7 ways small retailers can compete with retail giants using Google Shopping

To a small niche retailer, it can seem daunting (almost pointless) to invest too heavily in Google Shopping. After all, how could you ever compete with the major players who have far more money, products and people than you do?
Well, the good news is, it is possible to be competitive in Google Shopping as a small business. In fact, done right, Google Shopping can actually be the most effective digital advertising platform in terms of Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).
Here are the top strategies for success as a small to medium-sized retailer in Google Shopping.
1. Focus on your niche
As a small retailer, you likely sell a very limited selection of niche products. Whether these are your own personal brand or from independent designers, this exclusivity is your strength.
Selling products that aren’t sold by Amazon or a hundred other retailers means there’s less competition to appear in Google Shopping for relevant searches. Even better, if you create and

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When should advertisers consider pausing Google Local Inventory Ads?

In response to the growing popularity of searches with local intent, Google released Local Inventory Ads (LIA) a few years ago as a variation of Product Listing Ads (PLA) that include information on when a product is available at a nearby store location. Taking into account the local intent of each search query in determining when LIAs should be featured, Google can serve these units in a similar format to traditional PLAs, as well as in other LIA-specific formats, such as beneath a Google Maps display.

These units are steadily becoming an important part of paid search campaigns for brands with brick-and-mortar locations, and LIA traffic increased 60 percent Y/Y in Q3 2016 for the median Merkle retailer. However, there are several situations in which advertisers may want to consider pausing LIAs, though such scenarios are all complicated and do not necessitate that LIAs be paused.
1. When store locations are closed
This might seem like an obvious practice, but

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Google testing new look for local inventory ads in place of local pack

Google appears to be running a limited test for local inventory ads (LIA) on mobile that looks like a shopping ad-ification of the Local Pack.
Spotted on mobile by Mike Blumenthal on a search for “engagement rings Buffalo,” the result shows a map with a couple of LIAs below it where local pack results would typically show. I have been able to replicate the result in the Google mobile app. Here the ads are for two different rings at two different Kohl’s locations in the area, signified by the respective shopping icons on the map above the ads. Clicking on either ad takes the user to the local inventory ad landing page hosted by Google.

For comparison, here’s the result I see using Safari on mobile for “engagement rings Rochester” (the same search with “Bufflalo” looked similar). The result shows an all-organic local pack with listings for three independent jewelry stores.

When introducing new promoted places ads in Maps last spring,

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Google Shopping feed optimization: Speak your customers’ language and write more compelling product titles

Product Feed optimization is key to any successful Google Shopping campaign. Your product titles are one of the most important factors in whether or not Google will think your ad is relevant to the user’s search query. Not only that, but a good product title will entice more shoppers to click on your product.
Providing all the required data in the right format according to Google’s product data specification is mandatory, of course. But to make the most of Google Shopping, e-commerce retailers have to apply more advanced techniques to optimize and enhance their product feeds.
Previous experiments have shown that product titles have a major influence on performance, while other fields — like the product description or the Google product category — have little or no influence.
To give you some practical advice on how to effectively optimize product titles, we at Crealytics (my employer) tested how Google Shopping reacts to changes in titles.
Test setup
We selected 136 products, which

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Amazon begins testing Product Listing Ads on AdWords

In 2012, Google’s Product Search was transformed from an organic product search tool into a pay-to-play shopping destination. Since the removal of Product Search, Amazon has not participated with Google’s Product Listing Ads. Until now. Merkle discovered Amazon testing PLAs in the wild — something completely new for the world’s largest online retailer.

According to Merkle’s Mark Ballard, Amazon appears to be testing (and increasing) its PLA presence. We were able to replicate these Amazon Product Listing Ads on both mobile and desktop environments. Mr. Ballard’s anecdotal research is showing that Amazon is currently more apt to appear for home goods retailers, and they are trending up to a 25 percent impression share.

