Google Shopping for Shopify book
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Google Shopping for Shopify:

The Definitive Guide

by Joshua Uebergang of Digital Darts

8. Google Shopping Merchant Center Programs

How to Use Each to Increase Profit of a Shopify Store

Advertising is totally unnecessary. Unless you hope to make money.
Jef I. Richards, Professor of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Michigan State University

Google Shopping Merchant Center Programs

The shopping feed is optimised, you continually work on bids plus bid adjustments, and you manage the structure of campaigns. How can you further optimise your Google Shopping campaigns?

The Six Types of Google Shopping Programs

There are strategies to squeeze even more sales out of Google Shopping by applying for Merchant Center programs. The programs give retailers more value for shopping ads. Not all are relevant to all stores, but they often boost conversions so it is wise to implement what you can for your store.

You apply for each program by clicking the three vertical dots in Merchant Center, going to “Merchant Center Programs”, then enabling the program you wish to participate in. Some will instantly enable while others require an application form.

1. Seller Ratings

Seller Ratings send a strong trust signal (providing the ratings are positive of course) to the potential customer in the form of a 1-5 star rating about the store. This can show up as a percentage rating such as “86% positive”, or as a 1-5 star rating alongside the number of reviews, in search engine results. This tells the user they can expect a certain level of quality in products and service. The ratings are different from product reviews in that they are about the store as a whole.

Google Seller Ratings

The seller rating changes from time to time. This is partly attributed to customers leaving ratings and partly Google tweaking the ratings feature to exclude irrelevant or incorrect ratings. That’s not to say Google can or will change existing reviews—they aim to enhance the experience by filtering out reviews they judge as questionable and working towards consistent ratings by re-scaling them from one to one hundred.

According to Google, ratings can be collated from the following sources:

  • Google-led shopping research.
  • Google Customer Reviews—a free program that collects reviews from customers after they’ve made a purchase.
  • StellaService—an external company to Google which collates data of your business’ quality including customer service, shipping, and returns.
  • Google Consumer Surveys ratings—a platform used by Google to collect business or domain data.
  • Other third-party sources.

Set Up

For Seller Ratings to function, you must have 100 reviews and be in an eligible country.

The most popular way to get setup with Seller Ratings in Shopify is to follow my tutorial on implementing Google Customer Reviews. A second way is to use Yotpo then enable Seller Ratings.

2. Product Ratings

Google Product Ratings show a 1-5 star rating for the advertised product in the shopping tab of Google and in search results. They are different to Seller Ratings in that they apply to individual products rather than the whole store. Three products in the screenshot below have Product Ratings.

Google Product Ratings

A store with Product Ratings can grab the searcher’s attention. Likewise, a product with no product reviews among a slew of others who do, will struggle to attract the click.

Curious as to its affect on shopping ad performance, we implemented Product Ratings for a client that had over 500 reviews across a SKU range slightly larger. Most SKUs did not have a review. After 30 days, we saw a click-through rate increase of 6% and a slightly higher increase in transactions for the shopping ads.

Set Up

Product Ratings is available in any country that has Google Shopping. The store needs at least 50 product reviews to be approved in the application. When approved and everything is setup right, Product Ratings will show when a product has three or more reviews.

My recommended app for product reviews that integrates with the Product Ratings program is Other apps we’ve successfully worked with for Product Ratings is reviews, Yotpo, and Loox.

Most of the apps will provide you an XML feed to upload to Merchant Center as well as an additional support page or staff to get you setup. I have found Google’s support team, who you’ll hear from when applying to the program, excellent in helping you get setup on Product Ratings. The setup with Yotpo is a little different as you simply enable the feature inside their app for it to work.

You can view the “Product reviews” section in Merchant Center to check all reviews have the green “Ready to serve” status. Any that have a yellow or red status need your attention. The most common reason for product reviews having a yellow or red status, is the shopping and Product Ratings feed do not include a strong identifier of either the gtin or mpn attribute.

3. Dynamic Remarketing

After you’ve looked at products on a website, how often do you see ads from that website following you around the web? It happens often because it is profitable.

Google’s dynamic remarketing for shopping ads allows the advertiser to create a template for ads filled with data from a feed. When a website runs ads from the Google Ads Network, Google autofills the ad space with the most recent items a user has viewed. To give you an example, I was looking at a product called the “DJI Mavic Pro Drone” on I then jumped back to Google search to get some tips on picking a good drone. This lead me to read a Drone buying guide where dynamic remarketing ads displayed at the bottom:

Google Dynamic Remarketing

The dynamic remarketing ad is a flexible format. Its display depends on the website, the ad location, and what Google thinks will perform best.

