- Great Google Shopping campaign structures use priorities to tell Google what products are most likely to convert
- There isn’t a one-size fit all structure, but some work better than others most of the time
- Start simple, and expand in complexity as you go
- Standard Shopping campaigns with few ad groups, few products and manual bidding do not work.
The Big Picture
Our first article on Google Shopping campaign structure was solely focused on the query-split framework, which gives you some control back over the search queries you’re bidding for in Shopping.
But we always received the same question:
What if we don’t carry any known brands, or if we don’t have significant performance difference across keywords?
Since 2017, we’ve experimented with new campaign structures for Google Shopping, and we felt it was about time to write more of an introduction to the various campaign structures you can use rather than jumping straight to a single tactic.
Two Takes on Campaign Structure
Before getting started I wanted to mention that even though this might seem complex, then you just have to start somewhere.
I have seen many examples of campaign structures that were overly complex. The more complex you create a campaign structure, the harder they will be to manage.
Overly complex setups can be a challenge to manage for even the best of us. Even though a complex structure might be best in theory, then your optimizations will be less effective and you will end up with sub-optimal campaign performance.
If you feel this article is too advanced, then just start with one Google Shopping campaign and focus on structuring it correctly using the ad group and product group section.
Then you can expand further afterwards.
When to split in different campaigns
We think of two different ways when it comes to using different campaigns
- Segmenting products into different campaigns
- Creating different campaigns, and use the priorities setting to influence what products (or search queries) are being prioritized
- (Mobile vs Desktop)
The last one I’ve chosen to put in parenthesis because we’ve covered mobile-only campaigns in our general article on the topic. It’s thorough and goes into all the necessary details.
To summarize our stand on mobile-only campaigns: Only segment your campaigns in mobile vs desktop when there are significant performance differences that you can’t manage with bid adjustments.
Cases for Segmenting Products into Different Campaigns
You need a good reason to split into separate campaigns. Don’t do it just because you do it with your regular Google Search campaigns. The biggest challenge is that they are not as easy to manage.
Search campaigns require a very strict structure to ensure relevance from search query to keyword to ad to landing page, but you don’t have the same issues in Google Shopping (to a certain degree).
With that being said, then there are several good reasons to segment products in separate campaigns:
- Low vs high value products
- Breaking up large inventories
- Separate ROAS targets for margins
- New vs existing products / categories
I’ll touch on each campaign segmentation below:
Low vs High Value Products
If you sell both products at high ($500+) and low ($20) price level, then you should consider segmenting them. This enables you to treat them differently from a bidding perspective.
The journey for a high value product is significantly higher than if you are buying something worth $20. This should be reflected in your bidding frequency and performance analysis.
We’ve scaled accounts by simply creating this segmentation and given high value products more time to convert.
This might be one of my favorites.
Let’s take an easy example such as summer vs winter products: swimwear and outerwear.
Both have very significant peak seasons that you need to be on top of.
By splitting the products into separate campaigns it becomes much easier to compare performances year-over-year and notice trends.
Like in the following example where we run three different campaign “groups” for three different apparel categories:
- Swimwear is a focus area in the summer.
- Outerwear is a focus area in the winter.
- Activewear goes up and down throughout the year.
Breaking up large inventories
If you’re selling more than 20,000 products it’s often a good idea to segment your products into separate campaigns based on main categories.
If we take my favorite grilling site, BBQGuys.com, then they have the following categories:
It would most likely make sense to split up the main categories that you see in the top of the site – both due to the size of the inventory, but also due to the high vs low value argument.
You could even argue that an ecommerce store of that size requires further sub-grouping.
Separate ROAS targets for margins
Even though I’m a big proponent of profit tracking, then in cases where that’s not possible and you have big discrepancies in margins it will make sense to split products into campaigns based on the necessary ROAS target.
Just don’t overdo it. Stick to two, maybe three segments (campaigns). Otherwise you are diluting your data too much.
New vs Existing Products / categories
This is another favorite of mine.
If you are adding a lot of products/categories/brands to an already big site you might want to keep your existing campaigns separate. You’ll want to track the performance for new products, make sure they have sufficient bids for a month or so before you start bidding down.
You also need to work more on negative keywords than you need to with your existing products.
Lastly, if you are using any bidding automation, then you don’t want new products that potentially don’t perform well influence how your automation bids for the existing products.
Your automation is told to hit a target for your entire campaign. So if you are getting a significant amount of new products that pulls down the ROAS for the campaign your automation will decrease bids for profitable products to make up for the rest of the campaign as well.
What About Creating a Campaign per Brand or Category?
This could be where you create a campaign per brand or per category on our website.
I’ve seen segmenting into categories work a couple of times, but brands often becomes a mess IMO.
