Ad Platforms

Kirk Williams on Next Level Google Shopping

Kirk really likes the term “black hole” when it comes to the data (or lack thereof) you get out of Google Smart Shopping analytics, so tread carefully when starting out. Where’s our data Google???

If you’re in eCommerce, chances are you’re up and running with Google Shopping Ads of some kind. But are they running optimally? Do you have the data you need to make them better? Are you using Smart Shopping only?

These are just some of the points we discussed with Kirk Williams (or @PPCKirk as he’s known across the Twitterverse) last week on Optily Radio. Kirk’s a big name when it comes to Search, having been named PPC Hero’s Most Influential 25 PPCers five years running. He really knows what’s up with Google Shopping especially, so he gave us some great insights on the show.

From the Optily side, we had Brendan Hughes, our CEO join us for the chat too. Both Kirk and Brendan have recently come out with books that deal with advertising theory and touch on the not-so-dead nature of the traditional marketing funnel.

Here’s a teaser from the episode just below, followed by some info on the topics we discussed on the show. If you want to just skip to the good stuff straight away, you can scroll the player at the end and just have a listen to the episode.


Who are Kirk and Brendan?

Kirk Williams runs ZATO Marketing, a small agency that’s specializing in paid search on Google and Microsoft and focuses especially on eCommerce businesses. He’s really active in the PPC community on Twitter, so you should definitely make sure to follow him there. Many of his thoughts, frustrations, and musings from his 10 years at ZATO and working in the industry led him to write his new book last year: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

On a fun note, he’s got an amazing TikTok channel where he spoofs famous songs with digital marketing lyrics, like this one on Apple’s iOS 14.5:

Oh, and I should definitely mention that he’s a major Star Wars geek! I was seriously impressed by his shelf of Legos in the background throughout our interview 😍

Brendan Hughes is the CEO here at Optily and has worked in digital marketing and eCommerce for over 20 years. He’s been on both sides of the ad business: ad buying and ad selling. He understands the struggle marketers face with attribution–the spreadsheets, the double-counting, the mess of data… And this is why he identified with the Optily solution and came aboard.

Over the years, he’s noticed the power that online advertising can have to grow a small business. However, he’s also noticed that if certain things aren’t in place–or if your wheels are out of alignment, as he puts it–no amount of fuel from ads can accelerate you to success. He puts all of this and more in his new eBook: Accelerate eCommerce Growth.

In his spare time, Brendan likes to sail his laser dinghy on Dublin Bay. ⛵

Is it still a funnel? A maze? Is it even still alive?

The marketing funnel has been around for over a century. As we mentioned, it comes up in both Brendan’s and Kirk’s books, since it’s a pretty important fundamental to nail down. Basically, although customers learn about our brand and products through million different ways–word-of-mouth, an Instagram post, or an ad while they’re playing Candy Crush–ultimately, the customers still go through a journey.

Now the funnel structure might be a bit simplistic in this day and age, which is why critics like to exclaim the funnel is dead. Kirk likens these statements to a quote by Mark Twain when newspapers famously (and incorrectly) reported his passing, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The stages in the funnel are largely the same, but the way customers hear about our brand, learn about our offerings, and ultimately make a purchase are much harder to track, are less linear, and are closer to a maze than a funnel.

Google Shopping vs Google Smart Shopping

If you’re in eCommerce, you’re ultimately looking to sell stuff. Google Shopping Ads make products stand out on a page that’s primarily text-based. Rather than simply ranking organically or outbidding your competitors in text ads, Google Shopping lets you showcase products alongside others that are similar for easy comparison.

(Kirk’s got me with Star Wars on the brain, so let’s continue with it…)

Smart Shopping is Google’s way of making ads super simple to launch for online sellers. You have some really minimal input here and let their algo do its thing. The main drawback is that Google doesn’t really show you much data at all. As Kirk puts it, it’s a black hole of data.

So for companies who are in their early stages, not having that data is a huge problem. You don’t know what terms your audience is searching for to get to your ads or where your ads are showing up that are giving you the best results. This is why Kirk advises companies, especially those who are only just starting out with online ads, to launch some regular Shopping Ads in addition to Smart ones.

Check out the show!

We talked about so much more with Kirk, so make sure to check out the full episode. Subscribe to the show so you don’t miss any of our upcoming eCommerce superstar guests!

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