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Tis the Season to Try Shopping – How Charities can utilise Shopping Ads in the Holiday Period

Christmas shopping bags

The holiday period is a crucial time for charities of all sizes. It often comes with a complex marketing plan, utilising many different marketing channels to achieve fundraising aims. However, charities often overlook shopping ads, an ad format that has huge potential, and also sees it’s biggest days of the year during this time.

In this blog, I want to argue the case that, as long as you meet a few minimum criteria, charities should be considering shopping ads as a part of any holiday period advertising they are planning.


What are shopping ads?

We have a blog that goes into more detail about the basics of shopping ads, but to summarise – shopping ads are an ad format specific to selling products. They provide specific information about individual products you sell. Visually they look very different to search ads and can show in both the website and image search results pages. Shopping ads can’t be run inside a Google Ad Grant account, so you will have to create a full paid account and pay for the media spend you put through these ads.


Shopping ads that appear when users search "nike shoes"

An example of the ads that appear when searching “nike shoes”.


Shopping ads criteria

I want to add an important caveat to this blog. Google Shopping is not for everyone, and your online shop will need to fulfil some criteria to have the possibility of good performance using shopping ads.

Firstly, the shop needs to sell products that users cold to your organisation would like to buy. Things like branded cups and tote bags may sell well with your warm audiences, but will almost certainly fail to perform when it comes to shopping ads not utilising retargeting.

Secondly, the set up of shopping ads is somewhat more technical than search ads, requiring a shopping feed to be built of the products you want to sell via Google Shopping. Check that you or your web developers are comfortable with setting this up, or you may find yourself lost before an ad has gone live.


Why will charities benefit from using shopping ads?

So, with that said, why is Shopping going to work for charities in the holiday period? There are three main factors that make the end of the year the ideal time for a shopping test.


1. Increased interest in items charities sell: Christmas cards, decorations, and gifts

One of the advantages of this time of year for charities is that it is the seasonal high for several types of items charities often sell. These products can include Christmas cards, seasonal decorations and little items often given as gifts.

Although Christmas cards are low price, and often low margin, user intent is never going to be higher than during this period. A tip for making this easier to manage is to sell only bundles of 10 or 20 Christmas cards on Google shopping. This way you will be able to bid more per click than you would on an individual card.


search results for "christmas card packs"

Even in Mid-October, ads are already live for Christmas cards.


Christmas decorations such as tree ornaments or wreaths are similarly peaking, and these can often be a higher price than Christmas cards, which may give you more room to bid whilst still keeping the shopping ads profitable.

Finally, many products often sold on charity shops fit into the umbrella of small gifts or stocking fillers. Anything from fountain pens to plush toys can fit into this category. If you are deciding which products to run during this time, ask yourself if you could see someone buying each product for a friend or relative. These are the products that are most likely to succeed.


2. Target big events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Everything in between.

In recent years, the Black Friday phenomenon has expanded to consume almost an entire week. Stores now often extend their sales over the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and often go on for up to a week.

This is a period of high activity on the google shopping platform. If you can present competitively priced products during this time, you are almost certainly going to see increased search volume and sales.

However, to have a competitive price for many items, you will need to consider running a sale. Users expect a sale during this time, and the increased performance should offset the reduced profit from each sale.

This period (in particular Black Friday itself) should be considered the final destination of any Google shopping campaign. Spend should peak around this time, and most importantly the campaign should start in advance of this date, to allow you to fully optimise the account by the time Black Friday arrives.


graph showing conversions and conversion value for January to Devember, peaking in November around black Friday

A graph of one of our charity clients accounts last year. November was the highest revenue and converting month.


3. A Shopping campaign isn’t just for Christmas

Although Black Friday and the week surrounding it is the end goal of any holiday shopping campaign, we also shouldn’t overlook the power of extending your campaigns into January. Especially for charities with lower budgets, who found the black Friday period too competitive, this can be an excellent idea, as many short-term campaigns from other sellers end and competition drops. Despite this, users are still keen to buy, looking to spend their holiday money.

Seasonal items such as cards and decorations should be avoided, but regular products still sell well, and CPC’s are often lower.


graph showing conversion and conversion rate across November to January, with the first week of January showing the the highest recorded conversion value in that period

Looking at that same account in January of this year, we see that the first week in January performed better than many of the November weeks.


As you can see, there is plenty of advantages to running a holiday shopping campaign. If it is properly managed and optimised, it can bring in provable profit in a very similar fashion to a fundraising campaign, but from an entirely different audience.


Shopping ads aren’t going anywhere

My final reason to test shopping is one of prediction. Over the last few years, we have seen an increased focus in shopping from Google. Along with an increase in where and how shopping ads can be shown to users. Gone are the days of only a bar at the top of search results pages, shopping ads can now be shown in image searches, on partner websites, and even in their own tab on the results screen. You can even achieve free listings, in a similar fashion to organic search results, if you have your shopping feed set up.

These ads are becoming a larger and larger part of the search ecosystem, and they are not slowing down. A test of google shopping during the holidays not only gives you a chance at a successful and profitable campaign, but also allows you to familiarise yourself with an ad format that will only become more important in the future.


