Operators of price comparison portals in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland can place shopping ads on Google on behalf of retailers. The advantage for the retailer: 20% savings on click prices.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about Google Shopping CSS.

The Google Shopping CSS theme represents the biggest change in Google Shopping in recent years. Since CSS partners have the advantage of a margin advantage of 20%, it should be clear that more and more online retailers will rely on Google Shopping CSS Ads in the future. Thus, the proportion of Google Shopping search results that are set by price comparisons is likely to continue to increase over time.

As is so often the case in e-commerce, those who are quick and seize existing opportunities at an early stage will benefit. Anyone who is now active with Google CSS has the advantage of being able to outperform their own competitors thanks to the 20% margin advantage.

What is Google Shopping CSS?

Google Shopping CSS is a new way of serving shopping ads. CSS stands for Comparison Shopping Services – and relates in particular to the main search on the Google homepage. The introduction of google Shopping CSS became necessary because Google only uses the search results page for its own offer: Google Shopping. Other price comparisons (Comparison Shopping Services) only appeared much further down in the search results. The European Commission recognized unfair competition in this.

In order to create equal opportunities, Google relaunched the advertising platform under the name Google Shopping Europe (GSE) as a price comparison and opened it up to external price comparison sites, the Google CSS partners. The result: For some time now, all shopping ads that appear in Google’s main search results have been part of a Comparison Shopping Service (CSS).

Google Shopping itself also functions as CSS (“From Google”), takes part in the bidding auction like the other price comparison platforms and competes with other CSSs that submit bids on behalf of retailers. However, in order to use its own price comparison in conformity with the EU, Google retains around 20% of your maxCPC bid as a margin. This means that your bids are always reduced by around 20% if you leave them on Google Shopping Europe. If you use a CSS partner for your advertisements, the margin is completely eliminated.

For Google users, the difference is hardly noticeable, the only visible change is the added line “From….” at the bottom of the ad.

Why did Google Shoppping CSS become necessary?

The accusation of the EU commission: The competition on the price comparison markets was through the service Google shopping limited. Google have exploited its monopoly as a search engine by ranking its own shopping ads in a disproportionately advantageous manner. That means in plain language: If a consumer is interested in a certain product and searches for it via the search engine Google , so it stands out that in the search results Google shopping – Ads are much more visible than other price comparison services. So procured Google its own price comparison service by the poorer ranking of its competitors.

According to the ruling of the commission, operators of price comparison portals in the European Economic Area (EEA) and in Switzerland can place shopping ads on Google on behalf of retailers.

About 20% lower CPCs with Google Shopping CSS

At Unitedads, the margin that Google credits the price comparisons is completely passed on to our customers. What this means for you: With Unitedads as a Google CSS partner, your click costs on Google Shopping are around 20% lower.

In other words, your costs for Google Shopping will decrease by 20% or you will get 20% more clicks for the same budget.

However, this only applies to the display of the ads on the Google search start page: The European Commission sees the “shopping” page as a stand-alone price comparison and is therefore not affected by the judgment.

What has changed with Google Shopping CSS?

For Google users, the introduction of Google Shopping CSS is barely recognizable – the only visible change for the time being was the added line “From….” at the bottom of the ad. In the meantime, Google has launched its own ad format for CSS: the Comparison Listing Ads. In addition to the normal shopping ads, they have a second carousel in which all relevant price comparisons are highlighted.

Advertiser, the price of a click is of course the crucial change made by Google Shopping CSS. More precisely, the composition of the merchant bids in Google Shopping has changed. Google Shopping keeps around 20% of the bids as a margin. For you as a retailer, this means that your bids are reduced by around 20% and are included in the auction for the ad rank! So suddenly you are at a massive disadvantage compared to advertisers who already place their Google Shopping Ads through a Google CSS partner.

An example

Let’s say you place a maxCPC bid of $ 1. If you do not use CSS yet, but continue to use Google Shopping Europe (GSE), € 0.20 will be deducted from this. The result: You enter the auction with the reduced bid of € 0.80.

