For many e-commerce companies, Google Ads is one of the most important marketing channels.
In some research studies, Google Ads accounts for up to 18% of all e-commerce revenue.
So if you’ve chosen Google Ads or want better results, this guide is for you.
Since Google Ads is a fairly large platform with countless different options, it is not always clear which of these functions are relevant to you.
In this Google Ads Ecommerce Guide, I’ll walk you through the entire platform and show you what to focus on for maximum impact.
Google Ads doesn’t suit every business.
I know I mentioned in the intro how ecommerce companies get a lot of revenue from Google Ads, but that’s just the average.
Here are a few key must-haves before proceeding.
Some online stores simply don’t have the money to really test Google Ads.
The original goal is not to develop a full-fledged sales channel. Your first goal is to get your feet wet and understand what is possible with Google Ads. And then work your way up.
A few things affect the budget you need:
- How long does the purchase usually take?
- How much profit do you make from a sale?
- How competitive is your industry?
Bare minimum: $ 10 / day for a month
Ideal minimum: $ 1,000 / month
You can do it for less. But you’re going to be a lot more nervous and nervous and probably won’t stay with it long enough.
Too often I see new advertisers nervously:
I realize that $ 1,000 can be a lot of money for a start-up company. So if your budget is small, keep the number of products / keywords low.
Don’t try to run a 2000 product campaign for $ 5 a day for a month. You will be spreading your budget too thinly and not being smart about whether this can work. So focus your budget on the things that are likely to lead to sales.
Two stores that have the same budget and launch the same Google Ads campaigns may get very different results.
You could run campaigns that make fundamental mistakes but still make a profit.
While the other is running perfect Google Ads campaigns, he loses money with every click.
I’ve seen it many times. And it took me some time to figure out why this was happening.
Today I isolated these three factors that are a good barometer for Google Ads’ e-commerce potential:
- Product knowledge
- Unified economy that makes sense
- Infrastructure: e-mail entry, shopping cart cancellation, greeting, program repetition, etc.
I think these three things are important to get it right before you start using Google Ads.
These are not only nice to have, but can also mean the difference between making or losing money.
Google Ads strategy
Part of the complexity for newcomers to Google Ads is that there is no “Google Ad”.
Google Ads is a platform that allows you to advertise in different locations with different campaign types and ad formats.
First of all, you have to find out which of these are relevant for your company at this point in time and which need to be kept for later.
Order to mess
You can start with any campaign type and view results. However, this is not the most effective approach based on my experience teaching Google ads.
If you don’t pay attention to it on Google Ads, you may be competing for keywords that are much more competitive and for other businesses that have been doing this for YEARS.
So I recommend running the different campaign types in Google Ads step by step:
- Shopping ads
- Remarketing ads
- Search ads
- YouTube ads
- Show ads
The main reason for this special order is the simplification.
Running campaigns in the order described above will make it more difficult for you to make fundamental mistakes.
Suppose you skip my advice and start searching ads instead.
It’s been around for 20 years, and many advertisers have REALLY gotten good at it.
They are very easy to start and reach, but mistakes can be made easily when it comes to ad group structure and match types.
These immediately make it difficult to get into the profit zone.
In the following we follow this order.
However, there is great complexity within each campaign type. In the rest of this guide, I divided all sections into three levels:
- Beginner: Do this when you are just starting out
- Middle one: You have experience but want to make sure you do things right
- expert: You know how to get results (and want more of them)
Instead of trying to make everything perfect at once, focus on doing all the beginner’s stuff.
Once you get the hang of it, move up. With every level you level up, your results will increase as you become smarter, more sophisticated, and more detailed.
This also prevents you from getting stuck on details that are not really relevant at this point in time.
Basics of Google Ads
While Google Shopping requires some additional settings and configurations, most other types of campaigns have the same basics.
The most important thing is of course a Google Ads account. It is free to create.
(When creating a campaign for a customer, it may be worth checking one out Google Ads MCC account(with which you can manage multiple accounts with login and logout).
The Google Ads interface (beginners)
Regardless of whether you create Google Shopping campaigns or YouTube ads, you control everything via the Google Ads interface:
Google is constantly optimizing. So if you don’t open Google Ads very often, things may have changed a lot.
The first two columns are about navigation. Find the way to the right part of your campaigns. (You spend most of your time on the Campaigns / Ad Groups / Product Groups / Keywords tabs of this middle navigation.)