If this does become more than just a test, it could be a huge hit to other (and smaller) retailers that can’t compete with the budget of this shopping behemoth. Advertisers can compare their efforts to what Amazon is doing by researching with the Auction Insights

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New take on Showcase Shopping ads? Categories of used items showing for retailer outlet queries

A strange thing happened just now when I was searching to find out whether the promotions extension Google is testing is also showing on mobile (it is). I came across an example of what appears to be a Showcase Shopping ad for the first time in the wild.
When Google introduced Showcase ads, the idea was to spotlight retailer collections on broad, non-brand search queries like “summer dresses.” One of the odd things about what I found today is that these examples are all showing on retailer brand terms, not broad, non-brand queries. This format appeared on brand+outlet queries: “talbots outlet,” “banana republic outlet” and “ann taylor outlet.”
When I first saw the Shopping result on the Talbots query, I assumed the ads linked to a Shopping page featuring the items shown in the ads, among other items in the category sold by Talbots itself. But then I saw the results for “banana republic outlet” and “ann taylor outlet” featuring used items in

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See how Google is showing even more Shopping Ads on desktop this season

As product listing ads continue to resonate with consumers and drive clicks for advertisers, Google has experimented with showing more of them on the page over the years. As we head into Holiday Season 2016, Google is continuing to ratchet up the count and is showing PLAs in cards rather than single ad packs.
On some queries now, Google shows as many as 15 product listing ads (PLAs) on phones and tablets and up to 18 PLAs on desktop, thanks to the scrolling slider of ads. The slider won out over a test early this year that showed up to 16 PLAs when a user clicked to expand the block of ads and rolled out to desktop earlier this fall. CPC Strategy began noticing a new slider treatment being tested and more ads showing in the right-hand column on desktop this week.
This screen shot that CPC Strategy provided shows the new slider treatment.

Comparing to the current example below, notice

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Tips for when and how to use Feed Rules in Google Merchant Center

With Google’s roll out of the new Merchant Center interface came more functionality for Feed Rules. Feed Rules debuted earlier this year to allow marketers to make some changes to their product feed data right within Merchant Center. But what can you really do with Feed Rules and who should be using them?
The consensus is that Feed Rules are still best for simple updates, and it’s ideal to make changes to the actual feed. In reality, however, that’s not always possible or timely and why Feed Rules have such appeal.
Maggie Webb, Partner at Five Mill Inc., says that while most fixes and feed updates require editing by a feed service or developer, Feed Rules can offer a fix in the interim and be a big help to smaller businesses that don’t have resources at the ready to make updates. “Since a high percentage of ecommerce traffic is from Google Shopping, even a simple change from a Feed Rule can make a big impact on an account,” says

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Google expansion of Local Inventory Ad product search now live in Maps and Knowledge Panels

In May, Google announced it would soon give retailers running Local Inventory Ads, another way for searchers to find out if a product is available in their local store. That functionality is now live, with retailers like Ikea, Macy’s and REI participating.
The new “Search items at this store” feature is available both in the Knowledge Panel and Google Maps results for participating retailers. Here’s what a Macy’s store listing looks like in desktop search:

Nicolai Helling spotted the feature on a search for Ikea Waldorf Germany. Here’s what that store’s listing looks like in Maps on mobile. The link text in Maps on both mobile and desktop is black for some reason, making it less obvious that it’s clickable. (This feature was not showing on mobile search for retailers when I looked.)

Clicking on the link takes users to a Google-powered landing page that features all of the inventory slated as available in the advertiser’s Local Inventory product feed that powers Local Inventory Ad campaigns.

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Shopping campaigns: Play like every day is a holiday

Shopping campaigns are becoming a major source of website clicks and revenue during the holiday season, and the “Shopping Campaigns: Play Like Every Day Is A Holiday” panel at SMX Advanced featured tips and advice from three PPC veterans: Ann Stanley, Todd Bowman, and Mona Elesseily.
Ann Stanley: Shopping ads, buy buttons, social commerce & remarketing
Shopping ads and buy buttons are everywhere. Stanley explored those areas where ads are driven by product feeds, and clicks either lead to retailer websites or convert on host platforms. Her talk was full of data insights and provided a neat map divided into three conversion areas:
Area #1: The search giants: David Bing vs. Goliath Google
Thanks to Windows 10, Bing Shopping ads share is growing (21% US, 9% UK). With Google Shopping winning by volume, Bing nearly always shows lower CPCs. In terms of conversion and ROAS efficiency, results vary heavily by vertical. Bottom line: if you target the US or UK, give Bing

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