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What are Smart Shopping campaigns by Google? A beginner’s guide

Smart Shopping campaigns by Google aim to simplify campaign management, increase reach, and drive product sales. This addition to the Google advertising toolkit is also fast becoming a must-have for eCommerce sellers, and this beginner’s guide is here to explain all.

What are Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns?

Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns are a campaign type that uses automation and machine learning to create, bid for, and place Shopping and retargeted ads across the Google network.

They work by testing different products, images, and text combinations to create and show the right ads to the right customers at the right time. Bids are then accordingly automated to achieve the maximum conversion return for the budget set. In the process, Smart Shopping campaigns save eCommerce sellers significant time and money by automatically optimizing ads, placement, and bidding, removing the need to set this up manually.

Nearly any eCommerce seller can get started with Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns, once they meet the following requirements:

  • Linked Google Merchant Center and Google Ads accounts (details on how to link can be found here)
  • An audience with more than 100 users
  • At least 20 conversions over the past 45 days from existing Google Shopping ads
  • Compliance with Shopping Ad policies
  • Compliance with the Personalized Advertising policy

Creating a Google Smart Shopping campaign

Once you meet the requirements for Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns, you can begin creating your first campaign as follows.

Before you begin

For your Smart Shopping campaigns to properly optimize themselves, you must first create the necessary links with your website and products. This requires:

  1. Setting up your website for conversion tracking by following this guide.
  2. Adding a global site tag to your website by following this guide.
  3. Creating and uploading a product data feed to the Merchant Center by following this guide.

Once you have completed these steps, you can begin setting up your Smart Shopping Campaign.

Setting up a Smart Shopping campaign – from Shopify

If you’ve launched your own eCommerce website using Shopify, you can download the official Google Shopping plugin. Once activated, head to the Google Shopping section on your Shopify dashboard, and complete the following steps:

  1. Click Create Campaign
  2. Set your daily budget
  3. Click Save. 

Google will automatically sync your products and relevant information about your Shopify store with your Google Merchant Center. This information is then used to optimize your Smart Shopping campaign accordingly.

Setting up a Smart Shopping campaign – from Google

If you want to use Google to create and edit your Smart Shopping campaign directly, log into your Google Ads account and complete the following steps:

  • Click Campaigns > ‘Plus icon’ > New Campaign
  • Select Sales as your campaign’s goal and Shopping as your campaign type
  • Select the appropriate Merchant Center account
  • Select Smart Shopping for your campaign type 
  • Give your campaign a unique name
  • Set your daily budget
  • Confirm whether you want to use the default bidding strategy (maximum conversion value) or target return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Select the products or product groups to include in your campaign (leave blank to include all products)
  • Upload the following assets:
    1. Your business logo, on a transparent background
    2. Your business banner, recommended 1200 x 628 pixels, maximum 1MB
    3. A short headline of 25 characters or fewer, detailing your business
    4. A long headline of 90 characters or fewer, detailing your business
    5. A description of 90 characters of fewer, inviting people to take action
    6. The final URL
  • Preview the auto-generated ad examples and make any changes necessary 
  • Click Save

* Note that the short and long headlines may appear with or without the description, but the description will always appear with a headline.

Running a Smart Shopping campaign

Since your Smart Shopping campaign uses machine learning to optimize your budget, products, and audience, it’s necessary to give your new campaign time to develop itself before making any changes.

Should your campaign not receive any new views for two consecutive days, Google will alert you and send a step-by-step guide of how to resolve the issue. If nothing improves within 28 days, Google will automatically pause your campaign.

To edit and recommence a paused campaign, sign in to your Google Ads account, click on the tools icon (the spanner), and select Shared Library > Audience manager > Audience Sources. From here, you can resolve of the highlighted issues. 

Best practices for Smart Shopping campaigns

To get the most out of your new Smart Shopping campaigns, Google recommends the following best practices.

Products

Smart Shopping campaigns work best when they have multiple products to work with and learn from. Ideally, you want to add as many products as applicable to your campaign.

However, if you’re going to start with a select group of products, pick products that achieve similar ad performance, for example, those that generate lower clicks rates but higher ROI.

Budget

When setting your Smart Shopping budget, base it on the combined historic daily spend of previous Shopping and retargeting campaigns.

Ads

While Google’s machine learning tools will pick the best asset combinations for results, you must have several high-quality assets to choose from. Ensure that your images and logos are of high quality and that all of your text has been proofread to ensure it’s engaging, relevant, and error-free.

Other campaigns

Smart Shopping campaigns take priority over standard Shopping or retargeting campaigns using the same products. Therefore it’s necessary to pause any other similar ads to avoid interference with the machine learning process.

Testing

As with all eCommerce advertising, testing the results and evaluating performance is crucial to success. However, it’s recommended that you allow your new campaign to run for 15 days before you begin analyzing results. When you are able to analyze your data, it’s important to account for:

  • External factors, such as special events, competitor campaigns, and time of the week;
  • The prioritization that Smart Shopping campaigns give to conversion value over clicks; and
  • Any delay between customers seeing your ad and converting at a later date.

Conclusion

Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns give you the power of machine learning to optimize your Google Shopping and retargeting ads and enhance your business’ performance. While it can feel a little alien to relinquish so much control over your advertising parameters, with Google’s intelligent algorithms at work, you can ensure that your ads are performing while you’re investing time into other areas of business growth.

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