The “Graphics” section gives you a quick overview of what is going on in your account. It is therefore essential that you select the most important measurement data for you.
The click data is the most important part of the report. Here you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Google Ads Editor (intermediate)
While you can do everything from the Google Ads interface, some things get pretty boring.
The Google Ads Editor is a free tool from Google. It was developed for Google Ads power users and allows you to work much more efficiently.
Here are the main advantages:
- Make bulk changes
- Copy / paste elements (saves a lot of time when setting up new campaigns)
- Edit the settings without going through the wizard
- Work Offline: Helps prepare a number of changes or edits
Google Analytics (beginners)
The second tool you need is Google Analytics.
It works right away, but you need to make some changes to get the most out of the ecommerce features:
- E-commerce tracking
- Link Google Ads and Google Analytics together (you can now import transactions into Google Ads.)
- Improved e-commerce to get a better overview of the shopping cart and checkout performance
Also, leave the default auto-tagging enabled. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, keep it to avoid damaging your data before you even start: p
Enough preparation, it’s time to crank up !!
Google Shopping Ads
Many people are discouraged by Google Shopping Ads. This is mainly due to the work required to get started. If you’re unlucky, this early work can get pretty technical.
But if you can overcome this obstacle, there are many riches ahead of you.
Product feed (beginners)
To run Shopping Ads, you need to create a product feed. This is basically a large table with all of your product information.
The challenge here is that you have to specify all the different attributes that Google wants AND have to provide in the format desired by Google.
If you are on one of the major e-commerce platforms, there is usually an app or plug-in to do this.
But sometimes they don’t work and you have to find another solution.
Google Merchant Center (beginners)
Google Merchant Center (another free google tool) is the place where all the heavy lifting takes place.
There you connect your product feed to the Google system. Some platforms (Shopify, Magento) establish a direct connection via the API. Others need to add the feed manually.
Next, you’ll get details about the quality of the information you provide:
I cannot predict what errors and warnings will be displayed. These depend on your product feed.
If you get stuck, read this guide to fix any errors.
If all bugs (at least the red ones) are fixed, you can switch to Google Ads!
Smart shopping against standard shopping campaigns (beginners)
One of the first things you need to decide when setting up a new Google Shopping campaign is to opt for a Smart Shopping campaign or a standard campaign.
Smart shopping The new child is still on the block. Google advertises it hard, but I’m still not a fan.
The biggest difference between the two is that Google uses smart shopping to automate many of the things you do manually with standard shopping ads.
Things you can’t control with smart shopping:
- Where your ads appear
- For which queries do you see?
All of this reduces complexity. So if you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get tempted. But unfortunately, it is much more difficult to make a profit or find out what works to make more of it.
If you have experience with standard shopping campaigns, you can do a test.
However, when you start your first campaigns, we recommend running standard shopping ads. (What we’re going to do in the rest of this section)
Negative keywords (beginners)
By default, you can’t choose the keywords you want your Shopping ads to appear for. (I will introduce a workaround for this in one of the next sections.)
However, you can add those you want to prevent your ads from showing.
Some common negative keyword examples: free, manual, refund, order, etc.
You can find them, for example, by doing keyword research or from previous campaigns.
Too many people are hung up when bidding.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have the right bid strategy, but if you start, you won’t get any benefits from one or the other.
However, you can be fooled by things like Maximize Clicks. So when you start, use the manual CPC and continue for now.
When you get conversion data, you can test automated bid strategies like Enhanced CPC or Target ROAS.
Structure of the purchasing campaign (intermediate level)
A shopping campaign is ready to go: a single campaign with a single ad group and a single product group
Some advertisers may divide some product groups to bid differently for each product.
But most advertisers get stuck right there.
And that is a shame.
My biggest problem with this default setting is that you pay exactly the same amount for searches Google orders for your products.
Let’s do a little quiz. If you are selling this chainsaw:
Would you pay the same for a click on your ad if someone searched for “chainsaw” versus “stihl msa 200 battery chainsaw”?
If you are unsure of the correct answer, the following insight may help.
This second search term, which contains the brand and product name, has a conversion rate that is at least twice as high as the first.
This means that a click on your ad after someone has searched for it is much more valuable to you. So you can afford to spend a lot more on this click.
How do you do this?
Instead of having a single campaign for all searches, you have created (almost) duplicate campaigns that target a different set of keywords AND have a different maximum CPC.
If we look at the example above, we might have a campaign that targets all searches that include the brand name (“Sthil”) and product names (“MSA 200”), and another campaign that targets all other searches .
