Become an Expert on Google Shopping, Chapter 4: 8 Steps to Structure Your Google Shopping Accounts Properly

December 1, 2016 Joe Hall

In Chapter Four of our seven-part series, we'll cover how to optimize your product data feed. These important tactics will help you keep your Product Listing Ads (PLAs) visible on Google Shopping and most likely to convert prospects into customers. Be sure to check Chapter OneChapter Two and Chapter Three for more Google Shopping best practices.

Become an Expert on Product Listing Ads: 8 Steps to Structure Your Accounts Properly

Welcome to Chapter Four of our series on Google Shopping. Now that we’ve covered PLAs 101 for Google Shopping, keeping your Google Shopping data feed clean and how to optimize your Google Shopping data feed, it’s time to go over account structure for your campaigns - what it is, why it’s important and the 8 tactics you need to structure your accounts properly, whether you’re new to Google Shopping or a veteran.

What is account structure, and why should I care?
The term “account structure” refers to how merchants break out their individual product lines, by campaign and ad group. (The structure of individual campaigns within an account is also considered to be included here.) Accounts can be structured in a huge variety of ways and at very different levels of granularity, either at broader product categories that include multiple items or down to individual SKU levels. (There are good reasons to use both of these types of account structure that we’ll get into shortly.)

Think of your accounts as your own back-end interface. You should be structuring them in accordance with your company’s specific business goals with respect to which items are a priority, which have growth potential and which items are less important overall.

As to why account structure is important, it comes down to performance and revenue. (I’m guessing that you, like me, are a fan of both of these things!) A good account structure separates your top sellers in the most granular way possible to make sure you can get each one the best possible placement - so that each of them can, in turn, bring in the most revenue. A poor account structure - one that buries top-selling items together with lower performers - fails to give us the visibility we need to monitor our most important products and ultimately ends up leaving money on the table!

An important note about account structure and feeds
While you can change the structure of your account more or less any way you want - into multiple campaigns, product groups, categories and subcategories - keep in mind that your data feed informs your campaigns. Think of it as a one-way street, where changes to your feed affect your campaigns, but changes to your campaigns don’t affect your feed. This is why it is crucial to make sure your account structure is aligned with your data feed. Going in and making changes to your data feed structure without making similar updates to your account structure can result in broken listings that cost you money!

Example:

A merchant might set up its data feed and account structure in this manner (Original Product Type String: Women’s Clothing > Dresses):

Product Type (Women’s Clothing) -> Product Type (Dresses) (data feed)

Product Type (Women’s Clothing) -> Product Type (Dresses) (campaign structure for Product Type 1)

The merchant might decide to start breaking out products by Style vs General in their data feed, but forgets to update the account structure accordingly:

Product Type (Women’s Clothing) -> Product Type (Strapless Dresses) (data feed updated to add brand as an attribute)

Product Type (Women’s Clothing) -> Product Type (Dresses) (campaign structure NOT updated with this new attribute)

The above situation will lead to serious problems with your product listings - so when you make any structural changes you make to your product feed, you absolutely need to make sure you update your account structure accordingly!

Become an Expert on Product Listing Ads: 8 Steps to Structure Your Accounts ProperlyNew to Google Shopping? Be sure to check these four best practices.

Four important best practices for businesses new to Google Shopping
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into specific and actionable steps to make sure your account structure is shipshape.

  1. Break up Shopping campaigns by categories and sub-categories for budgeting control and performance visibility - This is especially important if your performance goals vary greatly. For instance, I remember working with one merchant that was selling seven very, very different product lines with vastly different pricing and goals - but this merchant had all items bunched up into a single campaign. To improve performance, we ended up splitting the account into seven different campaigns. Let’s figure out the account structure that’s right for you:

    Example:
    A clothing outlet might have very, very different goals and budgets for relatively inexpensive everyday women’s dresses (which may receive higher traffic due to being relatively cheaper items, but have thinner margins) than it has for pricey wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses (which receive far less traffic, but convert into higher-revenue sales).

    Sample structure 1:
    Campaign: Low Margin Dresses
        Ad Group: Dresses
            Product Group
                1. All Products
                    i. Dresses
                        A. Long Dresses
                        B. Short Dresses
                        C. Tea Dresses
                    ii. Everything else in “Dresses”
    Campaign: High Margin Dresses
        Ad Group: Dresses
            Product Group
                2. SpecificWeddingGown-ABC123
                3. SpecificBridesmaidDress-XYZ321
                4. Everything else “All Products” (set this as “excluded,” see below)
     
  2. When breaking out your product lines by campaign, make sure to always set the “Everything Else” field in “All Products” as “Excluded” - Otherwise, different products - ones you don’t necessarily want to receive traffic for that campaign - may start getting listed in response to search queries. This will not only sabotage your performance goals for the top sellers you need to promote - it may also wreck your goals and budgets for those other items. (More on that in a bit - warning: horror story coming!)
     
