FYI: Google shopping is awesome

adwords-blogIf you are not using Google Shopping, you are losing money. I decided to share some adwords data from last year for a dropshipping site of mine. This site’s adwords marketing is broken down into several campaigns

  • One main campaign for generic keywords (Cost per sale: $16). However this campaign contains brand terms (Ex: my site name + product). So the real cost per sale is around $30 for these generic keywords (Ex: racing bike)
  • One campaign for long tail keywords (Cost per sale: $11). (Ex:  Campagnolo Black Rear Derailleur)
  • Display ($54 per sale!). Display ads appear on websites that show ads from Google Adsense. I never had any success with display ads. This campaign is now paused.
  • Google Shopping ( Used to be called PLA: Product Listing Ads). As you can see Shopping ads and PLA runs at about $6 per sale!

On this product I make about $40 in margin per sale. So google shopping is insanely good compared to the $30 cost per sale I get from generic terms.

Google shopping is hard


CSV is a plain text file format where columns are separated by commas. Excel can handle it, but may also corrupt a perfectly good csv in some cases.

The downside is that google shopping is hard to put in place. You need to make a product feed in CSV format the pleases the Google gods. They have all kinds of rules and restrictions which are pain to implement. It took me about a week of work to get my feed right. It then took about 3 weeks for them to approve the feed. Once it went live I immediately started to get great conversion rates. I was very happy with the result.

Impulsive buyers make google shopping awesome

Google shopping gets amazing results because it shows a picture of the product in the search result. Impulsive buyer type what they want in google and then bang they see it! They are drawn like a moth to a flame. They click it and they buy straight away. Impulsive buyers are not like you and me. They do not like to read. They do not like to analyse things. They want it now and they are not going to do any research. If the image fits, they buy it.

These impulsive buyers are great, but there is a downside: returns. These not so bright people will order the wrong product at least twice as often as the other customers.  In my case it’s a not a big deal, but these customers can be annoying if you pay for return shipping, . I did change my policy on returns to make these guys pay return shipping when they are 100% at fault.

Google Shopping will sometimes mess with you


You do not want to get this email!

One day last autumn I got an email from google saying my product feed was not up to their standard. They suspended my Google Shopping campaign until it was fixed. I thought my feed was 100% clean, but it seems they have some fuzzy logic going. They decided that since some of my product pictures had the word “Rear” or “Front” on them, they violated their rule. That is not what their own rules say, but you cant argue with them.

The problem was that I have 20 000 unique products on this site. About 5% of these products have some kind of text on the image. So I had to somehow (manually?) inspect and tag 20000 pictures to be able to exclude them from my feed. That is a lot of very boring work. I had other things to do and I just let them suspend this nice flow of easy money out of laziness.

How I fixed this issue


The original Mechanical Turk was 1800s hoax automaton that played chess. In reality there was a very small person inside controlling it.

The first solution that came to me was to crowdsource this work to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The Turk is a platform to distribute large amount of small repetitive task to real human beings. One classic example is to inspect pictures for offensive content. This task is very easy for humans, very hard for computers. Companies like facebook do this for millions of pictures every month.

I began working on my dataset to work with the Turk. Then I had a sudden realization: my american competitors had the same problem and they probably already fixed it. I went to browse on my US based competitor’s website and I saw that he had a new set of product pictures without any text on them. Bingo! I scrapped the pictures and used these pictures for the Google product feed.

A business idea you should do


No one is doing this fairly easy SaaS idea right now. No ads, nor organic results.

This incident gave me a business idea: make a product picture inspector SaaS that uses the Turk’s API to churn thru a Google Product feed to find all the problem pictures. If such a service had existed, I would have used it and I would be at least a thousand dollar richer. Instead of being suspended for 30+ days, I could have fixed this issue in a day or two. I’m a small time ecommerce store. I expect that everyday a bigger site is facing the exact same problem and is probably willing to pay a lot of money for some kind of automated solution to fix the problem quickly. This is a nice market with desperate buyers. Go do this.

 If you liked this post you might want to read my post about a powerful technique I found on Adwords. You may also read up here on the type of dropshipping sites I run.

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