The key to getting this going is a setting known as campaign priority. I marked this as an intermediate tactic because getting it right is not very easy.
Custom Labels (Intermediate)
Another way to run more efficient campaigns is to allocate your budget to products that sell well, have a good margin, or have a good overall profit.
This logic is not available in Google Ads. However, you can add custom labels to your product feed using custom labels.
Showcase Shopping Ads (intermediate)
While smart and standard shopping campaigns actually generate the same ad format, showcase shopping ads are actually a different type of ad.
Instead of displaying a single product, a showcase shopping display shows the selection of that retailer’s products. When someone clicks on this first card, they can see the actual products that match the search query:
These ads mainly appear on mobile devices for very general category searches such as “cookware” or “mattresses”.
If they appear, other “normal” shopping ads will not appear. So there is no internal competition.
In terms of the results, they have never produced anything amazing for my customers.
However, since they appear for TOFU searches (at the top of the funnel), they help with visibility and may play a supporting role in the conversion.
So don’t expect too much of it, but you can add it as a test in addition to your regular campaigns.
Bid adjustments (intermediate)
Bid adjustments are tweaks that you can make to increase or decrease your CPCs based on a user’s characteristics.
Bid adjustments range from -100% (turn something off) to an infinite increase.
For example, you can lower your maximum CPC by 45% on mobile devices. You would do this knowing that mobile clicks are 45% less valuable to you.
Possible bid adjustments:
- Ad schedule
- Audience (see next section)
Google support documents provide an overview of all Bid adjustments.
In this article you will find a nice example of the correct procedure Bid adjustments.
Target groups are a special type of bid adjustment.
Here you can adjust your bids based on visitors who are part of different audiences (this is also known as “remarketing lists for search ads”).
For example, you can increase your maximum CPC for a visitor who has visited your website and started checking out but is not yet done.
Important tip: Make sure that you add your target groups to your campaigns as an observation and not as a target (as this would exclude all other visitors from your campaigns).
For more information on visitor retargeting, see the Remarketing Ads section later in this guide.
Product feed optimization (expert)
Google Shopping is based on the information you provide in your product feed.
Another way to get better results is to optimize the information in your feed.
Here are the three most effective:
1 – Product title
Much of the search match is done with the title. So if the title contains the wrong keywords, Google won’t always match you with the right searches.
To do this correctly, you may need to do some keyword research.
A second piece of optimized product title is the word order. With Shopping Ads, there is a cut-off, so you want to make sure your most important keywords are at the start of your title.
2 – Product identifiers
Product identifiers are the brand, gtin or mpn numbers. They are the cause of many headaches when setting up your feed.
But getting them right is essential to make sure your products get visibility.
Because if you’re using the same gtin number as another seller, Google has a little more information about which search queries to show your products for.
3 – Product images
If you’re selling products that others are also selling, consider changing them up to stand out.
Changing them can range from flipping them, all the way to shooting your own product pictures.
This last one is probably too labor-intensive for most stores. But it’s something that a lot of dropshipping stores can benefit from.
Google remarketing ads
The next layer of ads is remarketing ads. (Quick clarification: Remarketing is Google’s name for retargeting, these terms mean exactly the same)
Remarketing Ads are a special type of Display Ads that appear on other sites to people that have visited your website.
Here is an ad I got after visiting mahabis.com.
They are a good example of an aggressive remarketing program. If you visit their website, they will haunt you for months to come 🙂
An important thing to mention is that you should try to see if Remarketing Ads work for your business.
For some of my clients, they work wonders, but for others, it’s hard to generate enough return from them.
Static remarketing ads (beginners)
There are 2 big groups of remarketing campaigns: static or dynamic campaigns.
Static remarketing campaigns are where you show the same ad to every visitor. You can create separate ads for visitors to specific pages on your site, but all those visitors will all see the same ad.
The above Mahabis ad is an example of that.
Dynamic Remarketing Campaign (Intermediate)
The other type is dynamic remarketing campaigns. Instead of having the same ads, the ads feature products a visitor was looking at.
Google knows this because of the tracking code you have placed on your (website. The campaign is linked to your feed allowing Google to pull together an ad “custom” for that user.
The reason this type of remarketing is “intermediate” is that the tracking code can be quite tricky to get right.
Below you can see an example of what Dynamic Remarketing Ads looks like for retailer Yeti:
These ads don’t look amazing, but showing actual products people have recently looked can work very well.
