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Google Shopping continues to gain importance as an e-commerce channel. Shopping ads are displayed prominently on the search engine results pages and present users with products that match their search query. Google is developing the feature feverishly to meet the competition from Amazon as a sales channel. In initial tests with “Shopping Actions”, Google even allows direct purchases in the search results in the USA and France.
CSS means in general “Comparison Shopping Services” and specify these websites where you can compare prices from different products to find the cheapest one.
Google Shopping CSS is a new way to place shopping ads. CSS affects the main search on the Google homepage. Google used the search results page exclusively for its offer: Google Shopping. Other price comparators were left behind. The European Commission recognized this as unfair competition.
Since June 2018, CSS partners have been competing against Google Shopping Europe (GES) in the auctions and have been pushing the competition ever since. All advertising spaces are available to all bidders. No advertising spaces are reserved for Google Shopping or CSS partners. At this early stage, Google confirmed that advertisers using the new comparison shopping format would benefit from cheaper CPCs.
Advertisers were expected to see a 15-20% reduction in CPCs with the same position in shopping results.The EU Commission has criticized precisely this point and from now on Google must also allow competitors to display advertisements because the unfair competition was recognized. Google thus opens its shopping platform for external price comparison sites (CSS partners).
Google Shopping has long been a good way to position your products with a lot of information in both the Google search and the shopping tab. Only products that were advertised on Google were positioned there.
However, this does not change much for the user himself: only the external price comparison sites that place these ads are recognizable.
Under pressure from the European Commission, Google opened the competition for popular shopping ads a year and a half ago for external product searches, so-called “Comparison Shopping Services”. Until now, it was only possible to book ads using Google’s own service, “Google Shopping”.
The innovations affect every advertiser in Google Shopping & have an impact on your performance – even if you have not made any changes yourself: Your shopping ads are already played out via Google’s own price comparison Google Shopping Europe (GSE). Your disadvantage: Google retains approximately 20% of your max CPC bid as a margin. This means that your bids will be reduced by the amount of the margin in the auctions for the ad slots in the main Google search.
While the lifespan of CSS shopping was initially unclear, there are now many indications that its future is secure. EU pressure on Google continues to grow. The fact that GSE is still far more common in the search results than CSS partners shows that there is still room for improvement. Google is therefore well advised to continue to motivate third-party product searches to be present in the shopping ads. For example, Google does this by developing formats such as Comparison Listing Ads (CLA) that are specifically intended for CSS partners.
Anyone who still relies on GSE due to uncertainty should now deal with CSS at the latest. Because the topic has come to stay. The short-term nature with which Google informs about changes is also challenging. It takes initiative and foresight on the part of CSS providers and advertisers to continue to be successful in the CSS jungle in the future.
How I can use Google CSS?
If you would like to use CSS Shopping via a Google CSS partner, they will apply for the activation of your Merchant Center Account (MCA). In fact, the underlying process on the Google side is relatively simple: The CSS partner transmits predefined texts with your information directly to Google. These messages can be really short and clear.
CSS vs GSE: Opening of the Shopping Monopol
Google decouples its Google Shopping service, which was previously integrated into the web search, and opens the auction for shopping ads (formerly Product Listing Ads) for external product searches. Advertisers can save a lot by looking for a different CSS partner. The GSE margin does not appear on any Google invoice and therefore cannot be determined with one hundred percent certainty. However, it is an open secret in the industry that Google retains up to 20 percent of the click price as a margin.
Through an incentive program called SpendMatch, Google also offered financial reimbursements in Ads accounts when advertisers used certain media budgets via external CSS. In combination, the two measures offered advertisers enormous savings potential. The following screenshot shows the SpendMatch conditions for September last year. At that time, advertisers were able to claim a monthly credit of up to 32,000 euros.