that have similarity to conventional PPC and AdWords but there’s some uniqueness in that space as well. Is that the case?

Kirk Williams: 24:24 Yeah. That’s a good call-out because agreed, you will have definitely audiences and they’ve expanded the audiences that you can use with Shopping Ads. Devices, we like. It does depend on it. I like segmentation. I don’t like over-segmentation, so sometimes it’s a little bit of a dance figuring that out. There are accounts where we’ve pulled things out by devices per campaign because there’s such a dramatic conversion difference between mobile and desktop.

We know, agreed, we know that mobile is not going to convert as well as desktop just because, hey, there’s a great top of funnel aspect there. That’s important but even then, we want to have a bid separate still in that so you might do that. Probably the biggest shopping news in the last, maybe the last year now because I think these came out last year. I think they were announced at 2018 Google Marketing Live are the Smart Shopping campaigns.

Which are Google’s real like black box… I think the only thing that’s more automated that I’m aware of in the Google sphere are app ad campaigns, which I haven’t run them to be honest, at least for a long time. Friends who do say they’re just super-automated, you push a button and walk away. Smart Shopping is pretty close to that and I think in some problematic ways. I think that it’s something that should at least be considered in testing.

Erin Sparks: 25:52 We talked Smart Shopping over social. This is big and give us some dimensions of what Smart Shopping does on the Google Ads shopping platform there?

Kirk Williams: 26:05 Yeah. Smart Shopping really expands your ability to target using Shopping Ads with one campaign into different channels, so that’s one aspect. Instead of just showing on search and search partners. You’re going to be eligible to show on display, on YouTube, Gmail pretty much if it’s Google owned Smart Shopping will show on it. Then it’s based upon a target ROAS, so it’s very, very much based on profit, track profit. There is an option just to not even put in a target ROAS and say, “Just go out and spend for me,” and you basically set a daily budget and go.

I’ve actually heard a Googler call it black box, so it’s not just conspiracy theorists saying like it’s black box. It is black box, so there’s almost no data that you can see from it. There are very few optimizations that you can do, although there are some. It really is kind of this Google really pushing the limits of, “How much can we make a set and forget it thing,” and, “How widely will it be adopted?”

Erin Sparks: 27:22 “Just give us your money, trust us, and we’ll go spend it for you to get to your customers the best way possible, and we’re not going to tell you how we got there. We’re just going to get you customers.” That’s pretty much what you’re saying, right?

Kirk Williams: 27:36 Yeah. I mean, I’ve had conversations with CEOs who are okay happy that, “Great. Okay, we’re seeing maybe some target ROAS like what’s going on?” Or maybe there’s a dip the next day and they’re saying, “Okay, so what happened?” And that’s me saying, “I have literally no idea.” It’s not just me, no one would have that idea.

Erin Sparks: 27:58 Oh my gosh.

Kirk Williams: 28:01 Like, “Hey, did, maybe we get out of some certain keyword?” “I don’t know, like we can’t see search query data.” “Okay. Like maybe certain audience?” “We can’t see that.” “Are we spending more and did it switch and dump more placements on Gmail instead of YouTube?” “I don’t know. We can’t see that.” They literally invented a new channel for Smart Shopping, so in Google Ads it’ll say Search Network, Display Network, right? Smart Shopping, it’s called Cross Network.

Erin Sparks: 28:34 Oh, My Lord.

Kirk Williams: 28:37 Like they won’t even show you channel data, nothing and you do not get that data. Let’s say that you pushed a button and again, we have seen at times Smart Shopping work in terms of targeted ROAS. I’m not saying that it’s a complete flop. I’m just saying there are some significant things just to be aware of, right?

If you pushed a button and switch your entire account over to Smart Shopping for one year. That will be you in one year looking back on an entire period and you have literally no data at all. You could have spent millions of dollars and you have nothing to show for it. That can age your other campaigns. You know, we’ll do that with shopping, we’ll find queries that, “Hey, Google does find some new queries and they convert.” “Cool, let’s add those into search.” You can’t do that.

Erin Sparks: 29:25 It’s like trusting Skynet to advertise for you.

Kirk Williams: 29:30 That gets into the other part, which is, so it’s very much target ROAS centered, Return on Ad Spend, sorry. In case there are listeners who are listening who aren’t sure of that. Return on Ad Spend, what is our ROI? Which in ads that’s ROAS, Return on Ad Spend. What is our target that we want to do, right, that we want to hit? There’s even another complexity. There’s complexity on that and we just had this conversation for a certain client that we have, it’s why we were talking to the Googlers about this and they were asking about Smart Shopping and if that could play a role.

