Although Smart Shopping campaigns are preferred by many agencies and marketers for their ease-of-use, others prefer Standard Shopping campaigns as they allow them to be more in control. We hear the same question from e-commerce marketers time after time: Which is better? Smart Shopping campaigns or Standard Shopping campaigns.
The answer! There is no one right answer to the question of which campaign type is best. It all depends on the vertical you are in, your business goals and your strategy for PPC campaigns.
Some Smart Shopping campaigns perform better than Standard Shopping campaigns in terms of ROAS. Other times, a Smart campaign strategy may be more effective. Or, you can use a hybrid strategy like Standard campaigns with automated bidding.
This article will show you how to use the best Google Shopping campaign type for your business.
Standard Google Shopping Ads: A primer
If you are reading this article, we assume you already have a good understanding of what Google Shopping Ads are. So we won’t go into all the details of Google Shopping.
Although Google has been offering Shopping ads for years, they have only recently introduced Smart Shopping campaigns.
Google explains them as follows:
Smart Shopping campaigns simplify campaign management and increase conversion value. This campaign subtype blends Standard Shopping and display advertising campaigns. It uses automated bidding to place ads and promote your products across multiple networks.
That sentence’s key phrase is “simplify”. Google’s push for smart comes down to the ease with which non-Google experts can get started using machine learning to get results.
What is the difference between Standard campaigns and Smart campaigns?
Let´s look at the Standard campaigns first.
Standard Shopping Ads: What’s Included?
Simply put, shopping ads are product images with price and brand names that appear when you type “tennis racket” into your browser.
Initially, your ads will only be visible within the Shopping network and very specific Google product searches. Standard Shopping Ads won´t show on the Display Network.
Standard campaigns include these features and concepts:
Search Term Report
You can see which search words are being used when user click on your products
Priorities for the campaign
We can also create a “funnel”, as it were, but more details will follow.
Groups of product ads
We can group brands and products to segment our bids and adjust them accordingly
Multiple bidding strategies
Standard campaigns offer a variety of bidding strategies – from full manual to Target CPA, Target ROAS, or Maximise Conversion Value.
You can set the time and frequency at which your ads will appear
You can target multiple locations in a country
You can also target affinity and market audiences in addition to standard remarketing audiences.
All in all, there is a lot of customization possible with the Google Standard Shopping Campaigns.
Smart Shopping Ads: How They Are Different
What is Google Smart Shopping? It’s similar in many ways to regular Google Shopping Ads. In fact, it’s part of the same system. The same process applies to Google Ads and Google Merchant Center accounts.
There are however some key differences.
Google’s description gives the answer: “Combines standard shopping and display remarketing campaigns and uses automated bid and ad placement for your products and businesses across networks.”
Basically, you get the following:
- Standard Shopping product visibility
- Display retargeting includes dynamic retargeting (i.e. Display ads that are product-based
- Fully automated bidding (Smart Bidding)
Also, Google will ask you to:
- Products you would like to be included in the smart campaign
- The ROAS goal you would like it to achieve.
- The country that you want to target
The rest will be handled by Google. Google will use machine learning to maximize conversions and stay within your budget.
But what about the features available for standard campaigns? The answer is: You can not use them in Smart Shopping Campaigns.
Traditional Shopping Ads: The Pros and Cons
The Standard Shopping Campaign has quite some advantages.
Better Product Segmentation
A single campaign can be used to segment your products. You can segment your products using Product Ad Groups, for example. via brand, via product category, or via brand + category.
The search term report can be viewed and extensive negative lists built. We are not targeting keywords as traditional search campaigns. Google uses product descriptions and product titles to decide which search terms or product ads are displayed on Google. Google values clicks, and doesn’t mind if they don’t get every click that is relevant to them. This is something that we need to be concerned about. Building our negative lists should be an important part of our overall tuning strategy.
Flexible Bidding Strategies
A tier system allows you to seperate general, brand, and product-specific search terms. This will allow you to bid more aggressively at the bottom of the funnel search terms. This one is more difficult to grasp. It would look like this:
- Campaign Tier 1 (high priority). – General terms. Men’s Tennis Rackets – 40c per cent
- Campaign Tier 2 (mod priorit – Brand terms – i.e. Wilson Tennis Racket – 60c CPC.