My personal opinion is that I’ve rarely been able to justify a completely category segmentation (as in +50 campaigns) vs using ad groups to separate sub-categories. So we don’t do it.
We advise a couple of in-house teams that have decided to use that approach and we haven’t found enough of a case to recommend that they switch it. So if you are already doing it today and manage your search queries well (see later in this article) then there isn’t a big case for changing it.
Use Campaign Level Inventory Filters
When you segment categories/brands/products into separate campaigns the best way is to use campaign level inventory filters.
It’s the best way to ensure no mistakes are made when targeting various campaigns:
You find this in your campaign settings.
Campaign Priorities is Your Secret Edge
I was debating whether to leave campaign priorities in the playbook section, but decided to include it here as it’s fundamental to success with Google Shopping.
How to properly use priorities was a riddle for a while back when Shopping campaigns were introduced. It was that setting you looked at and just set to high because, well, high must be better than low, right?
The priority setting works internally in an account.
If you have two Shopping campaigns that can both show ads for the same search terms the Shopping campaign with the highest priority (usually) win (usually because it’s not 100% accurate).
This is the basic idea for Google Shopping campaign priorities.
The setting allows you to create some pretty intricate campaign structures that will set you up for success.
It’s not an exact science, but more of a gentle nudge.
You’re telling Google: “Hey handsome, I think the products in the high priority will convert better, so please show them first”.
As with everything you’re telling Google it’s not always they do what you want.
But it’s better than nothing.
Priorities: The Basics
You have three campaign priority levels:
There are no ad group or keyword priorities.
One thing to note is that Smart Shopping is the ultimate campaign priority that overtakes all other campaigns. So if you have a high priority campaign and a Smart Shopping campaign, products in the Smart Shopping campaign will be preferred by Google.
That’s why you should be careful with running a mix of regular and Smart Shopping campaigns.
7 (8) Ways to Use Campaign Priorities in Your Google Shopping Strategy
There are many different ways to use campaign priorities, but the base of it all is that you if you can identify a factor across all / most / many of your products that can indicate how well it will convert, then you can use campaign priorities to prioritize those products.
Here are 7 examples of real-life campaign setups we’ve run:
- Keyword/Query Split
- Margins (not preferred)
- On Sale vs Not on Sale
- New vs Old
Seeing that you can’t use multiple priorities, then you can only selling one tactic per campaign setup. You can’t combine the query split and the bestseller tactic.
Keyword Split / Query Split
We’ve written about this extensively in a separate article about the keyword split Google Shopping structure: Regain Control of Keywords in Google Shopping.
The premise is that you use a combination of campaign priorities and negative keyword lists to separate your search queries into separate campaigns.
This allows you to bid higher for search queries that convert well, and bid lower for search queries that convert low.
It works great for advertisers that have clear patterns where some search queries convert better than others. Typically, this is branded searches (i.e. The Rock training shoes) vs generic searches (training shoes).
The challenge with this approach has always been; What if we don’t carry any brands or our generic searches are also valuable?
You can still use query split campaigns for those cases, but sometimes it’s better to use one of the 6 other tactics.
This is a classic tactic that tends to work well across a number of advertisers.
It’s more successful with DTC brands than any other. If you carry 20 different winter coats, but always sell most of the top 3, then prioritizing these can work beautifully.
Just be aware that you need to select the bestselling product that also represent a good percentage of your revenue. It needs to be at least 50% of you revenue.
Anything less than that and it’s not sufficient enough to work, which is perfectly fine. The strategy is not for all. Many eCommerce stores with a lot of brands thrive of long tail and width. Not going all in on a couple of bestsellers.
Cheapest compared to competitors
If price is a significant factor in whether your product sells, try showing products first where you are sure your price in the same or cheaper than your competitors’.
If you often sell out of popular colors/sizes, consider creating a split where products with less than 60% of colors/sizes available are put in a medium priority campaign.
Margins (not preferred)
You can create a campaign structure that has high margin products in a high priority, so you show products with the best first.
This can be impactful if you sell private label products mixed with other manufacturers’.
On Sale vs Not On Sale
Some stores have a consistent promotion schedule that dictates what product sells or not. If that’s you, you can try prioritizing products on sale as high.
Just don’t do it if your promotional strategy is to sell your out of season products. It will result in you showing your out of date inventory first, which might get the least CTR and clicks.
New vs Old Collections
Especially in apparel, new collections sell better than old collections. You still want to sell out of your old collections and if consumers are specifically searching for the old collection.
You just want to prioritize your new collection.
But the priority tactic can really be used for anything you can define as a factor in the conversion:
- Fast vs slow shipping
- Cheap vs expensive shipping
Before you create any split then use the Google Ads Reports to verify that there is actually a significant performance difference between products with the factors that you want to create a split based on.
