I am sure that you have already heard about Google Smart Shopping Campaigns (SSC). But are you new to using these in your campaigns? Or do you need a few reasons to try it out?

In this article, I will be comparing SSC versus standard Shopping campaigns with the main pros and cons of each as well as how to create Smart Shopping Campaigns. We’ll also look at two points of view with SSC and why they worked, and did not, for each.

What are Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

SSCs are a type of Google Shopping campaign that aims to become the successors of the standard campaigns.

In the Google Ads account, you can see both SSC and standard Shopping campaigns and note, they have the same item ID.

SSCs are really easy to create, configure and maintain. They do not require active optimization beyond making sure that the feed is correct and that you’re achieving our ROAS goal, as well as changing ads (texts + images) periodically.

Another highlighted feature of Smart Shopping Campaigns is that they incorporate dynamic remarketing. Yes! This kind of campaign also includes the Display network. It should be also noted that the Display part of the SSC also has precedence over the Display campaigns in the account.

In addition to the Search and Display network, the products on these campaigns can also be shown on YouTube and Gmail in a fully automated way.

The only type of bid strategy to use is maximize conversion value, which can also define an expected ROAS for the investment.

As requirements to be able to create these campaigns, you must have a remarketing list with at least 100 users with the conversion tracking active.

Comparison: Smart Shopping campaigns vs standard campaigns

Before taking the leap to SSC, it is necessary to understand the functionalities it offers in comparison with Standard Campaigns to understand the advantages and limitations.

Here is a quick comparison between the campaigns:

As you can see, Smart Shopping campaigns automate a lot of manual tasks, which is its main asset. For example, in standard Shopping campaigns it is convenient to add negative keywords, as well as introducing bid adjustments (per audience, device…). But in SSC these kinds of tasks are completely automated and saves us time to focus on strategic tasks.

On the contrary, we find an opacity we have to learn to deal with. For instance, we can not check what search terms are activating our ads, or in what proportion they are being shown on each network (Display vs. Google Search). But if your only goal in e-commerce is to obtain a certain profitability, and these campaigns offer it to you, do you need to know that data? This response should be noted to guide your choice to use SSCs or discard them entirely.

Another point to consider: There are some clients and agencies that have developed a very granular and segmented structure relying on standard Shopping campaigns. In some cases, they have created a funnel (using campaign priorities) to adjust product bids based on the stage of the funnel for the user.

In these cases, it is necessary to evaluate whether switching to smart Shopping campaigns can bring greater profitability. But that requires testing first.

Steps prior to the creation of this type of campaign

The most important thing to consider before creating any campaign is to think about the structure.

Many of us have learned over the last years that the more granular the better. With the arrival of Machine Learning and all the technology based on learning from data, the situation seems to be reversed – less is more in many cases. And this must be said precisely because these principles are what govern Smart Shopping campaigns, a product entirely based on automation.

Some recommendations to keep in mind when planning campaign structure:

1. If you have previously worked with standard Shopping campaigns, group the products with similar ROAS into the new smart campaigns.

2. When grouping into campaigns, keep in mind that the ideal is to gather products of a similar average price. For instance, if you group a $100 product with a $20 product and the $20 product sells more easily, machine learning could give it more visibility. Therefore, it is best to try to homogenize the visibility of all products.

3. Google recommends that we do not subdivide the product group. In standard Shopping campaigns, divide the main node by custom label, brand, type of product, or even by individual product IDs, but it is not recommended. Doing so would allow a glance at product performance based on those subdivisions. As an alternative, use reports.

Go to Reports / Predefined reports (dimensions) / Shopping, and then choose the one you want. Once in the report, you can customize it.

On the other hand, subdividing per product ID would also allow for product exclusions. As an alternative, use the campaign filters to choose only the products you want.

How to create a Smart Shopping Campaign (SSC)

To start, this is a super useful resource that demonstrates how to do it step by step: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbRAASJQAuU

But here’s a summary of the steps:

  1. Make sure the feed is correctly configured
  2. Choose New campaign / Sales / Shopping
  3. Choose the desired Merchant Center account, the country where we are selling and then the Smart Campaign subtype
  4. Indicate budget and, optionally, ROAS objective. My recommendation is to initially set the campaign to “maximize conversion value,” without a ROAS goal.

Some recommendations when a campaign is already created and running:

• After a little time, and according to the results that the campaign’s offering, evaluate the option for a set ROAS objective (historical data will make it easier to decide).

• If there was a previous standard Shopping campaigns and have switched to SSCs, you may want to compare their performance. It is important to calculate the aggregate ROAS of our “traditional” campaigns (Standard Shopping + Display Remarketing campaigns), a few months prior to the transition. Then, compare it with the ROAS of the SSC.

Just remember that SSCs include dynamic remarketing, so it would not be fair to compare its performance with standard campaigns, as smart campaigns would generally always win.

Now that we’ve reviewed how to create and evaluate a Smart Shopping campaign, let’s talk about some use-cases of SSC from different perspectives.

Different points of view from a retailer and an agency

Thais Baptista – Marketing Director at Mascoteros, a Spanish e-commerce that sells pet products, and Enrique del Valle, a Spanish Google Ads expert, provided some insights into Smart Shopping Campaigns from their perspective.

Thais moved a few campaigns to Smart Shopping, but not all of them. At first, he saw an increase in results in the campaigns he tested (higher volume, lower CPC), but after a while the behavior changed: “In two SSC campaigns, the 80% of the clicks came from a single product and a large part from mobile.”

Based on his experience, Thais said he would recommend any retailer thinking about moving to SSC to start with a test in some campaigns before changing the Shopping strategy. And “don’t start with your biggest or highest volume campaign. Don’t pick a very small one either.” What worked best for him was specific campaigns with a few products using feed tags.

Thais would recommend these campaigns when you need to increase your conversion volume or attract more traffic and don’t mind the lack of optimization control.

Meanwhile, Enrique feels more optimistic about the performance of the Smart Shopping Campaigns. He highlights the possibility to have both Shopping and Display together in a unique campaign, where the system manages everything automatically.

He believes the Smart Shopping Campaigns work well for most sectors, and if not, “we are feeding Smart Shopping with [everything] and not having made a selection forces the system to generate statistics for many more products to see which works best.”

Enrique warns against separating campaigns too much and emphasizes not to be afraid of losing control of total automation because “it is the SSC’s greatest asset.”

But he has no doubt, “the ROAS of this type of campaign is higher. It fits well for both large and small budgets, as long as we have a previous conversion history.” However, he cautions it is not recommended to use this type of campaign on a new project with no conversion history.

Final thoughts

With the use cases provided about Smart Shopping campaigns, I hope you better understand how – and when – they can fit into your business.

The advantages for this type of campaign with full automation, leaving behind manual tasks as adding negative keywords, setting bid adjustments, and more.

In return, the price to be paid is to give up certain information and accept the opacity of this type of campaign, in addition to the lack of control in certain aspects.

As in nearly everything, it is a matter of weighing pros and cons, and of course trying and experimenting. Do you dare to do it?

If you have any questions or comments, they are more than welcome!


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Manuel Vilella Salcedo is the senior PPC executive at Sprinter (JD Sports Group). He hhas previously worked at Neo (WPP) and other Paid Media agencies in Spain.