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Working with shopping feeds best practices and maintaining perfect hygiene can be a time-consuming process. It can also be troublesome when trying to create scalable solutions that benefit all clients across our client portfolio. Recent developments have led to huge improvements in this area and are the cornerstone of how we at Precis work with shopping at scale. In this post, Richard Drott – our Paid Search Lead, discusses these advances and what it has meant for Precis and its shopping comparison service.

Background

Within Search for e-commerce clients, the main focus has historically been on traditional text-based campaigns but in the last couple of years that has changed. As Google shopping grew it became the majority revenue driver for our clients. This meant that we had to adapt quickly to how time was spent between the two formats and focus our efforts where the most impact could be achieved.

Investment over time

Platform

The foundation for operational excellence is hygiene within the feeds we manage. If the hygiene is poor it will lead to disapprovals and thus products not being able to serve at all. Historically hygiene was highly dependent on the client to make changes to improve it which took resources from them. It could also be the case that we would be highly reliant on third-party tools to solve issues with the feeds. Developments within Google Merchant Center itself has led to the need for this to decrease. It is now possible to, with ease, make changes as well as additions to the feeds without being dependent on the client or third-party tools.

The use of the same platform was essential to be able to scalably share best practices and knowledge within the area across Precis. Despite it being good to use the same platform it still has its limitations. There is no change history available within the platform for product-level data meaning you can not backtrack when a given product was out of stock for instance and the impact it will have had on the performance. There is also no feature for A/B testing feeds within the platform which means testing improvements is difficult. Finally, the main overview that we were looking for to keep hygiene and focus our efforts only exists on a Multi-client account level which and due to all clients having their own accounts this was not easily accessible.

Tools

To support our efforts we had to try and fill some of the gaps within the platform and started with providing a tool internally to all marketing teams which allowed for exporting feed issues through the API. This gave them the tool to easily filter out main issues and the corresponding items to then upload with the corrected information as supplemental feeds into Google Merchant Center or by identifying rule set-ups to fix those issues.

Another area that we looked internally for a solution was A/B testing feeds. It did not take long before one of our co-workers sprung a solution that simulated A/B testing. Being able to test feed improvements is extremely valuable because it meant that we no longer had to figure out if seasonality played a role in increased performance. This tool filled one of the major gaps within the platform.

There are still areas worth exploring to provide the level of operational excellence we strive towards, it is all about where we can provide real value for our clients. Areas that are currently being explored are insights tools that combine the Google Merchant Center platform and Google Ads to supply our clients with cutting edge insights from Google shopping.

CSS

Another development within Google Shopping was the launch of our shopping comparison service (CSS). A shopping comparison service is something we launched due to Google giving a discount to advertisers serving through a CSS partner in an effort to level the playing field in the auction. This discount is only given when there is a player within the auction not serving through a CSS which means that the more advertisers serving through a CSS the smaller the discount will be. The negative impact of not serving through a CSS only grows as more advertisers start serving through a CSS.

We had a clear understanding of what the communicated benefits of a CSS were but there were more unforeseen positive aspects that we took advantage of. One of these benefits was that instead of all our clients Google Merchant Accounts being isolated and the possibility of joint overviews limited we now had an overview of all accounts currently under our CSS. This increased our ability to build scalable solutions and overviews that supported us in our efforts by consolidating main issues across the board. This led to us improving and maintaining approvals rates at 97% for our managed accounts and maintain hygiene levels for more than 9 million products.

Richard Drott Paid Search Lead