My Review Of Google Shopping, Amazon Product Ads, And Shopzilla Based On Data From My Shop

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As many of you are aware, I’ve been testing the comparison shopping engines on my online store for the past year and I’m ready to talk about some of my experiences with these pay per click services.

google amazon shopzilla

In case you don’t remember what a comparison shopping engine is, please refer to my post on How To Use Comparison Shopping Engines To Increase Sales For Your Shop for a quick review.

Anyways, I wanted to blog about my own experiences with the comparison shopping engines(CSEs) because while there are many “general” articles out there, they don’t give a good picture of what it’s like to actually use a CSE and what you can expect to achieve.

In fact, even though I’ve seen a bunch of posts that rank the various comparison shopping engines, I couldn’t find any posts written from the perspective of an individual shop owner.

So today, I’m going to provide you with my personal review of Google Shopping, Amazon Product Ads and Shopzilla based on my own data with these services.

Note: This post is going to be part 1 of a multi-part series that discusses my experiences with all of the popular CSEs on the market.

As a disclaimer, I just want to make sure everyone understands that my results are very specific to my online wedding linens store and should not be taken as fact.

Every store may achieve different results depending on what they sell and the results I’m reporting here should be taken with a grain of salt.

So with this in mind, let’s begin!

Google Shopping

Google Shopping Banner
Google Shopping was the very first CSE that I tried and it really set the bar high in terms of ease of use and conversion rate. The best thing about Google Shopping is that almost every single shopping cart out there supports the Google feed format out of the box so you have to do very little work in order to submit your products online.

And even if you screw up your product feed, there’s a nifty feed testing tool which gives you instant feedback in case you have errors with your submission. As a result, getting your products uploaded to Google Shopping is a snap and extremely easy to do.

Once you have everything setup, your products will start showing up in the search results and on various shopping sites. You can also implement other nifty features like dynamic product level retargeting and all functionality is nicely integrated into Google’s Adwords interface.

The Conversion Rate

The conversion rate for Google Shopping is incredible. When I first signed up, I was expecting to have to do a bunch of product level optimizations with my feed in order to fine tune my return on investment like I had to do with Adwords.

But nope! Check out these ridiculous conversion rate numbers with my shop!

google shopping

All of the numbers above are out of the box with no optimization! I simply listed all of the products on my site and this is what I got.

There are many other ways to further optimize and refine these campaigns which is a topic for another post but my results with Google Shopping have been nothing short of amazing.

Amazon Product Ads

Amazon Product Ads Banner
With my incredible success with Google Shopping, I decided to give Amazon Product Ads a try as well. As you are probably aware, Amazon is pretty much the go to destination for ecommerce these days so it makes sense to list your products on there.

Update: Amazon Product Ads are no longer available

Amazon product ads are nice because when a customer clicks on your ad, they are still taken to your website where they complete the transaction and Amazon is out of the picture. The downside is that Amazon seems to treat their product ads customers like second class citizens compared to their other listings.

First of all, all products that are either listed on Amazon or fulfilled by Amazon seem to carry precedence in the Amazon search rankings.

And this makes sense. Amazon probably makes a lot more money when a customer buys directly from them as opposed to making money on a cost per click basis.

But not only does Amazon give precedence to their own products but they also prohibit you from listing products in certain categories.

For example, women’s apparel is completely off limits for Amazon product ads customers so I had to get a little creative with my categorization in order to get my hankies listed.

The Product Feed

Amazon supports the Google Shopping Merchant feed format so getting your products listed is not that big of a hassle. However, if you want your products to be categorized properly, you pretty much have to submit a specialized feed specifically made for Amazon.

Amazon also has some little quirks that will hopefully get fixed in a future release. For example, the only way to upload your products to Amazon is through a manual feed.

In other words, I have to create my feed file, login and then manually upload my products. This is ridiculous!

Every other CSE allows you place your feed file on your webserver and automatically have it picked it up on a daily basis.

Update: Joel from Amazon informed me that they do in fact have an FTP option, but it’s hidden in the menu where you select the “file format” for your feed. Hopefully, they will move this to a place where it is more obvious. But I stand corrected. Thanks Joel!

The Conversion Rate

But honestly, I can’t complain because despite its quirks, Amazon Product Ads still converts like crazy. While the traffic numbers aren’t nearly as high as Google Shopping, the conversion rate is what matters. Here’s a snapshot of my data.

amazon product ads

Not too shabby! These numbers are pretty awesome despite the reduced exposure compared to other Amazon products. Right now Amazon is giving away $75 in free credit for signing up. Click here to get started.

Shopzilla

Shopzilla Banner

Given that I was 2 for 2 with my CSE experiments so far, I was super excited to try Shopzilla next. But unlike Amazon and Google, getting my products uploaded took a bit more effort.

