Is Using Google Smart Shopping Campaigns Smart for Retailers?

Google has introduced a new way for advertisers to manage their Shopping campaigns aptly named ‘Smart Shopping campaign’.  However, who are Smart Shopping campaigns designed for and what advertisers would benefit from implementing “Smart” shopping campaigns opposed to Standard Shopping campaigns?

So, what is Google’s Smart Shopping Campaigns?

Google’s promotes their Smart Shopping campaigns as a way for advertisers to simplify their campaign management while maximizing conversion values and expanding their reach.

Campaigns that use the Smart Shopping setting are eligible to appear across

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Google’s Search Network, Display Network, YouTube and Gmail.

A Smart Shopping campaign will take priority over Standard Shopping campaigns. This means that if a product is listed in a Smart Shopping campaign as well as a Standard Shopping campaign, the Smart Shopping campaign is the campaign that Google will use to serve a retailer’s ads.

How do Smart Shopping campaigns work?

Google uses an advertiser’s existing product feed as submitted to Google Merchant Center and combines eligible products with Google’s machine learning to serve ads across their list of networks – Google’s Search Network, Display Network, YouTube and Gmail.

A merchant determines their budget and Google automatically tests ads for different combinations of products and keyword searches promising to deliver retailers the maximum amount of conversion value for their ad spend.

What is required for Google Smart campaigns?

Before an advertiser can setup Smart Shopping campaign, they will need to make sure they comply with some initial setup procedures that include:

  1. Conversion tracking will need to be configured along with transaction-specific values.
  2. The website will also need to add a global site tag to the website and have a remarketing list with a minimum of 100 active users.
  3. Finally, advertisers will need to meet all requirements for Google Shopping campaigns as well as follow the standard Google Shopping ad policies.

How can you tell if Google Smart campaign is working?

If an advertiser wants to test using a Google Smart shopping campaign, it is advisable to allow the campaign at least 2-3 weeks for Google algorithm to work.  Don’t turn off the new campaign within a day or two, give Google time to test their Smart Shopping algorithm to see if Google is providing desired results before evaluating performance.

Second, advertisers will want to make sure the budget and products are comparable to historic data from past Standard Shopping campaigns when evaluating.

Note, if using a ROAS goal, initially advertisers may see a decline in the number of clicks and impressions they are receiving. This is normal as Google tries to deliver conversions within the settings of the campaign’s profitability goals.

So, what is the upside of using Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns?

Make Each Click Count - T.O.P. Guide To Success Using Google AdWords

Using Smart Shopping campaigns can provide retailers with extended reach beyond the Google Search Network. With Smart Shopping campaigns also delivering ads to the Display Network, YouTube and Gmail, retailers may find additional sales beyond the Google Search Network.

Also, for retailers with limited-time or knowledge to properly manage their campaigns, Google Smart Shopping campaigns are an ideal way to simply define what profitability they would like to achieve without the time-consuming task of optimizing for negative keywords, bids, device bidding and the many other factors that go into running a successful Google Shopping campaign.

What is the downside of using Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns?

Advertisers do not have control over where or how many times their product ads are appearing across different networks. Google DOES NOT provide data on what networks or keywords are driving conversions. 

Google’s Smart Shopping algorithm supposedly works by providing maximum conversion value, but Google does not provide specifics on the how, where, what and why. Instead they ask for retailers to give Google the blind trust that Google will spend the advertiser’s money efficiently.

This is kind of like putting the fox in charge of the hen house as Google charges again based on the bids that they are creating for the advertiser’s product listings without the advertiser having any control over specific bids or even being able to review where ads or showing or at what bids.

Additionally, advertisers are not allowed to opt out of certain networks making Google Smart campaigns and all or nothing proposition as far as where ads are eligible for display.

So, what is the bottom line?

Advertisers, especially those with limited-time or knowledge of how Google Shopping works may want to test to see if running Smart Shopping campaigns are more profitable than running Standard Shopping campaigns.

Being able to show ads across different networks, may be profitable for advertisers. However, be aware that you are giving up quite a bit of control and trusting that Google will be providing ‘maximum conversion value’ beyond what can be achieved running Standard Shopping campaigns.

Last bit of advice

For my private clients, I would advise that typically a well-run Standard Shopping campaign should deliver results and insights into their business that are not available with Smart Shopping campaigns.

With the proper use of negative keywords and the ongoing optimization of past results, the upside of being able to control where product ads are eligible to appear outweighs the promises of letting Google handle your account and letting Google control your bids and placements while trying to maximize your profits.

However, like anything there is no or at least, if you keep budgets low, little harm in testing.  I have seen results vary based on product line and there is the possibility of an upside with increased exposure across all Google networks.

Looking for More Information on Google Advertising?

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Happy Marketing!
Andy Splichal


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Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist  with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues.  Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.