Use Google Ads AI & Machine Learning To Run Better Campaigns

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The author’s views are entirely their own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Our jobs are changing. Each day, Google Ads relies on a combination of AI & machine learning to manage more of the hands-on work we used to do as campaign managers. This means the future of our work is going to be very different.

We are no longer on the court playing basketball. We are now the coach guiding our team to the finals. Our team, in this case, is Google Ads now. Our job is about guiding the machines and technology and ensuring we are headed in the right direction. If we are not headed in the right direction, we are going to be off course and won’t be successful.

For people who loved pushing buttons and getting their hands dirty in the ad account, this transformation and seismic shift is going to be very hard on you. However, you can harness and strengthen your other skills and make your future very bright. Even brand owners can leverage what they know about their business to be successful with Google ads today.

The key to success today is about prioritizing your ecommerce data and the inputs you provide Google Ads. Google Ads, and all ad platforms, work off data inside your ad account, and the data you provide them. The better the data you provide, the more likely you are to be successful and bring in profitable revenue for your business.

Google Ads does not care about data in your ad account from last year or 6 months ago. The data you have from the previous 30 days is what is key. This means you always need to ensure you are maintaining high quality data signals and make sure you are headed in the right direction.

I will cover 5 ways to prioritize your e-commerce data and give the machines what they want. Are you ready to take your data to the next level?

Conversion Data

Data is worth its weight in gold. However, not all conversion data is created equal. We have seen brands use page views, add to cart, and even button clicks as conversion goals. However, some brands may find a unique use case to look at these metrics. They should not be your primary conversion goal when managing campaigns in Google.

Your primary conversion goal in Google Ads is what Google’s AI technology is going to optimize towards in your ad account. Suppose you set your primary conversion goal as someone buying a product on your site. That means Google will then look at which customers convert on your site and try to show your advertising to people who are more likely to convert. Google’s AI tech looks at everyone searching on Google and tries to match your site to the best people possible. All of this happens in a split second in the background when someone makes a search.

This is why you want to focus on purchases as your primary conversion goal and ensure the data for this conversion goal is accurate. You also want to make sure that you have dynamic revenue being pulled into Google Ads. We have seen ad accounts where someone set up a static conversion value, which is problematic for providing good-quality data. If the static conversion value was set to $100, but some people make a purchase worth $50, and others make a purchase worth $200, then we won’t be giving Google correct conversion values and the correct data around which people buy what products.

Every time you shop online, ad platforms track what you buy, from where, and how much you spend. That way, they can help understand what you are into and try to accurately help serve ads that relate to products you might be into in the future.

Having the wrong conversion data can set you back weeks or even months because you have to start collecting the right data from scratch. If you are running Google Ads, I highly recommend using Google Ads conversion tracking tag, as well as setting up enhanced conversions. Once Google removes all cookies from the Chrome browser, enhanced conversion tracking will be important in continuing to feed conversion data to Google Ads.

First-party Data

First-party data and conversion data go together like grilled seafood and a glass of freshly squeezed juice. It’s a pairing that was made for each out. You just need to know how you can harness this data for Google ads.

What is first-party data? This is the data you have collected about your customers and anyone who has come to your site or purchased from your e-commerce business over the years. How much first-party data each company has will be different, but every company has it.

Google takes your first-party data and wraps it inside a feature called Customer Match. There are many types of customer data, but the most basic kind of data someone would use is our email address. Just make sure you format your data, and Google will gladly take it.

However, you can also use first names, last names, phone numbers, and country of residence. You can also include someone’s address, but you have to include the following information, or Google won’t count the address: country code, postal/zip code, hashed first name, and last name. You can even add conversion values from purchases people made.

The reason you want to provide more than an email address is so Google can match that customer and their data to the data Google already has about that person. The more Google knows about your customers, the better job their AI technology can make sure you rank for the right searches and help you get more customers who match the people already buying from you.

If you are not uploading and using your first-party customer data when running campaigns across Google and other ad platforms. Then you are missing out on the opportunity to provide some of the highest quality data your ecommerce store has access to.

When it comes to your customer’s data and taking it from one platform to another, even if that platform is an internal one at your company, you want to ensure that your customer data is kept safe and encrypted whenever possible. This means being GDPR compliant in Europe, and you have The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in California, which other USA states are looking at adopting and or implementing in various jurisdictions.

Google Product Images

We live in a visual world. I know it. Google knows it. Google’s Performance Max and standard shopping campaigns are based on the visuals of your products. However, many brands are sleeping on a great way to leverage this data. Yes, your product images are data signals in the eyes of Google.

Many people don’t always realize that Google scans your product images using their AI technology. This allows Google to look at your shopping feed and try to understand what your products and stock-keeping units (SKUs) are about.

Suppose you sell a pair of black Adidas shoes and forget to include the color black in your shopping feed. Google is going to try and rank you for this search involving black shoes based on your images.

Screenshot of a website called 'Size' that sells Adidas shoes.

What does this mean for your e-commerce business? Beyond using the image attribute in your shopping feed. You should always use the additional image attribute and ensure you show off your product from different angles as one example. You can also do the following:

  1. Include product staging that shows your product in use

  2. Highlight parts of your product without showing the entire product

  3. If your product is part of a bundle, then you can show parts of a bundle instead of showing all products in the bundle

Having high quality-images that show off your product and the different use cases for your product means you can feed Google more data that they can use to help you rank in SERPs. If you want to take things up a notch, start adding video to your product pages.