If you see good results, you can invest some extra resources to get them to look good.
Creating Effective Remarketing Ads (Beginner)
When you create a remarketing ad, you won’t find any option to select static or dynamic ads. Google calls all of them Responsive Display Ads.
Here is what that looks like in the interface:
The responsive part in ad type refers to the fact that you’re providing Google with a bunch of assets which they combine into different combinations.
For static remarketing ads, these assets are headlines, logos, images, descriptions, and even videos.
For the dynamic remarketing ads, you’re doing exactly the same. But Google can also show a product gallery like the one Yeti example I just showed you.
Unfortunately, you don’t have any control over which creatives or elements are triggered.
There is a report where you can see which assets are most effective:
Remarketing Audiences (beginners)
Besides the ads, the main difference between static and dynamic remarketing is the tracking code you need to put on your website.
For static remarketing, a single code will do. Based on that you can target visitors that have (not) been to specific pages.
But if you want the real dynamic features, you need to add more complex remarketing code. That way Google can match which products a specific user has visited.
Because Google now “understands” what visitors do on your site, you have a couple of interesting audiences in your account:
A good start is to target visitors that are most likely to convert: shopping cart or checkout abandoners. If those are profitable, you can expand from there.
But these default groups are just scratching the surface. You can (and should) get a lot more granular if you want to get good results.
Google Search Ads
Finally, we get to the “regular” kind of Google Ads. This is the ad type most people refer to when they talk about Google Ads.
Because these are so common, it might be strange to wait so long to introduce them. The reason for that is because they have been around for a lot longer. Meaning more people have had more time to get good at them. They’re also hyper optimized by Google.
So the learning curve is steep.
But by now, you should have a pretty good foundation:
You’ve learned the interface, know your way around various reports, learned basic Google Ads optimization tactics like negative keywords and bidding.
With Search Ads, you have a lot more freedom and options to pick from (and get right).
So let’s take a look at the details!
Although the settings seem like a very basic thing, there are a couple of options you need to avoid to stand a chance with what comes next.
First up are the networks, these are places where your ads can appear. By default, Google has Search Partners and Display Network enabled:
Starting out, opt-out of these to make sure you know where your ads are appearing. Once established, you could add in the Search partners to the mix.
Another common mistake is the selection of the bid strategy. For most people new to Google Ads, they don’t really know what’s going on. So they trust Google’s recommendation.
Don’t fall for that trap. I’ll dive deeper into bidding in the further in this article, but starting out, opt for Manual CPC and stay away from automated strategies like Maximum Conversions or Conversion Value.
Keywords & match types (Beginner)
The core of Search Ads are the keywords you select where you want your ads to appear.
This is a really important step. Pick keywords that are too general, and the visitors you’ll attract are also less probable to buy. something.
But if you pick keywords that are too specific, and you only get a handful of clicks on your ads.
This second type of mistake is better than the first one, but both are very frustrating starting out.
You can avoid those frustrations and find the right balance between enough traffic and specific traffic through solid keyword research. That process will allow you to find search queries with enough volume and buying intent.
If you’ve been running your Shopping campaigns for a while, you can also use the Search terms reports as a source of keyword research. These will show you actual search queries (and the sales data to go with them).
When you have a list (or spreadsheet) full of interesting keywords, it’s time to add them to your campaigns.
Google makes this really easy. You can simply copy/paste the search queries you’ve found.
But if you do that, you run into one of the most common mistakes with Search Ads: using the wrong keyword match types.
These are modifiers that you add to your search queries, and they indicate to Google how close you want them to find variations on your keyword.
Here is a quick overview of the different match types:
If you don’t do anything special, Google will use broad match, the default match type.
Unfortunately, that also means that you tell Google to look for the keyword you provide, and many others like it.
If you put tennis shoes, Google might show your ads for hiking boots.
If this sounds crazy to you, that’s because it is 😭
So be sure to learn about modified broad, phrase and exact match and how to use these different match types in your campaigns.
Pro tip: The more specific the better to start out with. That counts for both your keywords and their match type.
Search Ads Campaign Structure (Intermediate)
Similar to Shopping Ads, campaign structure is essential to run successful search campaigns.
A good structure ensures the right ad appears for the right search query.
A good structure makes your campaigns easier to manage and ensures you have good quality scores for your keywords.
That means you have to decide on practical things like:
- Which campaigns do you create?
- Which keywords should you put in the same ad group?