That was us saying like, “Look you adjust ROAS targeted with this campaign type but there’s a lot of other stuff going on with this client that’s off channel, that’s reported through other channels’ conversions that we’ll see with shopping. There’s a bigger brand awareness thing going on with how shopping fits into that and so it works really well for us to get really targeted for Shopping Ads on the search network for this client and Smart Shopping we can’t do that.

We’re just pushing a button and turning it on everywhere, so because of that it’s literally not an option for this. And, it doesn’t help me if you tell me you’ll hit ROAS targets because we’re thinking beyond ROAS targets, right?”

Erin Sparks: 29:30 Yeah, I hear you.

Kirk Williams: 30:54 It’s not just about what’s tracked.

Erin Sparks: 30:56 Yeah. You’ve got your blinders on and how effective has the Smart Shopping been as of late? I mean, you’ve got to have some data on just the conversions themselves. How does that compare to the different audience targeting that you’re doing manually, as well as display targeting? How does it work? How does it compare?

Kirk Williams: 31:18 We’ve seen it work fairly well with ROAS, to be honest. Again, with the point of that, that’s one of the reasons why we’re testing it and we’re trying to figure it out. Because if there’s also one thing that I’m convinced of with Google, it’s not… They don’t usually push something forward in terms of technology and then walk it back. That is really rare and so I also think it’s one of those things where one of…

Let’s just say one of the reasons why I’m beating the drum so loud right now as much as I can with like, “Hey, Smart Shopping has issues.” Is not that I want Google to just kill it. I want them to fix it, right? It’s almost like, “Hey, I’m on your side. Let’s actually make this better, so we all can use this,” because we have seen Smart Shopping work well. We’ve also seen it work well and then over a few months it’ll just start to slowly tank even if we’re trying to make adjustments with ROAS, things like that. 

ROAS targets, Google will say, “Hey, don’t set ROAS targets more than a 20% bid modifier adjustment within seven days.” They’ll say that, we’ll follow that and we’ll still see really weird things happen when we set ROAS targets and then all of a sudden like sales drop for 48 hours or something. Again to point of, you have just normal machine learning volatility, package that with a black box where you have no idea what’s going on in it and it’s a recipe for again, frustrated VPs, frustrated CEOs and they’re the ones who Google does need to be careful of here. Yeah hopefully they…

What I would like is, I would like them to give us more insight so… I would like them to give us any insight, I guess, data. Then also, it would be nice to have some triggers that we could pull as an assistant type thing. Your machine runs things, it does its thing and then we have a few things that we can also… We have a few levers to assist it, even give it some feedback that machines need. Hopefully that’ll happen. It’s not there yet.

Erin Sparks: 33:32 Oh boy, you’re putting trepidations in me, I tell you. At least, you’d hope that it could actually help influence the other campaigns, the other channels that you’re marketing. You almost have like a smart shopper insight that you can capitalize on or not in your other marketing channels, right, and other audience segmentation so you could take advantage of some of that. Whether or not you know what it is, it’s at least cross-pollinating to be able to help improve your campaigns and then you can choose to use it or not. But it’s not even doing that, it’s just running its own little hamster wheel out there.

Kirk Williams: 34:12 It’s in its own world.

Erin Sparks: 34:13 Oh my gosh. All right. Well, let’s get back to the stuff that we can control. Can you tell our audience about geo-modifiers when it comes down to Shopping Ads?

Kirk Williams: 34:23 Yeah. They work very similarly to search at campaign level and so, if you are running eCommerce and Again for the most part, I’ve not necessarily found really segmenting out by city necessarily always helps but there will be certain accounts where it does make sense. That might be a route you want to go and have Shopping Ads pulled into by state, or city, or things like that. That you can do as well, we’ve run testing as well for clients like that. If you’re familiar with the way geo works, geo-targeting works in search, it’s very similar in shopping.

Erin Sparks: 35:03 They’re good, good. They also released, I was reading up on this before the show, the Showcase Shopping campaigns for mobile shoppers.

Kirk Williams: 35:13 Yeah, Showcase. I’m a big fan of Showcase. I was a trepidatious of them when they first came out but basically, a Showcase Shopping Ad and these are almost entirely on mobile but they are expanding more and more from what we’ve seen in testing that in placements too like desktop in that. But a Showcase Ad, it’s kind of your brand awareness, top of funnel thought. Someone might be searching for red dress and in this case this ad type really does fit well with that. Because then what it’ll do is if someone types in their phone, they say, “Red dress.”

