The future of ecommerce & shopping in Google Ads

By Stan Welman-Williams
March 30, 2022

E-commerce when done right with Google Ads has always been an incredibly useful and effective tool. One of the primary tools within Google Ads for selling your products is the use of Shopping Campaigns.

However, a lot has changed with Google Shopping in the last few years and now with Smart Shopping being folded into Performance Max campaigns we are seeing even further changes.

In this month’s PPC article I’m going to go over some of these changes, what they mean and whether they are a good move for your ecommerce business.

Of course, this is all subjective and across different businesses the results can vary wildly. Also I am typically from a manual approach background so am often wary of the more automated way that Google is going. This doesn’t mean automation is a bad thing and it is becoming increasingly good so just bear that in mind.

So let’s get some definitions on the board before we start.

Standard Shopping – This is the default (or was) approach to Google Shopping, it shows above the Organic listings with an image, price, brand and product name. You control the product listings in Google Ads and set your bids manually. You have a lot of control which is the biggest plus of this campaign type. You can decide what gets priority, what is shown and a whole host of other things.

Smart Shopping – The ads appear the same as standard shopping, above the organic listings with image, price, brand and product name. The big difference is that Smart Shopping is entirely automated so you lose a lot of control. You aren’t able to adjust bids and you are limited to what Google decides is the best sort of product. Google is getting much better at making smart decisions (wordplay not intended) so the results from this aren’t as bad as they once were.

Performance Max – Performance Max campaigns aren’t solely for Shopping, they are a new type of campaign that target every channel Google is able to target. That means Search, Display, Shopping, YouTube, Discover, Gmail and Maps. Everything in one place might sound amazing but to get this, you are giving up even more control which isn’t necessarily a good thing. It also means that you have less control not only on Shopping but across all channels.

So which is better?

Well as you can probably guess, each has their pros and cons. I have touched on some of them in the definitions.

Standard Shopping

The main pro of Standard Shopping is the amount of control that you have over your products and the approach that you take to selling. You can set up multiple campaigns and target different things with different approaches.

The main con with Standard Shopping is that because it is manual it is time consuming. You have to keep on top of a lot of different factors and monitor it a lot to make sure that you are getting the best out of it.

Smart Shopping

The main pro of Smart Shopping is that as it’s automated it’s quick to set up and you don’t need to spend as much time monitoring it. Of course there is still an element of monitoring and it’s not something you are going to want to set and then completely forget but it is much less time consuming.

The biggest con with Smart Shopping is the amount of control you are giving up by using an automated platform. Whilst you can still exclude certain products, Google makes a lot of the decisions on what to show, what to push and what works best. If Google gets it right, this is fantastic but you really need to make sure your merchant centre is set up correctly as if you have varying margins and Google chooses a product with a low margin this can cause issues.

Performance Max

As previously mentioned, Performance Max campaigns can cover all channels which means a big pro of them is the option to have all of your Google Ads marketing in one place and Google doing a lot of the work for you. This means that you don’t have to think about it and can put your focus elsewhere.

This comes with a big drawback in that you lose a massive amount of control, not just over your Shopping campaigns but across all of your campaigns.

This is a lot of control to give up to Google especially as the amount of transparency you get with these campaigns is low. One large thing with automation that I have found in the past is that whilst it looks as if the campaigns are really flying but as soon as you look a bit deeper, a lot of traffic is coming from branded keywords. Anecdotal, but something to look out for.

So which is better?

Well as with all the good questions in the world, the answer is it depends on what is valuable to you and where your time is best spent.

If you have the time to spend on Standard Shopping campaigns and prefer to know the ins and outs of what is going on with your campaigns and ultimately your money then it is probably your best bet.

If you want something that doesn’t take too much time but you aren’t able to control it as much then Smart Shopping or Performance Max is a good option.

It is important to note that Smart Shopping campaigns are going to be folded into Performance Max campaigns as of September this year so eventually you won’t actually be able to build a Smart Shopping campaign.

There isn’t one right answer when it comes to each different business as they are all different. I’ve seen Smart Shopping work incredibly well for some clients and not others. I’ve seen Standard Shopping campaigns work significantly better than smart shopping but only if it’s set up in a particular way.

If you’re unsure what the best campaign for you might be, I’d recommend trialling the different sorts of campaigns.

That’s what Google Ads is about, it’s about testing, experimenting and refining so that you are able to find what works best for you and your business so that you can make the most of it and get a really good conversion rate, ROAS or ROI.

One final thing to mention is that across all of these campaigns there is one thing it is important to do. You need to make sure that your Merchant Center feed is accurate, up to date and optimised as well as it can be. Nothing is going to stop a bad feed resulting in poor results.

Overall, the future of Ecommerce & Shopping in Google Ads seems to be edging more and more towards automation, so it isn’t a bad approach to at least sample these sorts of campaigns as they start performing better and better.

However, there is still a place for manual shopping campaigns and regardless, there is still a strong need to monitor campaigns even if automated, as without a watchful eye a small change can become a big problem.

If you’ve found this article helpful for your own ecommerce business and want to keep up with all our other posts, make sure to sign up to The Evergreen Way here!

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