Get your shopping campaign ready for Christmas

Are you setting up shopping ads for campaigns this holiday season?  If you are and want some support, get in touch at hello@upriseup.co.uk. We’d love to chat about how we can help you get the most out of you shopping ads.

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    Why Google Shopping Campaigns Are Fantastic!

    Why Google Shopping campaigns are fantastic

    The Benefits of Google Shopping Campaigns


    Google Shopping Campaigns are fantastic! In the two years since we’ve started using them we’ve seen their performance continue to improve tenfold, to the point that they are now outperforming the more traditional search ads! If you want to transform your business by making the most out of shopping ads, please send us an email at hello@upriseup.co.uk

    One of the key components of their effectiveness is understanding how they work and how you can best utilise Google’s shopping platform to show your products at the right time; and for the right bid! Today I want to open the lid (slightly) on our Google Shopping strategy and give you some insight into how you can send your ecommerce revenue through the roof.

    Google Shopping Ads


    Before I go any further, I just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page. There are some significant differences in the way the Google presents data to you between paid search and shopping. But, there are two fundamental differences when it comes to the key dynamics of how it all works. These are Ad Copy and Bid Management:

    Paid Search
    Shopping Campaigns
    Ad Copy
    User created ad copy which includes strong CTA. Text-based Manually added to spreadsheet or automatically pulled from your website. Includes product title, an image of the product, and the price
    Bid Management
    By keyword, optimised based on conversions By product, based on what is bringing in the income



    Shopping ads consists of a title, price, store name and, most crucially, an image. They consequently differ to search ads as they do not require the creation of any ad copy. Google creates shopping ads automatically, using information provided by the advertisers in a Merchant Feed. It is therefore important to optimise the feed itself, as this effectively takes the place of the Ad Copy, by implementing a Shopping Strategy.


    You should be reviewing all product names and product type categories in your feed and optimising them with as descriptive keywords as possible. Conducting this process increases the chances of the Ad being shown, and therefore provides more opportunities to convert prospective purchasers.


    The other major difference with shopping ads is with how bidding works. In paid search, bids are placed at keyword level. In layman’s terms: The more profitable the keyword, the greater the bid. However, in Shopping Ads, bids are set by product. This is not ideal as different search queries have different intents of purchasing. For example, a user searching ‘buy pink umbrella’ has a higher intent to purchase than a search of ‘umbrella’. This causes a problem because we would happily pay more for ‘buy pink umbrella’, but we are unable to distinguish between the searches, as we are forced to bid at product level.


    The way around this problem is to utilise the priority setting for each Shopping campaign. Each campaign’s priority can be set to ‘High’, ‘Medium’ or ‘Low’. By creating duplicate campaigns with differing priority levels, we can control our bids by funnelling search terms into different campaigns based on intent.




    Using this system, a search of ‘umbrella’ would be sent to the ‘high’ priority campaign first, which would contain a low bid as it contains low intent search terms. You want to match to the ‘high priority’ first in order to show for as low a bid as possible to most keywords. Remember, Google chooses when your ads show – not you! So, by default we want it to be a low bid, until we know it’s a great search term.


    Once you have enough data, top performing searches would be set as negative keywords in the high priority campaigns, and these searches would be funnelled into a ‘lower priority’ campaign. These campaigns would then have a higher bid, as we are happier to pay more for a user who is more likely to convert.




    This system allows a much greater amount of control over our bids and has produced some fantastic results for our clients.


    This blog is a snapshot of my ‘Evening of Ecommerce’ talk I presented at upriseUP for one of our fantastic events. You can find more information about my talk here presentation library.


    Please do let me know your success with Shopping ads and I’d love to hear how you get on with implementing your ‘priority’ bidding strategy. If you would love for me to talk to you about how I think we can help your ecommerce even further, then please let me know.


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      Google’s €2 Billion Fine for Shopping Ads

      Google 2 billion fine for Shopping Ads

      Google Shopping Ads


      Google’s €2 Billion Fine for Shopping Ads, and Why it isn’t the Real Punishment


      For years now Google has proudly had the company motto of ‘Don’t Be Evil’, and you’d think sticking to that would be easy. Today, however, that motto must feel like a bad joke, as Google has been hit with a record breaking €2.42 billion fine by the EU for antitrust practices regarding it’s shopping ads.


      This story has been updated – see below for the latest news on Google’s response.


      This fine comes as the sting in the tail of a seven-year investigation into Google’s search algorithms, which concluded that Google had placed its own shopping ads service above other price comparison sites “irrespective of [their] merits,” and accused the company of “abusing its dominant position by systematically favouring” its own ads.


      Slide from EU commission presentation on Google

      A slide from the EU commission explaining their argument


      Google have fired back at the decision in a statement, where they argue that their search algorithm shows the results it’s users want to see, and point to the rise of online retailers such as Amazon or eBay as the reason that some search comparison sites have dropped in the rankings. They finish by saying “Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal”. We feel it very likely that Google will file an appeal, at which point we will be in for a long and drawn out case between the tech giant and the EU.