- How many match types should you use?
When you get to this stage, there is so much conflicting advice. (Like the whole debate on whether or not to use single keyword ad groups)
But for ecommerce, there is an extra dimension because you have so many different pages on your site.
So should you create ads for each product? Or just for each category?
Here it really depends on the products you’re selling, and how popular they are. It makes no sense to create ad groups (and ads) for each one of your products is no one is searching for that specific brand or product. Then you’re better off creating an ad group with ads that target the category name.
Here are a couple of other rules of thumb that might help:
- Split branded from non-branded traffic
- Split campaigns per country & language
- Replicate the structure you have on your website with your campaigns
Search Ads (Beginner)
Besides keywords, creating effective search ads is another hurdle you need to take.
They’re not difficult to create, but can be quite time-consuming if you want to do them well.
When you’re creating the first ad, you literally have a ton of options:
There are two types of ads you can create, a “Text Ad” and a “Responsive Search Ad”.
The main difference between them is that the Text Ad only requires a few assets, while the Responsive Search Ads (RSA) need a ton of them. (In the screenshot above you can see 7 headlines and 2 description texts.
With Text Ads, you’ll often add multiple ones to an ad group and let them fight it out who’s the champ. With RSAs, Google will do the testing internally.
These last few years, ads have evolved from being a contained thing (= the way you enter the ad is how it will show up), to a toolbox for Google to pick from. You provide them with all the assets: headlines, descriptions, etc, and they find the ideal combination.
Here is, for example, a report on those combinations:
To speed up your efforts if you have a lot of ad groups and campaigns, you can copy/paste ads.
Then you can customize them according to how much time you’ve got available.
Here are a couple of other ideas on how to improve your ads:
- Minimum: start with a good Text Ad that you reuse across ad groups, only tweaking headline 1
- Upgrade #1: Create a second Text Ad with more assets (more headlines, description text, etc.)
- Upgrade #2: Add a Responsive Search Ad in the mix
Ad extensions (Beginner)
Ad extensions are an essential part of your campaigns. They help you grab more real estate in the search results, increasing the chance of a click.
They usually show up most if you’re showing up in position 1-2 of the search results. (Below they also appear, but their visibility is a lot lower)
Ad extensions like sitelinks, callout or call extensions have been around for a while, and most accounts at least have a couple of them active.
But Google keeps experimenting with new types like structured snippets, price, or promotion extensions. If your competitors aren’t using them, you have the advantage to stand out even more.
Provide enough of them so Google can cycle through them and figure out which ones work best.
A special type of ad extensions are the automated ones.
These are extras that Google adds to your ads. And they’re not always what you’d like them to add.
Here is an example of an ad by DTC brand Away:
For ecommerce, the most important automated extensions are the seller ratings:
They grab the attention and show the strength of your store (in both ratings and count). They’re super valuable, so have a look at this article on how to implement them.
People always want to know the BEST bidding strategy.
But as with pretty much all of these intermediate sections, it depends on the situation.
Let me also say that you don’t NEED to get fancy and use more complex bidding strategies, simply because you’ve been running the campaigns for a while. (I still use Manual CPC in accounts that I’ve been managing for years).
Because there is no clear answer, you’ll need to test to figure out the best option for you. (I’ll show you in the “Experiments” section how to effectively test bidding strategies).
Starting out, Manual CPC is often a good start. After a while, you can test with enhanced CPC. And once you’ve got more conversions coming in, you can start testing automated bidding strategies like target CPA or target ROAS, both really well suited for ecommerce campaigns.
Compare the metrics before and after and adapt your approach accordingly.
Dynamic Search Ads (Intermediate)
If you’ve followed the advice above, you can see that getting Search Ads right is a lot of work.
There are keywords to find, ads to create.
If you use Dynamic Search Ads, you don’t have to bother with any of these. Instead, you provide the same products feed that you use with your Shopping Ads.
Then you select which pages, categories should be included.
Finally, you create a few ads “templates”. Google will automatically populate the Headline with dynamic content.
Here is where a good campaign structure can make a difference. The more granular your ads groups are, the better these ad templates will be adapted to the products that they are promoting.
You can see that these DYnamic Search Ads allow you to quickly set up campaigns for a lot of products.
I like to use this campaign type as a very low bid catch-all campaign that targets all products or categories that I haven’t created a specific campaign for.
But there is a dark side to all of this ease. Less control means more automation and more Google doing what it wants to do.