Set Up

To create dynamic remarketing ads in Shopify, follow four steps:

  1. Link your Merchant and Google Ads accounts. We have covered this earlier.
  2. Setup Google Analytics for dynamic remarketing. I suggest dynamic remarketing through Google Analytics, as opposed to Google Ads, because you are able to target specific behaviours of people on your website, which leads to more profit.
  3. Add remarketing code to your website. You only need one global site tag installed on each page. If you have the default Google Ads global site tag already installed, remove it and replace it with the Analytics version in this guide.
  4. Create the ads.

Follow Google’s tutorial for steps two and four. What I’ll cover is the remarketing code as well as best practices to profit from dynamic remarketing.

In your Shopify theme, go to the “Snippets” folder then create a file named dynamic-remarketing.liquid. Copy-and-paste the following code:

There are two adjustments you must make and two others that may be needed so the remarketing code works for your store:

  1. Replace UA-PROPERTY_ID with your Google Analytics tracking ID.
  2. Replace AW-GOOGLE_CONVERSION_ID with your unique numerical number that is tied to the Google Ads account. Your value can be retrieved by going to “Tools” from the top-right, “Audience manager”, “Audience sources”, then click on “Details” under “Google Ads tag”.
  3. If needed, change other settings described at the top of the code so product IDs match the id attribute of your shopping feed.
  4. If the decimal separator for your store, is a full stop like in USD and AUD currencies, set price-decimal-fs to true. If it is a comma like in some European countries, set it to false.
  5. If your custom dimensions in Google Analytics are mapped to different numbers, change what values dimension1, dimension2, and dimension3 are mapped to.

The code is now correct so let’s make it live. In theme.liquid, insert {% include 'dynamic-remarketing' %} immediately after the <head> tag.

With that done, your theme is setup for dynamic remarketing. However, an alternate version of the code needs to be inserted on the order confirmation page because it is not connected to your theme.

Go to “Settings” in Shopify then “Checkout”. In the “Additional scripts” section, copy-and-paste the following:

Like before, replace UA-PROPERTY_ID and AW-GOOGLE_CONVERSION_ID. If needed, change other settings described at the top of the code so product IDs match the id attribute of your shopping feed. Also change the dimension mapping to match your custom dimensions in Google Analytics.

The code 'non_interaction': true is used to keep your Google Analytics bounce rate accurate. If it was set to false, which it is by default, anytime the remarketing code loads a bounce would not occur. We don’t want that so the non_interaction variable is set to true.

You may notice there are already pre-existing audiences set up for you in these campaigns like homepage viewers, product page viewers, category page viewers, cart abandoners and converted customers. It’s certainly worth going further than these five to maximise your results. I have other best practices for you to follow.

Best Practices

  1. Update your privacy policy. The remarketing audiences feature in Google Ads lets you advertise to people who visited the store. The similar audiences feature uses visitor data to find and communicate to prospective customers. There is information you need to include in your privacy policy to deal with this. Of course, consult a legal professional for advice. For further information, read “What to include in your privacy policy for remarketing“.
  2. Set a frequency cap. It’s great to show ads to people who are interested, after all, it can take six to eight touch points on average to get a conversion. However, bombarding the same select people in a short space of time can be infuriating for your potential customers and this can cause a negative impact on the brand. A good default frequency cap is 6 impressions per ad group. An alternative is to let Google handle what’s ideal by selecting the campaign setting of “Let Google Ads optimize how often your ads show (recommended)”.
  3. Don’t run ads for products that a user wouldn’t want others to see on a shared computer. Engagement rings, creams for itchy skin, hair regrowth shampoo—these are all examples of products you may wish to exclude from your remarketing campaign. Aside from the potential embarrassment for visitors, embarrassing product ads often violate Google remarketing policy.
  4. Set lower bids for people who didn’t view products. It’s still best practice to remarket to them. However, as they haven’t been looking at specific products, they’re less likely to convert.
  5. Set higher bids for cart abandoners. On the flipside to the above point, people who got as far as putting items in their basket but didn’t purchase are more likely to convert as they are in the latter stages of the buying cycle. These audiences are worth bidding a little higher for. Other candidates for higher bids are those who show other engaged behaviours like higher time, or more pages viewed, on site than normal.
  6. Consider audience membership duration. This is the length of time the user will remain in your remarketing list. For product sales, you’ll likely want to set this to 30 days.
  7. Use a different product title compared to Google Shopping. People have already shown interest in the product so you may want to use a different title compared to a shopping ad. Do this in DataFeedWatch by submitting the display_ads_title attribute.
  8. Test various ad copy. Someone who abandoned cart is in a different mindset to someone who viewed a page on the store 30 days ago. Use various ads in the different ad groups to test what works. A coupon may do well for a shopper who abandoned cart while a message of free shipping could resonate more with someone who recently visited the store.
  9. Use exclusions. Add customers to the various dynamic remarketing ad groups. If you want to remarket to these excluded audiences, create a dedicated ad group where you can customise messaging for them. Exclusions can be coupled with membership duration of audiences to target different time frames. For example, you can target people who visited the store 31-60 days ago by having a list of people who visited the store 60 days ago then excluding the 30-day audience.