First off, Shopzilla has their own proprietary feed format which meant that I had to do some custom coding. Second of all, the interface was a bit more complicated for me to navigate and comprehend.

But overall, it wasn’t that bad and I got my products listed without a hitch. Unfortunately, that’s when things started to go south.

Because Shopzilla has a bunch of different partner sites such as Beso and Bizrate among others, it can be a little difficult to track ROI unless you specifically tag your links or use their ROI javascript.

Note: There was no way I was going to use their javascript because that would essentially provide them with all of my conversion data.

In addition, they have what they call an “affiliate partner” program where their product listings can be shown on blogs and other publications outside of sites they own.

Initially, I was not specifically tagging my links with my own tracking tags so I was getting clicks from all over the place (outside of Shopzilla.com) which weren’t being accounted for in my analytics data.

Once I figured out what was going on, I made the necessary changes which made my actual numbers A LOT WORSE. Word of advice: Always tag your links!!!

The Conversion Rate

So what I’m presenting to you below are my numbers for Shopzilla and its network of sites without taking into account the “affiliate partner” sites.

shopzilla

On the surface, these numbers aren’t horrible and it’s important to note that the 12.5% and 20% conversion rate numbers above are for very low traffic volume. But here’s the thing. Once I started tagging my product links and tracking “affiliate partner” clicks, I discovered that my conversion rate was atrocious.

In other words, I was getting charged for a lot of clicks from affiliate partner sites which weren’t converting. And what’s worse is that “affiliate partner” traffic made up the majority of my clicks! It gets even worse. There’s no way to turn off “affiliate partner” traffic either.

So what am I saying? For my online store, Shopzilla based sites were converting okay but the affiliate partner traffic was horrible and you can’t avoid paying for it.

As a result, I decided to stop using Shopzilla altogether.

Conclusion

Anyways, 2 out of 3 profitable comparison shopping engines isn’t bad! In my followup article, I will be discussing my results with Nextag, Shopping.com, The Find and Pronto. Stay tuned and feel free to leave me your comments below.

I’m very curious to see if other shop owners are seeing the same thing.

Further Reading

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10 thoughts on “My Review Of Google Shopping, Amazon Product Ads, And Shopzilla Based On Data From My Shop”

  1. Jim says:

    Steve,
    We are using Shopzilla and are using their tracking scripts (I’m not knowledgeable enough yet to tag my links) and I was impressed with the conversion rate. I’m a little disappointed about learning that it shares out on partner sites that don’t convert well. But for us, the conversion rates are a whole lot better than Adwords.

    Amazon’s manual entry is a pain. We have variations on our products and it took quite a while to navigate and learn the process. Frankly, we gave up because of the time it takes to enter products and we have over 200 all with variations.

    But, I will definitely revisit Google shopping. We started setting up a campaign way back but got involved in other tasks and never funded it. I like your results and will give it a try.

    I look forward to your next posts on these comparison shopping engines.

    Thanks.
    Jim

    1. Hi Jim,

      Yes. In general, I’ve found that several of the CSEs convert on par or better than Adwords. It’s because the customer has a lot more information about the product prior to clicking the link.

      In terms of Amazon’s manual entry, I meant that you have to upload a feed file through a GUI. Everything on my site is scripted and automated except for this last step which is annoying.

      Anyways, Google shopping performs really well even out of the box so you should give it a shot.

  2. Craig says:

    Hi Steve,

    Great info. That is a great conversion rate with Google. Looking forward to more posts on this.
    Thanks again!
    Craig

  3. It’s always nice to see someone else giving attention to CSEs. You may have stumbled across our site during your research about CSEs, but CPC Strategy likes to think of itself as the primary knowledge-source for the shopping engines and product feeds.

    I also like that your perspective is from that of a small shop owner, so that’s refreshing. As for your experiences with each, CSEs each have their own unique user experience, but results undoubtedly vary based on your strategy.

    I highly recommend checking out my Shopping Feed Management Guide (coming out Sept. 19) because it should provide a lot of context for this series you’re doing and also provide some management best practices. Keep up the good stuff!

    1. Hey Jon,

      Nice to meet you. I’m going to be putting together a similar guide. The great thing about CSEs is that it’s a little more straightforward than Adwords which should make it easier to explain how to optimize.

      Perhaps we should compare notes. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Joel Ennis says:

    Hey Steve,

    Please know that there are more automated means of uploading products for Amazon Product Ads. Including a FTP server option. Please let me know if I can ever assist you with this.

    Thanks,
    Joel

    Joel Ennis
    Business Development
    Amazon Product Ads
    p: 206.740.7323
    joelenni@amazon.com

    1. Thanks Joel,

      For the life of me, I can not seem to find it. I’ll email you directly.

      1. Post has been updated

  5. Awesome article Steve. I would really like to share this in my next blog post. Very much interested in writing for you as well as have you join us on our webshow for an interview!

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