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Shopping ads for the small budget: Here's what to expect in 2019

Believe it or not, a new year is upon us (our surprise, of course, being in the speed of its arrival rather than the arrival itself) and in accordance with previous predictions, Shopping Ads are more important than ever for the e-commerce marketers toolbox.

What I have found to be frustrating about Shopping Ads at times, is that most articles and presentations seem to be primarily geared towards larger brands and accounts.

But what about smaller budgets? Search Engine Land approached me with the idea of writing a predictions post for the SMB shopping advertiser and I loved it!

Here are my thoughts on what we can expect from Shopping Ads for smaller accounts in 2019. Please note that these aren’t completely devoid of value for larger Shopping Ads advertisers, they are just specifically created with the smaller budget account in mind.

1. The (true) beginning of the end of feeds

I think we will see full integration of Google’s page crawling service into Google Merchant Center by the 2019 holidays. In other words, I think we’ll see the feed begin it’s gasping, final breaths. To continue the metaphor at the risk of being somewhat violent… I’ll happily cheer (and assist, if possible) its demise.

I have often thought that of all the things for Google to invest its algorithm and machine learning and brain power regarding Ads, why not take the fairly easy step of eliminating the need for a product feed since virtually every important product element is already listed on the product page.

Yes, I realize there are many complicated things that go into this, but keep in mind I am writing this post to small brands or retailers.

My experience has been that with a few exceptions, limited budget accounts tend to be somewhat simplistic in product changes. That is, elements in the feed once set, rarely change with the exception of new products or updated pricing and stock status. By the way, those last two are already included in automatic item updates and already fully automated based on page data.

Because many small brands are also making a feed themselves, and have limited budgets, a feed provider isn’t always a great solution (and neither is Google Sheets for those with too many products to add manually) since they still have to get the product data uploaded to the feed provider. It would be simpler for retailers or brands to request Google scrape their site for data so they can be feed free. I have a suspicion that many of them would go that route.

What about data accuracy? If all advertisers don’t use some form of structured data markup then doesn’t that mean we’ll just get what Google wants us to have?

A valid concern, but in my opinion:

  1. Google is filled with brilliant engineers. If they can’t write a program to tell when there is a product description or price on the page even if that doesn’t have the exact correct markup then c’mon. (That’s my cynicism talking.)
  2. Feed rules could be used by smart advertisers to tell Google what to map each field to based on the options that Google gives them (in this fantasy non-feed world of mine).
  3. Feeds would still be an option (also why I don’t think third party feed providers are doomed… well, at least the ones who offer optimization assistance. The ones who simply push up fields, yeah, they’re doomed eventually if they don’t evolve). Some advertisers will want to specifically control and test with feeds and they could be set to override anything Google pulls.
  4. Individual field kill-switches. Similar to automatic item updates currently, I’d expect to see an option for brands to be able to kill specific fields that they don’t want running that Google suggests.

Think of it though, all of those suggested fields that no small advertisers fill out, unless they are 4.0 students who can’t stand to leave test answers blank, would automatically be pulled.

While we’re probably still a little bit away from this, I think the signs are there that Google is focused on adding it. Remember that they announced automated feeds last July (start at 48:00), but to my knowledge, they’ve been silent since.

The warning signs are there. This is on Google’s radar and I think 2019 will be the year we see it pushed out.

2. Increased adoption of smart shopping campaigns

While many advertisers I speak to dislike the control Smart Shopping campaigns have taken away, others have begrudgingly noted the ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) success they have observed in these campaigns.

My experience so far has been fairly mixed. As can be expected because of the need for data to feed the hungry algorithms, I’ve certainly noticed more success in larger accounts than smaller accounts in running Smart Shopping.

Because of that, I still can’t personally suggest Smart Shopping campaigns to smaller advertisers. But I think that will continue to change and I expect to see Google push these even harder in 2019 on small, unsuspecting advertisers.

While their algorithms are sure to get better, I suggest treading cautiously in your limited budget accounts. Even the best machine learning algorithm needs good data in for good results to spit out. If you just don’t make a lot of sales in Google Shopping, I would suggest experimenting in a non-crucial time of year with only a subset of your products. Perhaps testing a few product brands in a Smart Shopping campaign, or a single category.

As you take over accounts, be prepared to see a lot of them with Smart Shopping switched on (which may or may not be related to the account’s need for new management) and the need for thinking wisely about its impact and testing manual, or other automated bidding options such as Target ROAS in order to utilize Google’s smart bidding, but retain control as well in other areas.

Regardless, be prepared for an onslaught of Smart Shopping campaigns this year. They work at times, and because of that as well as Google’s insistence on every campaign in every account (rolls eyes) being pushed to Smart Shopping campaigns, you can bet there are a lot of small advertisers who will follow the siren call of the “easy management” option and push the button in 2019.

3. Increased Bing Ads bidding automation

Lastly, I would be negligent to leave out Bing Shopping in a predictions post. I think we’ll see the addition of more advanced bidding strategies in 2019 for Bing Ads.

Currently, we can only bid manually or with enhanced CPC in Bing Shopping Ads and I would expect this to change this year. It would be interesting to be able to bid according to Target CPA and Target ROAS (with the Bing UET pixel set correctly, of course) and I would be surprised if this wasn’t in the works already.

ad bidding chart

Current Automated Bidding Strategies in Bing Ads: Automated bidding strategies: Target CPA and Maximize Conversions

While there are many other things we could predict for Shopping Ads changes in 2019, I think these three are sure bets.

What about you, what do you see coming? Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn (@PPCKirk for both). Have a Happy New Year!

More Expert Predictions

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

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