If you do not advertise your products via GSE, but via another Google CSS partner, this margin is lost. Your bids will go into the auction in full, i.e. € 1. The advantage: With the same maxCPC bid you win significantly more auctions and can significantly increase your traffic or reduce costs.

Google Shopping CSS Integration: Full Switch or Association

In order to display Google Shopping ads via a CSS partner, there are two ways of converting a previous GSE account to CSS. Advertisers have to choose between full switch and the association model.

With a full switch, the advertiser’s Merchant Center Account (MCA) is fully integrated into the CSS partner’s Multi Client Merchant Center (MCC). There are some technical aspects to consider when making this move. If not the entire MCA but only a sub-account is moved, it is possible, for example, that the access rights are lost during the move. The positive thing about the full switch is that the CSS partner has insight into the product data, can identify the causes of problems himself and there is transparency with a percentage remuneration model. However, the advertiser’s dependency on the CSS partner is higher than with the simple association according to the association model and requires trust between both parties.

If an advertiser chooses the association model, their MCA is linked to the CSS partner relatively easily. The setting of the advertiser can remain unchanged in this case, the relocation effort is minimal – in fact, an email from the CSS partner to Google is sufficient, in which the conversion is requested. If only one sub-account is converted from an MCA, the same dangers of loss of access rights apply as with a full switch. The advantages of the full switch method just mentioned (full access and insight into the product data by the CSS partner) do not come into play here straight away. However, the CSS partner can be given access to the customer account or data feed via appropriate user invitations or by setting up an API interface.

Full switch and association hardly differ in handling and cooperation. It is more a question of trust, control and flexibility, whether an advertiser moves his entire account to the MCC of the CSS partner or “docks” via the association. Another method is to set up a CSS sub-account: opening a sub-account directly with a CSS price comparison company is useful if you want to work with more than one CSS price comparison company. No verification by Google is required for this. Nevertheless, the product links must lead to the target address stored in the subaccount in the web shop.

This is how you can use Google Shopping CSS for your shop

If you would like to use CSS via UnitedAds as a Google CSS partner, we will take care of all the formalities. We will submit an application for the activation of your Merchant Center Account (MCA) for you.

There is practically no migration effort for you – everything stays the same. You can continue working immediately, without the stress of moving and without getting used to.

Is it worth switching to a Google CSS partner?

With minimal effort, your click costs are reduced by 20%. Switching to a CSS partner is therefore worthwhile for every online shop that invests more than around € 1,000 in the Google Shopping marketing channel.

While the lifespan of Google Shopping CSS was still unclear at the beginning of the program, there is now much to suggest that it will remain an integral part of Google Shopping. EU pressure on Google continues to grow. The fact that Google Shopping Europe is still represented much more frequently in search results than CSS Partner shows that there is still room for improvement. So Google will continue to motivate other price comparisons to appear in the shopping ads. Google does this, for example, by developing formats such as Comparison Listing Ads (CLA), which are specially designed for Google Shopping CSS partners.

If you still rely on Google Shopping Europe due to uncertainty, you should now deal with CSS at the latest. The frequency and the short-term nature with which Google informs about changes to the CSS program, however, remains a challenge. It takes initiative and foresight on the part of CSS providers and advertisers in order to be successful with Google Shopping CSS in the future.

Dual strategy Google Shopping Europe and Google Shopping CSS

CSS shopping opened up new strategic playgrounds for advertisers. Companies were faced with the decision to shift their entire budget to CSS shopping, to use GSE and CSS in parallel, or to forego CSS entirely.

Many online shops still do not take advantage of CSS. This is probably mainly due to the many smaller retailers for whom the use of CSS is not worthwhile because CSS fixed costs exceed the savings that are dependent on the media donation. However, some advertisers also run parallel campaigns via CSS and GSE. The disadvantage of this hybrid strategy is that the identical campaigns have to be maintained in two different Google Ads accounts.

There is no general recommendation. The benefits of CSS shopping depend not only on the amount of money you invest, but also on the advertiser’s strategy. For example, if you want to crowd out your competitors, you can feed your advertisements into the auction via GSE and several CSS at the same time and thus generate high advertising pressure. Those who optimize for efficiency, however, should rely exclusively on CSS.