  3. Don’t assume that your on-site top-selling SKUs will get the best visibility or performance on search engine results pages (SERP) - Remember that outside of your bid, each SKU has a quality score that causes it to be a better, or worse, match to various queries. Avoid the pitfall of having your most important item ending up with the worst match rate (and therefore the most expensive bid!) by double-checking your feed attributes for each of these top-selling items in detail.
     
  4. Start by bidding at the lowest product grouping versus specific SKUs - This lets you get data on which SKUs are naturally matching well to specific keywords, and which ones may need more attention within your product feed. 

Become an Expert on Product Listing Ads: 8 Steps to Structure Your Accounts ProperlyYour top-selling SKUs are your VIPs. We recommend treating them that way.

Four important best practices for veteran merchants
Welcome to the part you skipped down to. Good to see you again. Here are the top four account structure best practices to consider for veteran merchants:

  1. Consider running two sets of campaigns - one for top sellers, and one for unproven/new products - Granularity in your account structure not only helps you zero in on your top sellers to make sure they get the attention they need; it also allows for organic growth of unproven items to reveal themselves as future bestsellers when they might otherwise just stay undetected if they’re buried too deeply into your campaign structure. To help with testing, you can use Custom Columns to help automate this process, or use an automated function to assign a “High/Unproven Value” that you should plan to manually update weekly or monthly.
     
  2. Set your top seller campaigns to “High” Campaign Priority and unproven product campaigns to “Medium” -  Keep in in mind that if there’s a SKU set at “High” Campaign Priority and a SKU set at “Medium” Campaign Priority - if these two items have equal quality score for a certain query and bid, Google should (all things being equal) push the “High” priority SKU first, which makes it more likely that your rockstar SKU will convert for that query.
     
  3. Use this structure to keep your time focused on your bestselling items - Plan to show a little extra tender loving care to your top-selling SKUs by breaking them out as granularly as possible, making updates and adjustments as needed. As mentioned, you can set the rest of your unproven SKUs into a “Medium” Campaign Priority group and reasonably take more of a portfolio-style approach to managing those. 
     
  4. Get smart automation to help with highly granular campaigns - As we mentioned, it’s absolutely a best practice to break out your bestselling items into as granular a structure as possible. Of course, if you’re a merchant managing thousands of items with thousands of bestsellers, managing each one manually can be challenging, if not outright impossible. We recommend looking into a modern automation solution, such as a predictive advertising management platform, to help with this.

Become an Expert on Product Listing Ads: 8 Steps to Structure Your Accounts ProperlyYes, I once faced a volcano. But this story isn’t about me. You can’t prove it is, anyway.

Joe versus the volcano: An account structure horror story
READER DISCRETION ADVISED: (In the following account, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the story is real!) Like I mentioned earlier, proper account structure really is important, not just to help you make the most revenue possible, but also to help you avoid nasty a pitfall or two. 

Let’s just say I know a guy, who knows a guy, who might have managed Google Shopping accounts for a major merchant that sold sporting equipment online. This merchant, an otherwise organized and sophisticated vendor with highly specific budgets, targets and key performance indicators (KPIs) for every single one of its individual products, was gearing up to go into Spring to sell baseball-related products, particularly for amateur-league and little league consumers. 

There was just one problem: Someone (not naming names), somewhere, may have kinda-sorta forgotten to set the “Everything Else” field in the “All Products” section of the merchant’s campaign to “Excluded.” This became a slight problem when Spring shoppers began running queries for “sporting equipment,” expecting to see results for bats, catcher’s mitts and baseball cleats...but still kept getting served Google Shopping ads for ice skates and hockey sticks.

Yes, because the Winter sports items weren’t properly excluded, the merchant suddenly found itself in the unhappy situation of having its extremely low projections for Winter sports items suddenly run massively over budget, while its conversion goals for Spring holiday items ended out being painfully low due to not being properly served on SERP. 

Let’s just say that when the merchant found out about this issue, the search engine marketing (SEM) professional managing this account did not receive a happy phone call. In fact, the SEM manager in question may or may not have changed their identity and relocated to another country. (But no one will ever prove that. No one.) 

We hope you enjoyed chapter 4 of our series on Google Shopping. Be sure to check our previous chapters and stay tuned for more installments in the future.

About the Author

Joe Hall

Joe Hall is a product marketing manager at QuanticMind. He uses his subject matter expertise to help companies take their advertising to the next level. Joe previously worked at the prestigious agency 3Q Digital as an Account Lead and earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Commerce, Marketing from Santa Clara University.

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