So you have to put handrails in place.
Keep a close eye on your search terms report and exclude keywords that you are already advertising on in the more specific campaigns or that are a poor match in general.
Google Ads Scripts (Expert)
If you feel like you’re limited in the reports can see in Google Ads and Analytics, or you’d like to optimize your campaigns based on things that aren’t available by default, Google Ads scripts can help you out.
Two of my favorite scripts:
If you want to know more, check this solid tutorial on what scripts are and which ones to use.
Experiments are a special feature in Google Ads that allow you to A/B test every part of your campaigns.
You can test all sorts of things, but the most common experiments that I run are bidding strategies.
Create a draft version of a campaign with the only change being a different bidding strategy, launch an experiment et voila.
I usually only do this after I’ve completed the bulk of the work on the campaign. Because if you’re making changes to keywords and ads in one campaign, you need to make sure that these are copied to the other campaign as well.
Then after 30 days, you can look at the results, and decide how to proceed from there:
Google Display Ads
Display Ads are text, image or video ads that show up on the Google Display Network, a group of Google-owned properties and third party websites.
This is a very big place. It contains:
- 2 million websites (and apps) that show AdSense ads
Google Display campaigns are also managed from the Google Ads interface, but it’s a completely different channel.
To run effective Display Ads, we need a shift in mindset.
With Shopping and Search Ads, we’re showing ads to people that are actively looking for products.
But with Display Ads, you’re showing up to people that aren’t necessarily searching out your products. So you need to interrupt them to be effective.
An important caveat with this section:
Display Ads (and more particularly the tracking codes that power them) are the reason more than 2°% of Internet users use ad blockers. It’s a trend that continues to grow. I also use one. It’s also an area that’s infested with click fraud.
Personally I find Display Ads are a remnant of the past. That said, I still run them for clients for whom they deliver solid results 🤷♂️
Display Ads are very similar to the regular kind of Remarketing Ads I’ve shown you above.
The most common ones are the Responsive Display ads where you add logos, images, headlines and description texts, which Google combines into its most optimal forms.
Most people aren’t big fans of how the “default” ads look. A common complaint is that it doesn’t look like their brand.
Especially because many of the ads you see (of companies with big budgets) look really good. Like the one that I showed you at the start of this section by Bellroy.
You can skip the default look and design your own banners. But that can be a pricey affair (also because you need them in all of the different sizes).
I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but it might be good to start with the default ones to test the waters and invest more money into it once you see some traction.
What you put on the banners is a whole different discussion. They can be straightforward:
Or tied to a specific occasion, promotion or collection, like this holiday-themed ad by Away:
Targeting options (Beginner)
Great ads are essential, but the other part is showing that ad to the right people.
So how do you find the right people?
Whenever you hear about the latest privacy invasion by companies like Facebook and Google, this is what is at the core of things.
For every one that interacts with one of their websites or tools, Google creates a profile to figure out who they are and what they like.
They then crunch all of that data and make it available to advertisers like yourself to pick and choose from.
Let’s take a closer look at all the targeting options in Google Ads:
The options that are easiest to understand are the demographics.
These are the basic targeting options like gender, age, parental status, and household income (these last two are only available in the US).
On their own, these groups are still pretty big, even if you combine them.
So my suggestion is to use the other targeting options below and use the demographics to filter out groups that wouldn’t be a good fit for your ads.
Here is an example from a client of mine that sells jewelry for women. We’ve excluded the people Google has identified as Male.
There always is an “Unknown” group of users that Google can’t identify.
If you target keywords on the Display Network, you tell Google to show your ads when a specific page or website matches the keyword you provide.
If you’re selling electric bikes, you might add “electric bike” as a keyword. (Don’t worry about match types here, you’ll have to use the broad match version).
So when a visitor is looking at an article about electric mountain bikes, your display ad can show up:
A second targeting option, similar to keywords, are Topics.
These are pre-made interests that Google has put together.
Hier sind einige Beispiele:
If I’m selling fishing gear, I might select the topic of “Adventure travel”, because I’m looking for fishing enthusiasts that are traveling to find great fishing spots.
Then on a site that Google lists as part of that topic, singletracks.com (a site with the best mountain bikes routes in the world), my ad shows:
With Keywords and Topics, you indirectly indicate to Google which website you want to appear on.
With Placements, you can select the specific websites and apps you want your ads to appear on.