They, obviously by their query. Well more than likely obviously by their query, they don’t have too much of an idea of what they’re looking for. They just want to see examples of red dresses and so, a Showcase Ad is basically Google and you showing like, “Hey, here are a bunch of red dresses we have that they can click on the main ad.”

You have a great image that you can put up there to draw them in, and that expands into a bunch of PLAs, and then you are charged if they’ve expanded that and they’ve been on it for 10 seconds or more. Then you’re charged a cost-per-engagement. It’s basically a CPC or if they click-through on one of those to your site then you’re charged, so.

Erin Sparks: 36:36 That’s pretty cool. It’s almost like setting stage and they’ve had a head term before there’s true qualification and narrowing of search. Getting ahead of that curve with some good design placement and that’s where your brand really, really shines through as opposed to that more narrow transactional intent, right?

Kirk Williams: 36:59 Yeah. Exactly and one real important thing to note for any people running shopping who are doing more detailed strategies is Showcase Shopping Ads do not recognize priority settings in Shopping Ads, so just so you’re aware of that. If you are running some sort of strategy that utilizes your high, medium and low priority settings. Showcase Ads do not recognize those, we found that out the hard way.

What I usually do with Showcase, is I’ve gotten to the point where I give them their own campaign and that also lets us keep those separate. We watch profits separate and all that stuff, so we give Showcase their own shopping campaigns now.

Erin Sparks: 37:37 Very cool. From an expense standpoint are they low expense or high expense? I mean, you’re still dealing with almost like a CPC mentality there.

Kirk Williams: 37:46 Yeah. It’s very similar from what we’ve seen because it’s like a CPE. It’s called cost-per-engagement. They’re fairly similar to our CPCs in our accounts that we run, yeah. We’ve been seeing them do better, honestly, even in track ROAS. Which in the past it wasn’t quite as much, which totally makes sense, they’re top of funnel. But I feel like across accounts we’ve been seen them do better. I don’t know why. I don’t know if Google is learning and putting them in better placements or, I don’t know?

Erin Sparks: 38:14 Do you have the ability to look at a multi-touch of that campaign and then you have a more transactional product campaign that’s an influence against that can actually raise click-through and raise conversions?

Kirk Williams: 38:30 Yeah. You can set an attribution model that’s not specifically on like last-click in that. Like data-driven DDA or some others. Position based is one I like if we don’t have the DDA option and you can see some of that or again, and again to the point of having it in its own campaign. Go ahead and hop into Google Analytics and you can use their comparison tool there. We like doing that and get an idea of, “Hey, is this thing sending more first touch sales than others,” and sometimes that’s illuminating as well.

Erin Sparks: 39:02 No, I dig it. Yeah and you can also trial out different imagery and branding opportunities that you can then carry on to your individual product imagery, right?

Kirk Williams: 39:12 Yeah. Especially in, yeah, those Showcase Ads, you can test those with different images, yeah.

Erin Sparks: 39:17 Very cool. Well, wrapping up here. There’s some ad merchant promotion modifiers that you can also adjust your ad to. Can you name a couple of those? I’m just really trying to expand the, what you have to customize your ad because when it gets down to it that visual appearance is a watershed moment for consumers. What can you control from the visual ad itself?

Kirk Williams: 39:47 Yeah, so the image of course. The frustrating thing about testing images with Shopping Ads is you’re not testing them simultaneously and so, that always leaves room for error as time changes things but for the most part you can set up images. A really common and easy, and obvious image test is to try like hero images and lifestyle images.

If it’s apparel maybe you want to test just like, “Hey, here are the shoes just on a white background.” A really large picture looks good or you might want to test someone wearing the shoes, right, so you can test that. Promotion, so there’s actually an updated promotion tool that’s really handy. Google just updated this and really did a great job of walking you through it.

You’ll go into Google Merchant Center for this and then you can add in merchant promotions there and that’s going to give you a little tag in the SERP that says, “Buy one get one 50% off,” or something like that. That’s in Google Merchant Center. That’s the promotions and then there’s also the sales. In your feed there’s sales price and sales price effective date in that. 

Although, we’ve been having some struggles with that lately. Especially, with automatic item updates and as I’ve been talking with Google, I won’t be surprised if we see the sales price field eventually get deprecated because a lot of their tags are becoming more and more automated as they’ve noted. Basically, they’re looking at that and they’re seeing, “Hey, we’ve tracked the price of this product over the last 90 days,” or whatever it is and you saw 27% drop.