      This would be the largest antitrust fine ever handed out in European courts, but the €2.42 billion still only amounts to around 2.7% of Google’s annual revenue. Though a very public blemish on Google’s record, this will not break the bank. The more long-term worry for Google is that the ruling has stated that they must end their antitrust practices within 90 days or face further fines. This would mean changing how Google ranks web pages on its search results page to more evenly weight non-Google comparison shopping services.

      If this ruling gets enforced, it could have a major effect on the performance of shopping adverts on the google network and, although it would be interesting to see how shopping ads performed on a truly level playing field, it would undoubtedly lead to an increase in cost per click at best, and a drop in conversions and return on ad spend at worst. It would also set an interesting precedent with dangerous implications for other digital marketing channels. If it is illegal to guarantee shopping ads a place at the top of search results, what about paid search ads in general?

      This is very likely to not be the final chapter in the story. Google look to be digging their heels in regarding the decision, and wish to clear their name in front of the world regarding their search practices. If they do appeal, and it seems likely they will, the resulting process could go on for years without a resolution, so do not expect big changes quickly.

      This is not the only point of contention between the EU and Google either. There are investigations ongoing into Google’s AdSense system, and their dealings with Android manufacturers. If this investigation is an indicator of things to come then it seems the EU isn’t going to let Google off easily, and this may simply be the opening salvo in a longer, larger war.




      We have, in fact, been proven wrong! Google have agreed to make changes that will resolve the issues the commission raised, and they will have until September 28 to do so, or face further fines. Although we don’t know the specifics of what Google will do to appease the commission, we will let you know as soon as we do!



      UPDATE #2

      In a twist of fate, it turns out we were right after all! Last week, the European Court of Justice ruled that a lower court had not given enough considerations to Intel’s defence of their use of rebates, which had been deemed as anticompetitive and the source of a $1.3 billion fine.


      A few days later, and Google announce that they will in fact be appealing the €2.4 billion fine that they have been given for their antitrust practices. Although a company like Google likely do not make a decision like this in a few days, and their plan was probably in place before the news of Intel’s victory was made public, it is powerful new proof that the appeal process may not be futile.


      Google will still be required to implement the changes to their system the commission called for in the initial report for the duration of the appeal. Since this process could stretch on for years we are still going to see a prolonged period of change for Google shopping, and the big news is still yet to break on how exactly Google will be changing their shopping system.



      Get In Touch

      What are your thoughts on Google’s €2 billion fine for shopping ads? Send us a tweet @upriseUPSEM or contact us today to see how you could transform your business or charity with shopping ads.


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        An Evening of Ecommerce

        Uprise Up ecommerce event

        Uprise Up Ecommerce Event

        Last Monday night we hosted our Ecommerce event, which is our second event to date, made possible thanks to a group of industry professionals providing informative and engaging talks. The aim of the evening was to provide insight on the importance of Ecommerce to those working in online retail.

        Thank you to everyone who came to the Ecommerce event, and especially to those who shared their expert knowledge in the field. It gave us a lot to think about and resources from the event can be found here. But for now, this is our roundup:



        Rebecca Wetten – Raconteur


        The Future of Ecommerce

        Packed full of facts and statistics, Rebecca reinforced the importance of Ecommerce today, but more importantly the future. Highlighting the ever-growing usage of mobile of phones, the talk really emphasised how important it is for marketers to focus their attention on this area. We can’t wait to read the ‘Future of eCommerce’ report which Rebecca is overseeing, due to be published in The Times on February 21st.

        Uprise Up ecommerce event


        Ben Tuck – Uprise Up

        Best practice for Ecommerce Shopping & Paid Search Ads

        One of our own, Ben has a great deal of technical experience and took us though the industry’s best practices when it comes to promoting your online shop. Ben provided lots of detail on using both AdWords and Merchant Centre to effectively get the most out of your search and shopping campaigns.


        Michael Kashioulis – Smart Cookie Design

        Top tips to increase conversion rates on your site

        From one of only eight accredited Shopify Plus Expert agencies in the UK, Michael showed us the customer conversion journey and provided us with tips on how to improve conversion rates. Testing different elements on pages throughout this journey is vital, and even the smallest tweaks can have surprisingly dramatic effects on conversions.


        Nathan Potts – Google

        Growing Your Business with YouTube

        43% of new customers are more likely to make a purchase if they have seen the product on YouTube, and Nathan from Google illustrated how advertising on this channel can create brand desire, awareness and influence consideration within the buying cycles. With TrueView In-Stream and TrueView Discovery ads there are extensive targeting options and a staggering 76% of marketers plan to increase their use of YouTube.



        Tom Everitt – Google

        Google Partnership

        Our second speaker from Google, Tom, explained the many benefits of working with a Google Partner agency including access to in depth industry reports and the opportunity to try beta products which, as they encounter less competition, often produce more cost-effective results.



        With positive feedback on our Ecommerce event from our attendees and guest speakers, the evening seems to have been a great success and we’re now looking forward to our next forthcoming events which is Digital Marketing For Charities

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