This can be done by creating a custom label for the product segmentation you want to create, and let it run for a month. You can then use the Google Ads Reports to check the performance difference between the custom labels.
This is a very powerful way to verify new campaign splits before you start creating them.
Ad Group Structure
Before we dig into this, I want to specify what difference between an ad group and product group is:
Ad groups contain product groups.
Product groups are a way of grouping products together. This can be done in any way you want.
Typically, you’ll create product groups based on brand, product_type, price, profit margin or another attribute.
Finally, a product group can also be a single product.
When managing Shopping campaigns, splitting your products into multiple ad groups within your campaigns can be a sound strategy.
Two of the biggest advantages of multiple ad groups are:
- Stronger control over bid adjustments (RLSA, Mobile, Ad Schedule) as you can set a bid adjustment on the ad group level
- Better insights to what search terms specific product groups appear for
Since there is no way to see what search terms a product group is appearing for the only way to get more insight is by splitting your product groups in individual ad groups.
Depending on how many products you have, this can become a time-consuming task.
Especially if you split your campaign in mobile too. Optmyzr has a super simple tool that allows you to do this with the click of a button (Check out my free step-by-step guide to setting this up.)
Product Group Setup
In regular search Ads you have keywords. The equivalent of a keyword in Shopping Ads is a product. A product group consists of a group of products (or just one product).
You can set a bid on the product group level.
The difference between keywords and product groups is that you can’t really control what search terms you’re bidding for with a product group.
As default, Google will create a single product group that contains all your products:
It’s crucial that you split up your product groups is a way that makes it easier to bid for each individual product based on its performance.
Again, using the same screenshot from above, we can show how an All Products product group has been broken up by sub-categories:
It gives us the ability to set bids based on the performance of each individual sub-category rather than an average of all products.
You Can’t Bid Effectively With One Product Group
The main reason why you want to set specific bids for individual products, or product groups consisting of a few products, is due to the performance varying from product to prodyct.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Some products have a 1,000% ROI while others have a 300% ROI. You want to set a separate bid for each of these.
Some products require a $3 bid to maximize their impression share. For others, just $1 or even less will work. The “magical” S-curve in bidding is crucial when it comes to bidding on individual products.
Some products do well on mobile. Others don’t. This is where splitting product groups in different ad groups or campaigns come in.
Some products should be excluded completely. Others shouldn’t.
If you don’t split up your product groups, there is no efficient way of discovering these differences or acting on them with your bidding.
Real Life Example of Advertisers Not Using Product Groups
I’ve run across many cases where the product groups weren’t adequately broken up.
Often it’s because the overall results from Shopping are pretty good.
In the example below you can get a better idea of what I’m referencing.
The overall performance is 2.08 ROAS, but when we start breaking down the individual product groups you can start seeing that there are specific product groups that aren’t performing as well as the others:
Main Product Group
First product group breakout:
Second product group breakout:
You’re starting to get the idea, right?
By breaking up the product groups again and again, you can start seeing that certain product groups, or individual products, don’t perform as well as the others. When you don’t break up your product groups you lose the ability to see this.
Ideas for splitting product groups
Product groups are split up in layered groups. This means that you split up product groups within a product group.
You can essentially split out product groups based on whatever you want.
My favorite way to split them is typically like this:
- Brand (usually as an individual ad group)
- Product Type level 1
- Product Type level 2
- Product Type level 3
- Item ID
- Product Type level 3
- Product Type level 2
- Product Type level 1
It looks like this in practice:
Some other interesting ways to split product groups can be:
- Pricing (via custom label)
- Margin (via custom label)
- Other commonalities
Combining The Factors: Priorities and Bidding
You might be wondering how you can select just one priority.
Many ecommerce stores will see that product variants, bestsellers and price competitiveness are all important factors in whether a product converts or not.
The solution is to choose one major factor that you use for your priority campaign structure, and then you use the other factors as your product group structure for different bidding.
This might that you choose the Bestseller vs Regular campaign structure, but use Price Competitiveness at the product group level, so you can change bidding based on how competitive your pricing is.
It will look like this in practice:
- Campaign: Bestsellers with high priority using an inventory filter to only include products with the custom label bestsellers
- Ad Group: Running Shoes
- Product Group: Lower Price – $1.5 bid
- Product Group: Neutral Price – $1 bid
- Product Group: More Expensive – $0.5 bid
- Ad Group: Running Shoes
- Campaign: Regular with Medium priority using an inventory filter to only include products with the custom label Regular
- Ad Group: Running Shoes
- Product Group: Lower Price – $0.8 bid
- Product Group: Neutral Price – $0.5 bid
- Product Group: More Expensive – $0.2 bid
- Ad Group: Running Shoes
Campaign Priorities and Smart Bidding
One of the main reasons to use campaign priorities is to get a leg up from a bidding perspective.