Google Product Titles & Descriptions

Your shopping feed is not a one-and-done task. Think of your shopping feed as an organic matter that should be updated and changed as it makes sense for the business. The big reason is that people change, and how we search changes over time. You want to ensure your shopping feed stays up-to-date with those changes. The more data in your shopping feed that you can provide to Google, the easier time Google’s AI is going to have to try to understand what you sell, and match your products to the right searches people are making on Google.

Let’s say you sell a product that some people buy for a holiday in your country. Maybe not everyone in your country thinks about buying your product during this holiday season. One thing you should be doing is updating your product title and product description for the products people would buy during the holiday season.

Screenshot of basic product data in Google Ads

For example, people typically buy certain products from your inventory for Mother’s Day. You can update the shopping feed to capture the traffic and conversions for searches around products to buy for Mother’s Day, you’ll be ahead of the curve. Additionally, Google now knows more about your product and the type of searches you should appear for. Google’s technology is sadly not a mind reader, yet… so we need to make sure we feed all the data points we can.

This seems like a small opportunity, but when you leverage all of these real-time moments across a calendar year, you start to pick up traffic and conversions you were not getting before. This also means you have more customers to market to during Q4 and the holy trinity that is Black Friday, Christmas, and the holiday season in Q4.

From experience, I can tell you that most people don’t work on building a proper custom shopping feed. Let alone updating it throughout the year for a brand. If you are willing to do the work others won’t, you can come out ahead and win.

Google Shopping Feed

We discussed product images, titles, and descriptions, which are all essential attributes for your shopping feed. However, you don’t want to stop there. This is just the beginning and not the end of building out a shopping feed that will help you win against competitors.

Depending on what you sell on your site. There are different attributes you can fill out in your shopping feed. I would look at filling out these attributes as they are the basic ones that every brand needs to do:

Screenshot of different requirements of attributes.

If you want to give Google even more data, then the following attributes are what you should fill out and do the work everyone else won’t do to help scale your business. These are optional attributes, but most brands don’t fill them out and then miss out on search traffic and conversions.

  • Age Group

  • Gender

  • Color

  • Pattern

  • Material

  • Custom Labels 0 – 4

  • Product Details

  • Product Highlights

  • Product Type

  • Size System & Type

You can find more information about each shopping feed attribute above in Google’s own product data specification, which is a treasure trove of information to help you build the best shopping feed possible. Remember, each attribute is another data point you can feed Google’s AI technology and help them understand what you sell and what type of searches and customers you want to rank for.

Filling out the shopping feed attributes isn’t enough. You want to tailor your shopping feed based on how your customers search for your products and the intent behind their search. Similar to writing a best selling novel, putting words down on page doesn’t mean it’s a best seller. In both cases, you need to put in the work to make it a winner.

Google Merchant Center – automatic improvements

Automatic update is a set of features and settings within your Google Merchant Center account that lets you use Google’s technology to ensure your shopping feed data is as up-to-date as possible. Fair warning, this technology is not perfect, and you should always double-check what the update in your shopping feed looks like after Google is done. Sometimes they get it wrong.

Even though you can use automatic improvements for shopping feed attributes like price, condition, and availability, the one most brands should focus on is image improvements. That way, your brand can put its best foot forward when ranking in the SERPs. Google is not a fan of promotional overlays, text, or logos on images and anything that takes away from your product being front and center.

You can see which images have had promotional overlays removed by checking the warnings in the diagnostics section in your Google Merchant Center account. Look for the title ‘Improved image quality’ in the ‘Issue’ column of the table. On the product detail pages of affected products, you can see the improved and originally uploaded images. If you don’t like the improved image, you can also upload a new image to use in your shopping feed.

Ensuring your shopping feed is updated and stays current with your site data is essential to make sure Google is happy with your brand.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the ways you can use your e-commerce data and help Google Ads run better campaigns:

  • Feeding Google high-quality conversion data

  • Uploading first-party data to Google Ads to drive better results

  • Continuously update your product title & description based on how customer search

  • Making sure your product Images tell a story

  • Building a custom shopping feed for your brand

  • Even setting up your Google Merchant Center account plays a role

Google will take all your data points above and run it through their AI technology, which is going to help them find you even more customers who look like your best customer type. For Google’s AI technology to do this work, you need to make sure you feed the machines high-quality data. Data today is truly worth its weight in gold as all AI technology uses the data they have access to in your ad account to help make better decisions.

If this sounds like a lot of work, you are right. This means you need to have the right person in the driver’s seat to ensure you are headed in the right direction. Putting the wrong person or agency in that seat means you can set your brand back for months (or even years). Making up for that lost time, money, and business growth is not easy.

Get the right person or agency in charge of your financial success by asking the right questions and assessing people based on the qualities that matter when running paid advertising today. Luckily you can catch my MozCon talk: ‘Hiring The “Perfect” Agency: How To Avoid Getting Burned’ to cover this very topic.

There are more ad agencies and freelancers offering services today than in 2019. Hiring is a skill, and we are going to give you the skills during my talk to hire that next agency. This talk is will cover interviewing, pricing, and onboarding with an agency to make your experience as a brand the best one possible. Plus, I have a few other cool topics I will cover… but you have to be at MozCon August 7th & 8th, 2023 to hear everything.

Duane will be speaking at MozCon 2023 this August in Seattle! Join us for inspiring sessions with our incredible lineup of speakers.

We hope you’re as excited as we are for August 7th and 8th to hurry up and get here. And again, if you haven’t grabbed your ticket yet and need help making a case we have a handy template to convince your boss!

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