They’re testing things like literally, you might have seen this, literally a little tag up there that says, “27% price drop.” That’s 100% on Google’s, that’s automated. That’s Google decides to do that. No, you can’t add that or not, or take it away.

Erin Sparks: 41:52 Push pause for a second. They’re affecting your promotion, right, with a particular price drop and they’re affecting literally what you’re actually rolling that pricing out to be?

Kirk Williams: 42:09 There’s the two separate categories. The promotion is something that you would go in and make in Google Merchant Center.

Erin Sparks: 42:16 And then… I got it.

Kirk Williams: 42:18 Yeah and especially, so a core difference to know for me is if something changes going into the cart, then you want to do that with a promotion. If your price just changed and so if your landing page price is all of a sudden 25% lower because they’re running a deal across the site. You can’t run a promotion for that but that’s where… Then that’s where that sales price thing that Google [inaudible 00:42:44] watching your thing will say, “Whoa, hey,” so they’re not changing your price. They’re just notifying, “Oh, your price dropped 25%,” and then alert everyone it dropped 25%.

Erin Sparks: 42:55 They’re modifying it and again, forgive me for being paranoid there. They’re actually really paying attention to each and every one of your landing pages, and scooping up, and adjusting the price for best display. Really helping you out as an advertiser as opposed to just willy-nilly deciding to change pricing. Really it’s responding, it’s giving you an advocacy tool to be able to move it quicker in front of the customer, right?

Kirk Williams: 43:21 Yeah.

Erin Sparks: 43:22 All right. I get it. Okay. There’s certainly a lot to the Smart Shopping realm that bears scrutiny and hopefully, we’ll be able to see a little bit more in that space. You’ve got to keep up the good fight, Kirk, because we might actually ask Kirk Williams to get in there and start slugging it out because we need you to demystify-

Jacob Mann: 43:50 The thing is, is I’ve got the voice promo ready for Kirk.

Erin Sparks: 43:53 Okay, cool. There’s so much that goes into in the Shopping Ads and we really do appreciate you unpacking this for us. Any final thoughts about advertisers that haven’t tried out Shopping Ads before, any key guidance that you’d give them?

Kirk Williams: 44:13 Yeah. One thing would be, if you are running eCommerce then just baseline you should be trying Smart Shopping Ads, right? Merkle puts out their report every year and they just put theirs out and I’m trying to… I was prepping this for a session, I’m trying to remember the exact number but Search Ads, clicks and spend have been declining or stable in that but shopping does still continue to grow quite rapidly compared to Search Ads. There might have been a decline from quarter to quarter but even then, the growth is like 40% higher than search or something like that.

Google is still creating more placements for Shopping Ads, it seems. They’re still pushing this hard and that’s where your competitors are and so, we’ve definitely seen eCommerce in the last… Over the last number of years, we’ve definitely seen it shift from being primarily search centered to being primarily shopping centered.

Erin Sparks: 45:14 Wow. 

Kirk Williams: 45:16 If that’s not the way your account is, and there’s going to be outliers in everything, that’s fine but shopping is a big deal. Just be aware of that as eCommerce, so that’s probably the main thing. Then one thing I noted, the Shopping Campaign build outs, one thing I’ll note just so that it’s there for resources, is still a really great way to get in depth and be able to bid separately, to go after that purchase intent is bidding by query. It gets really complicated. There’s a video out there by a guy named Martin Roettgerding that’s really good.

Then based on that, this is a few years back, then I wrote a Search Engine Land article as I got in and tested it out. That’s really just a walkthrough. This is exactly how you do this and using those priority settings, I know it allows you to… Basically, what it does is it allows you to set less aggressive bids and keep your budget lower on those more general terms that Google would want to blow your budget on. Like if you’re selling trek bikes and the word is bicycle, you probably don’t want to blow all your budget on that. 

If you do this strategy you actually can segment that out, so you actually can control your budget and bids better for terms like that. That you observe it and can get more aggressive if someone is saying, “I want to buy a Trek FX 2 bike,” and you’re like, “Wow, that’s a great keyword. I want to bid more aggressively on that,” and you can with this strategy and it still works. It’s a few years old, it still works. We still see it work and we still use it a lot, so.

Erin Sparks: 47:02 Very good, very good. Certainly, I recommend our audience, if they are eComm. jump in there, jump in there now and most of these more contemporary shopping carts, shopping software have a Google feed ready and can fire off in a moment’s notice. If you’re not doing it, you better be doing it right now because there’s an entire shopping area that you’re not capitalizing on and there’s an entire customer base that is spending money with your competitors, not you so jump in there.