- Tier 3 (low priority) – Brand and product – i.e. Wilson Pro Staff – 80c CPC.
This means we bid more aggressively for searches that are close to the purchase, rather than bidding the exact same amount for all searches.
Once we have sufficient conversions/purchases, then automated or manual bidding can be used. I recommend that you start with manual bidding (without enhanced). Once you have a profitable ROAS, and at least 30 sales within 30 days, then you can move to an automated strategy. Automated bidding should be stronger if you have more sales in 30 days. We have the option to choose and don’t have be forced to use automated bidding.
All of this sounds quite good, doesn’t it? What are the downsides?
Complicated Setup and more maintenance
Google Shopping Ads are ads that can be set up, customized, and scheduled manually. These ads can be time-consuming, confusing, and require a lot of expertise from you or your agency. They allow you to control your ads and give you access to all the Google Shopping ad-related analytics and features.
If you are new to the Google Shopping Campaigns, the setup can be difficult. You might have trouble understanding things such as “negative lists”, “product ads groups”, or “tiered” structures, at least for the short-term.
It is difficult to tune your search term reports and build negative lists. This is why it is important that you pay attention.
Your ability to make the right decisions about your ads is key to your success. This can be particularly difficult for beginners or those who do not have much time to learn the Google Shopping 101.
Tiered campaigns require some experience. There are many tiers that you could consider, for example based on the customer journey or your magin (tiers would be high, mid, and low margin)
The Pros and Cons Of Smart Shopping Ads
There a quite a few important advantages that Smart Shopping Campaigns have
- Smart Shopping Ads are quicker and easier to put together, which will save you a lot of time
- Display retargeting will automatically be included in your ads. eCommerce stores with fewer products can benefit from this wider reach
- There are fewer options – you will only have to choose which products you want to include
- Google’s algorithms are a great way to maximize your money. Smart Shopping is a positive experience overall, and it can deliver some impressive results
But Smart Shopping ads can also have potential problems
- It is not possible to control how your ads are displayed. You have to be willing to let Google drive the traffic and potentially waste some budget on underperforming ad placements.
- There won’t be a search term report or product groups. So again, you can´t exclude search terms that underperform.
- Some useful features, such as custom scheduling, network placement and location targeting, are not available to you.
Smart Shopping is not the best choice if you want to have more insight into your campaigns’ performance. Smart Shopping will not give you the data you need to determine which search queries are most successful, or which ones are less profitable.
What type of shopping ads should you use?
You might consider sticking with Smart Shopping if your campaign achieves better results or a faster rate than your standard.
But if you are having trouble hitting a profitable ROAS then we recommend that you go back to Standard and begin with better segmentation, lower bids.
Smart Shopping campaigns are best avoided if you sell niche products or seasonal products like Christmas ornaments or highly specialized tools. This is because Google’s machine-learning algorithms may not have enough data to make intelligent decisions.
You can choose to use either one or both, or any combination of them. You can use both Smart campaigns and Standard campaigns, but Smart will always have priority over Standard campaigns for the same products.
Combining Smart and Standard Shopping Ads
You can get both Google Shopping ads in a variety of ways. These are the two options available to you if you dislike making decisions or want to have the best of both.
You can use a Standard campaign to manage your bids better for products with low average order values.
Smart Shopping is a way to increase the visibility and scale of high-value, high-performing products by using both display, machine learning and shopping.
What is the best initial shopping strategy?
Usually it is a good idea to start with a Standard Google Shopping campaign. You will be able to control it manually. You need to spend some time tuning and optimising the site so you can increase sales within 30 days. You can help Google find the best customer type in the short-term. It should then be able to assist machines to learn faster.
You then transition the campaign to Smart Shopping to automate it. Google’s machine-learning can help you take your campaign to the next level. If you are able to get at least 30 sales in 30 days, but more than 50-100 in standard campaigns, then you will have great data. This will allow the machines to learn faster and possibly achieve a stronger result with less effort than you have been doing.
Google Shopping is a great way to market an e-commerce company. You’re missing out if you are an eCommerce business that isn’t actively advertising in Google Shopping.
Traditional Google Shopping ads offer the best control. However, this comes at the cost of knowhow and time.
Smart Shopping ads, on the other hand, can save you time but you will lose much of your control.
Typically you will get the best results if you start with standard Shopping campaigns and then start testing Smart Shopping campaigns.