Staying with the fishing example, here are a few websites that I can advertise on:
All the previous options were “placement” based, now we’re going to look at how to use those data-rich profiles that Google has on all its users.
The first one of those is the Audiences targeting option.
These are groups that Google has categorized in different ways:
If you drill down into each of these options, you’ll find more options:
- Affinity: Groups of people based on their lifestyles, buying habits, and long-term interests
- Intent: People actively researching products or services
- Remarketing: People who previously interacted with your business
Here is a handy list of all targeting options put together by the folks at ZATO.
As you can see, just listing the different options already takes a long time. So which ones should you use?
Apart from the Remarketing Audiences, I probably use in-market and affinity audiences most often.
But finding a great match between your ads and an audience is the key to success with display advertising.
So you’ll need to test which audiences deliver you the best results. I’ve often found an audience type that works for one advertiser, does nothing for the others.
Display campaign structure (Intermediate)
In the previous section, you might have gotten a bit overwhelmed with all of the targeting options.
I told you to test many of them to find the ones that work best for you.
And to efficiently test, the structure of your campaigns once again comes into play.
Because if you mix all sorts of audiences together, you have no idea what’s working and what isn’t.
So similar to the approach with Shopping and Search Ads, you want to structure your campaigns in a way that allows you to isolate all of the different parts.
Have different campaigns with targeting options and within have different ad groups with more specific things.
Here is an example of the structure of Display campaigns:
Campaign#1: Display – retargeting
- Ad group #1: Product viewers (targeting: remarketing audience)
- Ad group #2: Checkout abandoners (targeting: remarketing audience)
Campaign #2: Display – in-market audience
- Ad group #1: Outdoor Recreational Equipment (targeting: in-market audience)
- Ad group #2: Fitness Products & Services (targeting: in-market audience)
- Ad group #3: Sporting Goods (targeting: in-market audience)
As always, the more budget you have to spend, the more tests you can run to really determine which audiences perform best for you, and the more granular you can make your campaigns.
Gmail Ads (Intermediate)
To conclude this section, I want to mention a special type of Display campaign: Gmail Ads.
These ads show up on top of Gmail inboxes:
Once clicked, they open up like a regular email, but show an ad instead.
In contrast to regular Display ads, this particular placement gets a lot of attention.
It’s right in the face of people opening their email accounts. So the “click” or open rates on this ad type are very high.
Here is an example of a campaign I ran a while back:
You can see the CTR, the number of people that clicked on the ad inside Gmail is 70.5%!
But from those 1,111 clicks, only 13 people clicked through to the retailer’s website, a 1.2% CTR.
Since you get charged for that first click, you need to make sure that the CTR back to your site is also high to ensure a high enough return.
You can use all of the targeting options I’ve outlined above. If your remarketing audiences are big enough, definitely give those a go.
When it comes to deciding what to put in your ads, I’ve seen the best results tied to a promotion.
Grab the interest with a good “subject line”, show an attractive, time-sensitive offer and convert on your own site.
For more details, check out this tutorial on Gmail Ads.
YouTube Ads For Ecommerce
Despite being part of the Display Network, YouTube Ads are a special kind.
Most of all because they are harder to ignore.
They integrate very well in the YouTube interface, and users are forced to watch (at least part of) them before getting to why they are on YouTube in the first place: to be entertained or to learn something.
Your success as a YouTube advertiser lies in the way you can bridge the gap between the reason they are on YouTube and the products you sell.
The poster company of executing YouTube Ads well is a company called Purple Mattresses.
This video ad, like most of their ads, is a mix of entertainment and education.
The practical details of how to configure video campaigns will be very familiar because they share many similarities with other DIsplay campaigns.
So in this section, I’m going to focus on what’s different for ecommerce YouTube Ads.
High Budget Creative (Expert)
Creating a video like the one I showed above requires A LOT of budget (think $250-500k).
That’s just for producing the video shoot. You’ll probably get a bunch of different videos out of that material (different intros/CTAs/sequencing, etc.) Then you have to start spending to test different variations and run the winners on a larger enough audience to see an impact and a high enough ROI.
For a company like Purple, they spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-2M per month, just on ads.
So If you can afford to get professional help, you can tap into all of the expertise they’ve built up creating these videos.
Low budget Creative (Intermediate)
For most businesses, spending 6 figures on video production is quite a leap.
So what can you do with YouTube Ads if you can’t shell out that kind of cash upfront?
There are a lot of different approaches you can take.
The most common alternative is to do as well as you can, but with a lot fewer resources.