What are some good resources, if our audience or different digital marketers are lost in this space? Some good quick references out there of just having it ramped up into this space?

Kirk Williams: 47:53 Yes. I’m really trying to do a lot of writing on shopping, so honestly if you… I’ll shout up myself here. If you follow our blog, we do a lot of writing, a lot of focus on Shopping Ads and that’s at zatomarketing.com. Look me up anywhere. PPCKirk, if you Google PPCKirk that’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter all that stuff, Instagram, and I usually try to stay up and just discuss what’s going on in Shopping Ads.

Then also, if you’re totally new to Shopping Ads, there is an eBook that I helped write for Search Engine Journal and I wrote the Shopping Ad section that kind of is detailed. This is a great place to start.

Erin Sparks: 48:37 Cool.

Kirk Williams: 48:38 And so, that’s probably worth looking and reading as well.

Erin Sparks: 48:42 Excellent. Excellent. Well, we’ve run long here, Kirk. I really do appreciate your time and your detail as you break these apart. There’s so much information in this space and that’s growing and people… I think one of the key things is consumers are trusting the shopping environment more every year the average conversion data is increasing. We have a savvy customer base that’s trusting the environment, trusting their smart phones and it’s making hay for your clients, isn’t it?

Kirk Williams: 49:13 Yeah. Yeah, we love Shopping Ads and are going to keep rolling on it, so.

Erin Sparks: 49:17 Sweet. Speaking of keeping on rolling, you’ve got five kids man and you’re not done. What’s going on there man?

Kirk Williams: 49:25 I like to say that usually God gives at least one of us the brains to say, “Hey, enough is enough,” and neither of has, that’s why.

Erin Sparks: 49:35 They’re all blonde and you have a specific formula for their names, so what’s going on there?

Kirk Williams: 49:39 Yeah. Let’s see, they’re all seven letters and the girls all start with B-R-I and the boys start with B-E, so.

Erin Sparks: 49:50 There you go.

Kirk Williams: 49:52 We’re running out of names though.

Erin Sparks: 49:54 Oh my Lord. Well, just lining them up. It’s almost like a song. What is it? Hold on.

Kirk Williams: 50:08 The Sound of Music.

Erin Sparks: 50:08 Sound of Music, thank you. My Gosh.

Kirk Williams: 50:11 Yeah, that’s what we’re going for.

Erin Sparks: 50:12 And, that’s what it sounds like. Boy, I couldn’t get it out of my mouth quick enough but.

Kirk Williams: 50:17 But aside from not the Nazi Germany part but the kids.

Erin Sparks: 50:19 Yeah. Exactly.

Kirk Williams: 50:21 And, we have the mountains in Montana.

Erin Sparks: 50:23 Yes, you do and they’re blonde and we won’t make any other references besides that.

Kirk Williams: 50:26 There you go.

Erin Sparks: 50:28 Thank you so much, Kirk. It’s always been a pleasure and we certainly wish you come back again. Don’t be a stranger. Don’t let three years go past because Lord knows in Google shopping space, I mean we’re all going to be wired with a chip to purchase from by the time three years rolls around, right?

Kirk Williams: 50:46 Yup, exactly. I mean AR will come before that though, so.

Erin Sparks: 50:50 Absolutely. All right, so we want to make sure we promote your agency and go ahead and lay it on us as well. ZATO, where can they find you?

Kirk Williams: 51:01 Yeah. We are just online at zatomarketing.com and that’s Z-A-T-O.

Erin Sparks: 51:05 Excellent. All right. Well, we certainly appreciate your expertise and we’ll be watching you from afar. Thank you so much and we appreciate that, the expertise in the Shopping Ads space. We haven’t had it on the show nearly as much as we should.

Kirk Williams: 51:20 Cool. Yeah. Thanks again for having me. It was a good time.

Erin Sparks: 51:22 Not a problem. Thanks so much. All right. Thanks for watching and listening to Edge of The Web Radio. A special thank you to our colleagues over at Edge of The Web Radio as well as Site Strategics and especially our guest, Kirk Williams. Make sure you check out all the must see videos over at edgeofthewebradio.com that’s edgeofthewebradio.com. Be sure to rate and review us online at all the different podcast spaces because we certainly want to hear from you.

Let us know how we’re doing and then make sure that you let us know who you’d like us to speak to next. Just give us a shout over at edgeofthewebradio.com. From all of us over at Site Strategics, thanks so much and we’ll be talking to you next week live and be sure to watch for us on YouTube because we’re coming your way fast. From all of us over here, don’t be a piece of cyber driftwood. We’ll talk to you next week, bye-bye.

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