If you’re using Smart Bidding most of the structures still make sense. The only one that usually don’t make sense to use if you have Smart Bidding enabled is the keyword split.
Seeing that Smart Bidding is bidding on a search term basis in Google Shopping (yup, it’s unfair and pretty cool), then there is typically not a need for you to split campaigns due to search queries.
There are a couple of exceptions though:
Generic vs branded search queries: You might want to see a higher ROAS target for your branded search queries than generic/category searches. Campaign priorities would be a beautiful way of doing this.
Gather high converting search queries in one campaign: This is especially effective for high volume accounts.
You have a list of high converting search queries (or low search queries) where you can create a query split where you let Smart Bidding run on the well-performing queries and you set a steady low bid for the lower performing search queries.
And there are more examples where it makes sense. You just have to have a meaning behind doing it.
Priority Levels Aren’t Perfect
Even if you set a high priority and a medium priority campaign, you’ll still see a lot of search queries show up in your medium priority campaign that really should show up in your high priority campaign.
We’ve done quite a bit of testing on the issue and we don’t have a definitive answer.
It’s definitely related to some sort of “ad rank”, but exactly why the priority level wouldn’t override this we don’t understand.
What we do know is:
The closer your bids are to each other in the medium and high priority campiagns are, the more search queries will move to medium priority.
You need at least 25%, and preferably more, higher bids in your high priority campaign to have minimum overlap.
Search Term Sculpting with Ad Group Level Negatives
When you have multiple brands that carry the same categories you want to create individual ad groups for specific product groups/brands so they can own a keyword:
Let’s say that you have Reebok, Asics and Nike athletic shoes.
You’ve discovered that Reebok sells the best for searches for crossfit shoes.
Asics sells best for trail running shoes
Nike sells best for lightweight running shoes
If you only had one ad group, there would be no way for you to determine what brand/product should trigger what keyword. For single-brand advertisers, this is a non-issue, but if your store carries many brands it can become a huge issue.
By creating an ad group for each brand, you can exclude the wrong search terms from the ad groups / brands that you don’t want them to show for:
SPAGs: Single Product Ad Groups – Worth The Time?
I hate saying something isn’t worth doing as I can think of a couple of cases where it makes sense to use SPAGs.
However, to illustrate how little we use them, then we don’t have them running across +50 accounts.
The purpose behind SPAGs is that you can see exactly what search queries appear for individual products. With that knowledge you can really sculpt your search queries to match the correct products.
That sounds good, but in practice there are a couple of problems:
- Search query sculpting is not really that big of a deal many markets
- Google is pretty good at it
- If it’s an issue then sculpting is usually sufficient at the product type level (if you’ve set them up correctly)
- Negative keywords become a niiightmare to keep track of for large accounts
Again, all advice is relative. I’m talking from a perspective of running eCommerce accounts with more than 1,000 products.
If you have 20 or 50 products it might be worth your while.
CSS: Comparison Shopping Service
Only applies to Europe.
If you don’t understand what I’m referring to below just ignore it. It’s only important if you know what I mean. We have an article coming that goes into depth with how to work with Google Shopping and CSS in Europe.
This topic deserves its own article, but I’ll touch on it briefly.
There is a theory (which we have neither verified nor debunked) that to get the most out of your CSS Shopping campaigns, then you need to run both Google Merchant Center campaigns and CSS campaigns side by side.
You apply a -18% bid adjustment for the CSS campaigns, set equal bids in both campaigns and then Google will show the product with the best ad rank.
That’s the theory.
And we do it a lot. But only because our software allows us to aggregate the data and then our bids across both campaign types.
But if you can’t aggregate the data, then it becomes really tough to manage and dilutes your data hence making your optimizations less efficient.
For me, less effective optimizations will quickly erode any gains you get from running both campaign types.
Try Once, Try Twice, and Then Try Some More
Seeing that you have to decide on one campaign structure at a time you can’t really try different structures and find which one works best.
But if you have only tried one Shopping strategy in your lifetime, then you might be leaving a lot of money on the table.
We regularly revise our Google Shopping strategy (and therefore campaign structure). Sometimes we change it and often we don’t.
The times where we do decide to make a change is when the current campaign structure does enot support the eCommerce store’s strategy.
For instance, if they go from being focused on being the cheapest on the market to not. Or when they go from using a lot of promotions to rarely using promotions.
We have a campaign structure that fits each business strategy.
How is your Google Shopping structure supporting your business strategy?