Most companies take this route, but it’s one that’s very hard to do well.
Here is a great example from Purple:
This one uses a video that a customer of theirs created. They just slapped on the logo and done.
But this is an outlier, most videos fall flat and people skip or ignore it.
If you don’t want to shell out $$$ for production, you’ll need to put in the time to make great ads.
My approach would be to create a ton of variations and different kinds of videos, to find a style that resonates with your audiences.
Create educational content
Instead of trying to create a viral video on a shoestring budget, you can also try to be super helpful.
Example #1: if you’re selling products to clean bikes, create ads with bike maintenance tips.
Example #2: if you’re selling a couple of different types of air humidifiers, create a product review video comparing a couple of different models.
Some extra resources:
YouTube Ad Formats (Beginner)
Once you have created your ads and uploaded them to YouTube, it’s time to start creating a campaign around them.
In Google Ads, when you create a new video campaign (without picking a goal), you have the following options:
I’ll do a quick rundown of the different video ad formats to pick from:
- Skippable in-stream ads: these ads appear before, during or after another video and can be skipped after 5 seconds
- Non-skippable in-stream ads: these ads cannot be skipped and play for 15 seconds (or less)
- Video discovery ads: these are ads the appear as a promoted video next to a playing video or in the search results
- Bumper ads: ads that are 6 seconds or less that can’t be skipped
- Outstream ads: these are video ads that run outside video ads
- Masthead ads: ads that take over the YouTube homepage (massive reach)
- Einkaufen: video ads linked with a Shopping feed (more details deeper in this guide)
Take a look at this article to find more details on all the different types of ad formats and when to use them.
My advice is to not try to do everything at once.
YouTube Ads have a lot of moving parts, so pick a video format that you think is suited to the ad you’ve created, and testing different audiences.
A lot of the targeting options are the same as on the Display Network.
But on YouTube you get access to a couple of interesting ones:
- More detailed demographics: education, marital status, homeownership
- Competitor channels (a type of placement)
- Life events: people that are in the middle of life milestones like moving, graduating from college, or getting married
- Retarget people that have interacted with your channel
For more details check this complete list of YouTube targeting options.
In Shopping and Search (and Display), the center metric is the click. With YouTube Ads, it’s mostly about the view.
So when it comes to deciding how much to pay, there are different bidding strategies available.
These also depend on the ad format your campaign is using. For some video ads, you will get charged no matter what, for other videos, you’ll only pay when someone doesn’t skip and watches more than 30 seconds.
All the YouTube bidding strategies can be divided into three big groups:
- Conversion-based bidding: Maximize conversion, Target CPA
- CPM (Cost per mile) bidding: Target CPM, Maximum CPM, and Viewable CPM
- CPV (Cost per view) bidding: Maximum CPV
Which one you pick depends on your campaigns and objectives. While most advertisers will be inclined to use a conversion based strategy (you want to make sales right), it might not be the best one to start out.
As with all of the above, test to find what works for you.
Build Your Channel (Beginner)
YouTube Ads are part of the whole YouTube ecosystem of channels, subscribers, comments and likes.
So if you’re pushing people to watch your video with Video discovery ads, you have to put some time into making your channel look good. That will help turn more people into subscribers.
Compare the channel of FC Goods::
With that of its competitor, Bellroy:
Quite a difference, and it doesn’t take too long to make it look like that:
- Header image
- Add links to your website or socials
- Organize your videos into playlists
- Add an intro video
You can find more detailed instructions to configure your YouTube channel in this article.
TrueView Ads For Shopping (Intermediate)
If we’re talking about YouTube Ads for ecommerce stores, this last ad format cannot be left out.
Their official name is TrueView Ads For Shopping. YouTube continues to change names, which makes it quite confusing.
But this ad format is a combo of an “in-stream” ad, together with Shopping Ads (formerly known as product listing ads).
Here is what that looks like for watch retailer MVMT:
These are great to link a video with some actual products, so be sure to check them out.
What to focus on right now
This guide has a ton of action items to implement. If you’ve gone through it, your to-do list is probably exploding.
I hope though, that with using the approach outlined at the start, as well as the focus point depending on your skills level, it’s clear what to focus on next.
Using those guidelines, you’ll have a better time looking for more information and also knowing what to pay attention to right now, and what to shelf for later.
To help you do that, I’ve put together a guide of this whole article that includes the overview of the different campaign types and skill levels, to help guide your learning.
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