4. Merchant Promotions

Google Merchant Promotions showcase special offers from the store. Acceptable offers include percentage discounts, tiered discounts, BOGO, free gifts, shipping offers, and more. Retailers often see an increase in click-through rate and a boost in transactions when running a promotion. Here is an example of Merchant Promotions from Sunnylife Australia:

Google Merchant Promotions

Not all special offers can be advertised. Exclusions include vague discounts, restrictive promotions, and some other conditions. For more help on what is permitted to get promotions approved, download then keep on hand the Merchant Promotions Quick Guide.

Set Up

The Merchant Promotions program is limited to fewer countries compared to Seller Ratings, Product Ratings, and Dynamic Remarketing. You can apply for the program by clicking the three vertical dots in Merchant Center, going to “Merchant Center Programs”, then enabling the program. You will be taken to an application form.

Google strictly review each promotion. Follow Google’s guidelines to get setup on Merchant Promotions.

Best Practices

  1. Allow at least 24 hours to accommodate for the review time and corrections. Disapprovals and feed errors happen all the time as Google are strict about Merchant Promotions. You should use the promotion_display_dates attribute so the promotion displays in a period after approval.
  2. You can either create a Merchant Promotions feed through software like DataFeedWatch or submit a promotion directly in Merchant Center. If the promotion does not apply to all products, your shopping feed will need a promotion_id attribute that corresponds to the unique ID of a promotion so Google can match the two. One promotion_id can apply to multiple products.
  3. The promotion must add value to customers. This means the discount or promotion must not already be in the product price or on the landing page of the shopping feed.
  4. Avoid overly promotional text, punctuation, and capitalisation. For example, “BUY TODAY For 10% OFF!!” or “Mega Christmas Sale On!”.
  5. Keep the promotion title free of redemption codes and numerical dates.
  6. Double-check promotional codes. There are fewer frustrating things for a shopper than finding a promotion code only to reach the checkout to discover the offer doesn’t work or provides something of less value. This will cause cart abandonment and may hurt brand image.
  7. Once a promotion is approved, you cannot edit it. If you want to change it, stop the promotion then submit a new promotion_id.

5. Google Shopping Actions

People seek an easy way to purchase with relevant and meaningful assistance. Google saw this growth in their 2015-2017 query data as mobile searches for “where to buy” grew 85% over the 2 years. How people search is also different in 2019 compared to 2018 with the growth of voice-activated systems like Google Home leading to longer search queries.

One of Google’s answers to this trend is Shopping Actions, which streamlines the purchase process by enabling people to buy directly on the Google platform through Google Assistant, Google Search, and Google Express. Qualities of the platform according to Google is a “shareable list, universal shopping cart, and instant checkout with saved payment credentials [that] work across and the Google Assistant.” The shopping cart works across multiple devices so someone can add makeup to their cart while on their phone. Later that night in the kitchen using Google Home, they add a spatula to their cart then purchase both items at once.

Google Shopping Actions across devices

Shopping Actions is a pay-per-sale model different to other Google Shopping Ads. You only pay Google when someone completes an order. This makes it an attractive model for retailers to get on.

It is early days for Shopping Actions, but I suspect stores selling consumable products, selling a large number of commodity SKUs below $30 (as product research is minimal), or with a loyal customer-base will benefit most from the program that enables quick purchases.

Set Up

At the start of 2019, Shopping Actions is available only to US advertisers. Retailers also need to ensure their products are not on the restricted policy, which is tighter than Google Shopping.

To get setup, first apply for Shopping Actions by filling in the application form. Once approved, install the Google Express integration Shopify app then follow the directions in the app to get setup. If you want to manage your own unique feed and you’re already running shopping ads, go to Merchant Center. Select your feed, go to its settings, and enable Google Shopping Actions. In Merchant Center, you will need to configure further settings like payment information and returns policy.

