Google Shopping ads (formerly Google Product Listing Ads or PLAs) have been growing in importance and scale within AdWords search.

Though shopping ads are closely related to search ads, they're not exactly the same. The controls are different, the way you bid is different, and the product feed is its own entity.

Given these differences, some brands hire shopping-specific technology companies to manage their shopping query campaigns, and the brands manage their search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns separately. But, is that really a good idea? Probably not.

While search and shopping ads don't necessarily overlap, they certainly mingle. Therefore, it makes sense for SEM and Google Shopping campaigns to run together.

Here's why.

1. Double the Knowledge

Joining budgets facilitates double the campaign knowledge power. Overall goals for search and shopping, ranging from account to stock keeping units (SKU), should be taken into account when budget decisions are considered. By recognizing that the two ad formats can be conjoined on the path to conversion, both will be optimized from a single lens rather than act as independent silos.

2. Benefits for Search

When managed together, search and shopping combined can mean increased benefits for search campaigns. Shopping campaigns that run separately have a ton of top-performing queries that are not found in SEM campaigns. That low-hanging fruit can be identified immediately when the two campaigns are under single management.

3. Better Holiday Impact

Search and shopping coordination can provide double the impact at seasonal peak holiday times.

Certain times of the year lend themselves to fast-changing messaging and promotions. For instance, holidays like Father's Day and the 4th of July are important for marketers promoting seasonal products and gifts like grills and yard tools. Tight coordination between search and shopping ads is crucial to delivering a coherent message, with product discounts, pricing information, and specials consistent across ad types.

Bring in Feed Optimization

So, how does one "manage" shopping and search together? For a company with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of products, doing so can be a daunting task. This is where feed optimization tools, which can help to manage and maximize ROI in your shopping campaigns, come in.

Management of the feeds should focus on proper feed formatting to limit rejected SKUs in the Google Merchant Center. By optimizing your feed on a query basis, you'll also gain exposure and receive more clicks on top products and terms.

The basic rules of thumb for an optimized feed are...

  • Product titles should be unique to each product: No duplicates!
  • Product titles should be short: The character limit is 150, but in most cases only 70 will appear.
  • Fill in all relevant attributes: Include color, size, etc.
  • Avoid descriptions with encoded HTML characters.

With an approach similar to that of a traditional keyword campaign, we use an Alpha-Beta methodology for managing Google shopping campaigns. That helps isolate top-performing products in "Alpha" and the remaining products in a "Beta" to focus bidding and queries on high-converting products. The "Beta" campaign should be structured based on relevant categories and product types, and be bid at that level.

"Betas" may be organized in different ways, but always choose what makes the most sense for your organization. This approach should allow for optimal bidding for top-performing products, while allowing "Betas" to aggregate and farm data.

Once the structure and bidding strategy is in place, the next step is to use search query reports to optimize high-volume and value SKUs. These keywords should be worked into the titles and the descriptions of these products.

The result will be an increase in customer impressions, as Google will accept them as products relevant to the search term and click-through rates will see an increase. In turn, searchers will see that the product is what they are looking for in the title.

Benefits of Together

As e-commerce continues to grow, so will search engine shopping results from Google Shopping. In fact, recent research shows that retailers spent 47% more on Google's shopping ads in 2014 than they did the previous year. With this number expected to rise with the close of 2015, and market competition to increase accordingly, so should the importance of managing a shopping optimization program correctly.

The management of this process should not be taken lightly. Agencies and individuals specializing in SEM are uniquely positioned to leverage their knowledge of feed optimization tools, query-based processes, and AdWords expertise to make the most out of any Shopping campaign.

By joining managing shopping with SEM, the two together will only serve to increase the value of both programs.

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Why You Should Run Your Search Marketing and Google Shopping Campaigns Together

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image of Jay Stampfl

Jay Stampfl is senior director of Client Services at 3Q Digital, an integrated digital agency.

LinkedIn: Jay Stampfl