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How Google Shopping Reached the #1 Position on the SERP

10 Minutes

Sep 30, 2022

Overnight, Google brought its ecommerce capabilities to the most coveted spot on the internet, the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The evolution of Google’s Search Engine Results Page has fundamentally changed users’ search intent. Google’s innovations to become more efficient on how users enter a search query has evolved over time, thus impacting the consumer decision-making process. From the Vertical Search Engine, to the creation of Shopping Ads, to the constant optimizations Google adds to their algorithm - it is now easier than ever to shop using different tabs on the SERP, a multitude of devices, and through varying types of advertisements. 


A Timeline of Google’s Search Engine Results Page Technical Advancements

To begin, let’s start with the year 2000, where Google first introduced the addition of Google Adwords – a transition where Google required developers to produce display ads that were relevant to the search results from the users. This caused a relatively seamless blend between organic and paid advertisements. Between 2001-2007, Google evolved on top with the introduction of keywords, developing their search engine from one that was relatively simple to a machine-driving universal search engine that included all online content across multiple databases. This later became the vertical search engine, where the SERP included functions such as – Maps, News, Videos, Images, and Shopping at the top of the page. Finally came 2008, where many of the Shopping Ads we see in the modern day SERP are attributed to this update, such as the knowledge graph as well as the presentation of carousel images.

Vertical Search Engine

Google Shopping Ads in 2022

When analyzing the current state of the SERP, many of the functions introduced in the 2000’s are still prominent to this day. For instance, the vertical search engine from Google is an important part of users' search behaviours, listing out different options depending on users’ needs. The “all” tab still features a carousel of shopping ads, the “images” tab now features a similar carousel to the “all” tab – but the most advanced tab is the “shopping” tab which gives users the ability to filter by price, brand, size, and more. In addition to the advancements on the vertical search engine, the SERP now features various snippets and callouts on advertisements to provide users with more information just with a quick glance.  

Shopping Carousel Ad

How Google Shopping Ads impact Shopping Behaviours on Different Devices

According to Grow My Ads report of “Google Shopping Benchmarks & Statistics for 2022,” they report that 65% of clicks on Google paid search results are attributed to mobile devices. Additionally, 70% of smartphone users tend to look up information online before making a purchase in store. This is consistent with Appticles.com's report indicating that users are more likely to research on their mobile devices before turning to make a purchase over desktop. A consistent theme is that mobile devices are on the rise, being used for quick information search queries, consistent with Grow My Ads report that 60% of shopping queries are upper funnel (broad audience focused) – whether that attributes to a conversion in store, online, or at all.  The functionality of Google Shopping Ads now allows users to easily scroll through a multitude of similar products based on their search query, and instantly compare product attributes such as price, colour, model, size, reviews, and most importantly, brand.

What do Google Shopping Ads look like on different tabs? 

In the Shopping tab of the SERP, the user is first presented with a carousel ad. The page is set up with location at the top left, while the top right gives users the option to sort the results. When scrolling down to the organic ads, the left panel gives users the option to select different filters such as availability, price, colour, brand, size, and more. The product feed displays pictures of products, the name, brand, seller, as well as shipping costs. This tab also gives users the ability to compare pricing – giving them the option to go to a separate page that compares various sellers and prices, while also allowing filters by location, delivery fees, and new/used condition. The bottom of the tab allows for more filters and other suggestions, followed by another carousel feed.  

Shopping Tab on SERP

On the Images tab of the SERP, similar to the Shopping tab, the ads are presented in a carousel format as a paid advertisement section above the actual images. These ads are presented with the ability to see the name of the product, the price of the product, sometimes showing shipping information, as well as the seller which are all based on location. If clicked on, the user is then taken directly to the seller’s site. This tab also displays items on sale or as a price drop in an eye-catching manner, giving users the ability to scroll through a few pages of ads. At the final page of the carousel Shopping Ad, it gives users the option to “View All,” taking them directly to the Shopping tab. 

Images Tab on SERP

The Different Types of Google Shopping Ad Campaigns

To start, the original two campaigns on Google Ads were Standard Shopping Campaigns and Smart Shopping Campaigns. 