If you’re live on the program, learn about Google’s retailer standards. Each retailer receives an updated rating at the start of each month analyzing key performance indicators over the past 90 days. The rating considers metrics like item defect rate, shipping different rate, and item availability. High performers get prominent visibility and other benefits. The retailer standards are in the platform’s best interest because a poor customer experience may lose Google a customer for life to Amazon.

6. Local Inventory Ads

Do you have a physical brick-and-mortar store? Local inventory ads drive footfall to your store as well as boosting the customer experience by letting people see what is available for purchase offline while online. Few retailers are still yet to take advantage of this program after its release several years ago. It allows brick-and-mortar stores to retain market share against ecommerce business models, but also works well for online stores with a physical store (click-and-mortar) as local inventory ads blend retail and online together.

A local inventory ad is similar to a regular shopping ad with the addition of a page known as “local storefront”. The page provides information including store inventory, opening times, and directions to the store. If the business has an online store, people have the option to click to the product page like a normal shopping ad.

Local Inventory Ads example for Woolworths

Set Up

To qualify for local inventory ads, the business must have a physical store in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, UK, and US.

If you qualify, you can get setup by following the local inventory ads onboarding guide. There is a fair bit to do like getting your Google My Business configured with Merchant Center, creating then submitting multiple feeds, verifying inventory with Google, and configuring your Google Ads to run local inventory ads. See the local inventory FAQ for further help.

When you pass the verification process, I recommend you set up Google Analytics for local storefront. This puts tracking on the local storefront page, which is a Google-hosted page, to measure pageviews, clicks, and directions and calls to the shop. The more you measure offline, the better.

Best Practices

  1. Enable local inventory ads with shopping ads in the same campaign. Google says this action allows them to serve the best ad format for a shopper based on their location, device, and product availability.
  2. Consider the time and day. The temptation may be to only run local inventory ads while your store is open. Running your ads around the clock is still worthwhile. The ads are crammed with information which may lead a customer to the store when it is open again, or simply purchasing online. I recommend bidding up in peak times with a customised ad schedule.
  3. Set granular locations in your location settings to see the performance of difference regions. Know that you cannot change the maximum radius for local inventory ads. Google serves local inventory ads when a shopper is within a reasonable driving distance from a store’s location.
  4. Experiment with the variables in your control. Like everything else in Google Ads, optimisation involves testing, testing, then testing again. Experiment with different imagery, titles, and account features. You may find a lever to pull harder.
  5. Split product groups by channel. Split out items that can be bought in-store from those that are online only. Such segmentation can be done by using the “Channel” and “Channel exclusivity” subdivisions in a product group. This way you are able to bid more or less where it could be advantageous. For example, if your stores hit a peak sale time around 1pm, but your online sales peak at 7pm, you may want to bid higher for the in-store items at 1pm and online items at 7pm.
  6. Segment by click type. This is done in the dimensions tab. There are two click types of local inventory ads that let you know what someone clicked on: 1) to view an ad with the online product shown and 2) to view an ad with the local product shown. The click types are helpful for Shopify stores running both local inventory and shopping ads to understand performance between the two.
  7. Segment by device and store visits. First, make sure you are eligible for store visit conversions to see the influence of ad impressions and clicks on store visits. Then in Google Ads, add the store visits data as a column. Next, click the Dimensions tab then the download icon to segment by click type and device.
  8. Enhance the customer experience by directing people to the Shopify store, advertise products that are on display to order, or showing a click and collect option in the ad. More information can be found on local inventory ads optimisation.

Infographic: Google Shopping Merchant Center Programs For Shopify

This whole chapter has been turned into an infographic! And it’s now yours to easily reference how you can get setup on, and optimize, all Google Merchant Center Programs.

Download It

Right-click the original, full-size image link here then save it to your computer. If you do Google Ads for a living, may I suggest you get it professionally printed and hang it in your office.

Embed It

You are welcome to share the infographic on your website, blog, or elsewhere online. Here is the embed code for you to copy-and-paste:

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About the Author

Joshua Uebergang
Joshua Uebergang is owner and Head of Strategy of certified Shopify Marketing Expert company Digital Darts. He helps Shopify stores rapidly get more visitors and profit. At 6’9″, he plays basketball. To save your store from wasted ad spend and tap into growth opportunities, you can claim your free Google Ads audit. See the Digital Darts Google Ads service for Shopify. You can also contact us if you’re interested in working with a Google Partner and Shopify Expert on your Google Ads.