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A client of mine sells handbags. When I first started working on the account their Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) was so low that they were making a loss from their advertising.

Literally they were making $.50 from every dollar they spent on ads, and then they still had to ship the product!

One of the first things I did was look to see what search terms were being used when someone transacted. For this client, I could see the people who were buying were either searching for the client’s brand name, or they were searching for soft leather handbags or boho/bohemian handbags.

The problem with Shopping Campaigns is that Google chooses which search terms to show up for. Naturally Google can’t be right all of the time, and so you tend to show up in the Shopping feed for a lot of irrelevant searches. This is fine if you are in a tiny niche that hardly anyone searches for, but a huge problem if you’re in a big broad category like bags, apparel, shoes etc!

My client was showing up for all sorts of other brands and other styles of bags. Since bags are a very common search word this meant lots of irrelevant traffic.

Don’t assume people will only click on your ad if they want to buy your product. They’ll click on it because it looks nice, or they want to compare it to something else, or they’ll just click on it by accident. The less relevant the Shopping search term, the lower the conversion rate, simple as that.

Listen up closely. If you have a limited budget, you can’t afford to attract all of those clicks to your website. It’s like trying to surf a tsunami.

If you have a small budget (or any size budget really, if you’re in a broad category) you might as well only allow the people searching with relevant terms to see your ad, so that you’re not overwhelmed with poor quality traffic. You don’t want to pay for clicks from people who are not likely to purchase from you, right?

If you allow your ad to be shown to every man and his dog, then you will run out of daily budget by breakfast time and you won’t show up for the searches that really count.

It’s much better to limit the number of search terms that can trigger your Shopping ads down to only the best terms and max out your budget on those terms before broadening out your keywords.

Unfortunately Google goes broad by default, and wastes your money. 🙁

Not only that, but Google Shopping campaigns do not let you specify keywords that you want to target! Unsuspecting Google Ads users get swept into the clickfest tsunami and if they get a bad result they assume that Google Ads just doesn’t work for them.

(It’s not true.) There are a few tricks that you can use to work around this and get much, much better results.

How would you feel if you got say 5X better return on your investment? Think it’s not possible? Read on.

Your Negative Search Term List

While you can’t select particular keywords that you do want to target, if you use manual Shopping campaigns you can select keywords that you want to exclude. The trick here, is that you need to be really specific with what you want to exclude so that you don’t accidentally exclude good searches.

The way to do that is to specify your negative search term as an ‘exact match’ keyword. An exact match means that it will only be excluded if the phrase is typed in exactly how are you have specified it. So for example if someone searches for Oroton handbag and you want to exclude that specific term, you would exclude the whole term as an exact match keyword.

Exact match is designated in Google ads by square brackets around the phrase, for example [fake leather handbag], or [oroton handbag].

If you sell products in a broad category you will quickly find that Google Shopping comes up with literally thousands of search terms, of which only a small number may be truly relevant.

Applying all those search terms as negative keywords is extremely cumbersome if done one at a time! Since most people only know how to exclude them one at a time, the majority of people don’t do it properly. This is why they don’t get the best results from Google Shopping.

So don’t do it one at a time. Export all the keywords from the past year into a spreadsheet, convert them all into exact match keywords using a data manipulation in the spreadsheet or text editor, take out the terms you want to keep, and voilà you have a long list of negative exact match keywords to add to your shopping campaigns.

Add all of your negative keywords to a big long list in Google Ads and then then you can apply them to any campaign you like.

If you have a small budget, you should have a lot of negative keywords so that only the best ones use up your ad budget. I.e. 80-95% of all your historical search terms should be added to the negative list!

Keep the ones that are for your brand name, your specific product names, your niche or anything else that is unique and likely to lead to a sale. Exclude the rest.

What if you have a larger budget, or you want to scale up your campaigns past these best keywords?

With a larger budget, you might not want to exclude all of those extra search terms permanently because some of the generic terms will still definitely lead to sales. So in this case, you can run more than one campaign based on the quality of the search term being used and adjust your budgets and bids accordingly.

Even with a larger budget, you’ll still want to max out your daily spend on the most relevant keywords first before spending money on the less relevant keywords.

If you keep your best keywords really tight, you’ll reach a point where you increase your daily budget, but your account doesn’t spend any more money. This is when you know you’re ready to add broad keywords back in.

To do this without undoing all your good work, you can have two campaigns running at the same time. One campaign will be for your best keywords, and one campaign will be for all the other keywords Google comes up with. Even in this broader campaign you’ll still want to exclude really bad keywords. So for example if you sell genuine leather handbags, you’ll want to exclude fake leather, plastic, vinyl etc as keywords permanently.

You’ll want to bid higher and put more budget on the specific keywords campaign as this campaign will get the better ROAS.

(You should see a stark difference between the ROAS of these two campaigns. Feel free to send me a message thanking me when you realise how much money you were leaving on the table that you’re now collecting in your specific keywords campaign!)

In your specific keywords campaign exclude your long list of negatives, and then in your broad keywords campaign let Google choose the search terms as per normal, but exclude your “good” keywords (Also exclude the really bad ones).

Bid lower on each click on this campaign so that you get more traffic since you’ll get a lower conversion rate. Adjust your budgets so that you max out your daily budget on your specific keywords and then set the daily budget on your broad keywords to spend whatever you have left after the best search terms have been prioritized.

This works really great!

I’m using this strategy with great success on my handbags client account, plus many others. Straight away this client’s account started performing five times better then it was before. It started finally making a profit for the client.

There’s still more that can be done on these campaigns to boost the ROAS higher, but 5X higher return overnight isn’t a bad start right?

Before we go I want to briefly mentioned maintenance. This strategy does require some maintenance.

It might be that some of the keywords you selected as highly relevant do not perform well, or some of the keywords you have excluded are actually really fantastic. In these cases you’ll want to switch the keywords between the best keywords and the broad keywords lists as you see fit. You’ll also find that’s some irrelevant keywords still pop into your specific keywords campaign simply because no one had searched for that term before and so you don’t have it excluded. As this happens you can move these keywords onto your broad list and exclude them from your specific keywords campaign.

I do this programmatically which saves me a lot of time and then I can get much more done than if you were doing it yourself. This saves you time and money. If you want some help doing that, just reach out and I can help!


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Your attention to detail is beyond what I had expected. The detail of the data is incredible. The best part though was to learn the profile demographic - which is very different to whom I think I've been trying to target through social.

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I struggle a lot with Google Ads and all the nitty gritty side to the adwords and algorithms, but Petra explains things in an easy to understand manner.
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