Pros

Standard Shopping
  • Full control over campaign
  • Location targeting control
  • Start from scratch with no previous data
  • Scheduling Ads
  • Add your own negative keywords

Smart Shopping
  • Quick & automated campaign management
  • Easy set-up process
  • Time saver

Cons

Standard Shopping
  • Time consuming
  • Complex set-up process

Smart Shopping
  • Limited location targeting
  • Cannot add your own negative keywords
  • No custom ad scheduling

When comparing the two prior campaign types – an overarching dilemma is imminent – full control vs automation. Standard Shopping gives full control to the advertiser with the ability to operate your campaign in a granular way – offering options such as location targeting, ad scheduling, as well as adding your own negative keywords. 

In comparison, Smart Shopping trades control for ease of management and automation – with relying on Google for managing details such as negative keywords as well as ad scheduling. 

Performance Max Ads: The How To’s

A more recent update to managing Shopping Ads, known as “Performance Max” was introduced in November 2021. Performance Max is slated to take over all Google Shopping Campaigns by the end of 2022, with the upgrades having already started in April 2022. Consistent with Google’s innovations before – efficiency is always the objective. Performance Max will become the next generation that combines display, text-based, and shopping campaigns – as well as offering easy set up and campaign management thanks to automation. Advertisers will first be able to choose whether to upgrade to Performance Max, but the end goal is for all campaigns to be changed, so it’s better to get started sooner rather than later. Learn more about Google’s Performance Max campaigns here.

The Pros and Cons of Performance Max  

Pros
  • One-size-fits-all approach
  • Easy set-up & campaign management
  • Covers different campaign types (display, text, shopping) 
  • Asset groups are centre of all activity (to replace ad & product groups)

Cons
  • Reducing control over campaigns 
  • Lack of data transparency for reporting
  • Difficult to see meaningful change on how individual campaigns are performing

The management of Google Shopping continues to progress more towards automation, from Standard Shopping, to Smart Shopping, and now Performance Max. The largest difference between the automated system of Smart Shopping and Performance Max is the focus on Asset Groups which take over ad and product groups. Compared to the typical Google Ad Campaign with the split amongst ad groups featuring granular detail – Asset groups are a combination of assets – such as text, images, logos, links, and more – which all represent different themes or target audiences. Despite all the benefits that may come with this automation – Performance Max does have a few shortcomings when compared to its predecessors, starting with lack of control and data transparency for those who prefer to have control and oversee specific campaign performances. As Google’s Performance Max roll out continues to progress, it’s important for advertisers to be aware of these changes, test it for themselves, reap the benefits and monitor any drawbacks of this all-in-one goal-based campaign type.

Benefits of Google Shopping Ads

With the advancements of Google Shopping Ads that feature more well thought out, informative, and visually appealing ads, one of the benefits that come out are the versatility to how these ads can capture audiences. The ads are well optimized for mobile or desktop devices, can appear on different tabs of the SERP and also make it easier to make a purchase from the user’s end. 

Shopping Ads can function as a top of funnel attention grabber, and as a result account for roughly 36% of product discovery according to Grow My Ads

Building on top of the versatility, Shopping Ads also make management of campaigns easier through automation, through Google’s new Performance Max campaign. Rather than the typical bidding on keywords in typical search campaigns, Google selects keywords based on your product data feed, which can assist for awareness. In combination with the automated keyword generation, more than one ad can pop when a user enters in a search term which can potentially boost performance.  

Key Takeaways

To sum up, Google’s innovation to the SERP has now allowed for Shopping Ads to be placed on the “All” tab, “Images” tab, and the “Shopping” tab to allow for a more seamless shopping experience. These were due in part to the advancements from the year 2000-2008 which introduced the vertical search engine, callouts and snippets, as well as carousel images. With Google transitioning their approach to product advertisement, this opened the door to different consumption behaviours, particularly with the growth in mobile device usage in addition to desktop use. These advancements were furthered by Google transitioning from their original two main campaign types – Standard and Smart Shopping to Performance Max which will overtake all existing campaigns by the end of 2022.  

Google Shopping Ads have evolved into being a leading paid channel. They give advertisers the opportunity to not only showcase their collection of products for users to purchase directly from e-commerce sites but also a means to drive awareness for their new product offerings against competitors and similar brands directly on mobile, tablet, or desktop devices. By using shopping ads, retailers can look to diversify their advertising mix, create a full-funnel marketing strategy, increase brand awareness, drive a higher volume of purchases and gain market share within their specific vertical. As an ecommerce business looking to capture new audiences, maintain relevancy to current customers, and recapture customers lost, Google Shopping is the channel to advertise on. Get products in front of target consumers, in hopes of achieving the #1 Position on the SERP.