Even after you've done all the work to get your Google Shopping feed in good shape, you’re not guaranteed success.

competitive research for google shopping

The traffic from your Google Shopping campaigns can come in droves. But if that traffic also has a high bounce rate, a low session duration or few pages per session, it's clear that something is wrong.

There are two possible reasons:

  • Your products show up for the wrong queries
  • You're targeting the right queries, but people don't want to buy what you are selling (or not from you anyway)

You can check the first one by looking at the Search terms report. If your products show up for irrelevant search queries or very broad searches, you need to tackle that first and exclude them from your campaigns.

Fixing the second reason is a lot more complex. First you need to figure out why people aren't buying.

Google Shopping is a comparative search engine or CSE. Its’ #1 goal is to compare different products and sellers.

So if people are searching, clicking but not buying from you, they’re probably buying somewhere else.

The goal of this article is to discover which competitors are stealing your thunder, what they are doing different and how you can beat back!

Step 1: Discover Your True Competitors


You might think you’ve got a good grasp on the competitors in your industry.

The names you’ll think of are usually the stores that sell the same products or are targeting the same customers.

On Google Shopping this can be different. Stores that you would never consider real competitors are trying to outrank you and lure potential customers away.

Luckily Adwords has a report for exactly that purpose: the Auction insights report.

Find it in your own account: Campaigns or Ad groups > Details > Auction Insights > All >
Show data for: Shopping campaigns

Auction insights report for Google Shopping campaigns

In the report above you can see four columns:

  • Store display name: your competitors
  • Impression share: impressions vs all potential impressions
  • Overlap rate: how many times did your ad show together with your competitor’s Outranking share: how many times did your ad rank higher than your competitor’s

The names in the first column are your true adversaries.

The report above is a screenshot from one of my clients I’ve blurred out a couple of competitors for confidentiality reasons, but it’s clear that there is a lot of room for improvement.

My client only has a 16% impression share and one of his direct competitors is at 74%!

The more granular your campaigns are set up, the more accurate information you’ll get from this report.

If all of your products are lumped into one campaign or ad group, you’ll get a very high level overview of the competitive landscape.

But if you’ve broken your campaigns down by brand, product or query you’ll know exactly where you’re getting beaten by which competitor.

Now that you can see the reality of the competitive landscape, it’s time to get to work!

Step 2: Show Up More Without Paying More

competitive research on google shopping

To improve your ad’s visibility you need to know which brands or products are performing well, and which are doing poorly. And are you dominating branded search queries but getting hammered on the non-branded ones?

Having this information will make your work a lot easier in the next steps.

Google Adwords uses two criteria to decide which ads to show:

  1. Bid (Max CPC) of each advertiser
  2. Quality score

So one way to show up more is simply to bid more aggressively (and pay more).

If you’re reading this post because your campaigns didn’t generate enough $$$, that probably isn’t the right option for you.

The second, less straightforward way is to increase your quality score.

Most advertisers know about Google’s quality score from the search campaigns. Google Shopping campaigns also use quality scores, but they don’t show them in your account.

The biggest indicator for a high quality score in search is click through rate or CTR. So we can assume that this is also the case for Shopping campaigns.

Example of Shopping results for a search for protein bars

Looking at the ads above, which one would you click?

That depends what you had in mind right. But the image, brand awareness of the store, price and title will probably have a huge impact.

And that’s only what you can see.

A couple of things are happening behind the scenes: Google is using extra information from your product feed like gtin numbers to match products with groups of searches. Since there are a lot more products than available slots, Google is always rotating the ads to discover the ones that people will click on and offer a good landing pages experience.

So as part of optimizing your Shopping campaigns, you need to give Google higher quality information.

A quick glance at your Google Merchant Center Diagnostics tab will tell you how you are doing. If you see any errors or warnings, your product feed can use some work.

From the report above, it’s clear that there is work to do. Almost 40% of the products are disapproved and there are additional warnings and errors.

But even if all of your items are approved, your visibility will be severely limited.

The most common problems I see have to do with the identifier_exists attribute, brand, product numbers & assigning the correct product categories.

Fixing every part of your feed can be a real headache. A tool like GoDataFeed can definitely to speed up your work. (Plus as part of their free set up they will do a lot of that work for you!)

Other things to improve with high potential are your product titles or images.

Step 3: Researching Your Competitors

All the above has been focused on making your Adwords more effective. But it won’t fix the underlying problems of why your visitors aren’t converting.

Like we said before, if visitors aren’t buying from you, they’re probably buying from your competitors.

So what’s the reason for that?

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons why visitors abandon their checkouts:

If you look at the graph above, you’ll see a huge part of why people leave without paying is related to prices and costs:

  • 56% were presented with unknown costs
  • 37% found a better price somewhere else
  • 32% found the overall price too expensive

This is for visitors coming from all kind of traffic sources. Visitors from Google Shopping see the price before they click, so it’s a bit different.

They have already compared the prices of the different ads and click on the ones that are most interesting to them.

So your first research task is to the prices of your competitors. Are they lower? Higher?

You can get to as much detail as you want, but it’s best to stay high level and figure out their general pricing.

Next, it’s time to have a look at the meta-pricing, all the other variables that factor into a buying decision:

  • Shipping options and the associated costs
  • Return policy
  • Taxes
  • Promotions

Since the pricing and meta-pricing have such an impact on your customer’s buying decision, knowing how you compare to your competitors in these areas is very important.

I’m not saying you have to match 100% what they are doing. But remember that most customers don’t care about the reasons why you can’t offer a lower price or free shipping.

So if you can’t or don’t want to close the gap with your competitors in these areas, you’ll need to compensate in other areas.

Another look at the chart above gives a couple of extra avenues we can pursue to improve:

  • overall usability (navigation, product browsing, checkout, etc.)
  • website speed
  • website security
  • branding
  • product selection

A lot of these are not that easy to research or improve in your own store. But know that fixing these will result in a better visitor experience for all visitors, not just Google Shopping.

Key Takeaway

Going through the various steps in this article will give you insights into why Google Shopping campaigns aren’t working for you. And if you fix the underlying reasons,you’ll start generating more profit from every dollar you invest.

To get even better results from your Google Shopping campaigns, grab our free optimization checklist. It will give you a routine to work on your campaigns to ensure ever better results.