There are many CSSs, including Google Shopping. CSSs offer different areas of expertise, services, and charging models. Some specialize in specific categories (apparel, for example). Some manage feeds and campaigns for you, while others provide tools for you to manage your product data and bidding strategies yourself. Hybrid models exist as well, and CSSs may offer a variety of additional services. Some CSSs charge a fee per click, while with others you might pay a commission when a click on an ad leads to a sale. Combining the strengths of several CSSs can increase the overall performance of your Shopping ads.
You need to work with at least one CSS to place Shopping ads; you can work with several at the same time if you prefer. This article provides an overview of some of the different setups that we have seen CSSs offer.
Working with a CSS
There are a number of different ways in which CSS and merchants can agree to work together. Any given CSS might offer multiple service models or tailor services to your specific needs.
In this case, the CSS creates a Merchant Center and a Google Ads account on your behalf. You provide your product data to the CSS and they optimize your feed, upload it to Google, and manage your campaigns. Some CSSs may also use your product data to generate leads for you from other channels.
Google will invoice the CSS for clicks on the ads they place on your behalf. The cost that Google charges the CSS will depend on the outcome of the ad auction. The CSS in turn will charge you. The pricing model will depend on the agreement you have with that CSS. (For example, some CSSs may charge a fixed price per click, some a different click price by category, and some a commission only when a click leads to a sale.)
The CSS typically provides you with reporting of the performance of their activities and the associated cost, potentially across the different channels they use. In this model, you will not normally have access to the Merchant Center and Google Ads accounts that the CSS runs on your behalf, but you may have access to tools the CSS provides.
In this case, the CSS creates a Merchant Center and a Google Ads account on your behalf and then gives you access to these accounts. Another alternative is to migrate your existing account from one CSS to another (see below). You manage your feeds and campaigns yourself.
Google will invoice the CSS for clicks on the ads they place on your behalf. The cost that Google charges the CSS will depend on the outcome of the ad auction. The CSS in turn will charge you. The pricing model will depend on the agreement you have with that CSS (In this model, the CSS typically charges a fixed-percentage markup on the CPC paid in the Google auction. Other pricing schemes exist.). Some CSSs enable merchants to directly pay their Google Ads invoice and charge separately for the CSS’s services.
You typically have direct access to reporting in Merchant Center and Google Ads. The CSS may provide additional reporting on the performance of the campaigns and the associated cost. Some CSSs may provide consulting services to assist you with your Shopping ads activity.
These models combine aspects of managed service and self-service models. For example, a CSS may manage and optimize your product data feed, but you run the campaigns yourself. Or the other way around; you manage your feed yourself, while the CSS runs the campaigns for you.
Variants of these hybrid setups involve the CSS creating a new Merchant Center account on your behalf, which you then link to an existing Google Ads account. This way you can use your existing Google Ads account to manage ads placed through the CSS.
Other variants involve Google invoicing you directly for ads placed by a CSS. This may be a more suitable setup if you manage your Shopping campaigns yourself. In these cases, the CSS typically invoices you separately for their services.
Some CSSs might offer additional services beyond those described above.
Using conversion reporting and auto-bidding
Whatever model they offer you, all CSSs have access to the same features, including conversion reporting and Google’s auto-bidding tools.
If you’d like to use conversion reporting and auto-bidding with a CSS, there are several ways, including:
Add a Google Ads conversion tracking tag to your website
You add a Google Ads conversion tracking tag, or code snippet, to your website for the CSS you’d like to work with. Based on this conversion data, the CSS can then run auto-bidding campaigns on your behalf.
Share conversions via a Google Ads manager account
If you have already set up conversion tracking with one CSS, you can share this conversion data with another CSS. To do this, the new CSS links the Google Ads account used for your new campaigns to your Google Ads manager account (if you don’t have one, you can create one). The new CSS can then run auto-bidding campaigns based on this shared conversion data.
Share conversions via Google Analytics
If you are importing conversion data in your Google Ads account using Google Analytics, you can also use this method with CSSs by linking the Google Ads account used for your campaigns to your Google Analytics.
Using third-party bidding tools
Any third-party bidding tools compatible with Google Ads and Shopping campaigns can also be used by CSSs. In a managed service model, the CSS uses the third party tool to manage bids on your behalf. In a self-service model, you use the third party tool yourself to place bids through the CSS.
Placing products beyond general search
By default, a CSS can place products only in the Shopping unit on Google’s general search results pages.
Some CSSs opt in to placing products also on the Display network and on other surfaces beyond Google’s general search results pages (such as the Google Shopping tab, YouTube, etc.). If you work with one of these CSSs, they can place products on your behalf on Google’s general search results pages and these other surfaces, for any program available on those surfaces.
Using surfaces across Google
If you’d like to place products on surfaces across Google to benefit from free listings, you can do so through any CSS in Europe. Select which CSS to use for surfaces across Google in your CSS dashboard.
If you’d like to keep an existing Merchant Center account, but work with a different CSS, Google can migrate your account from one CSS to another. This is only possible if both CSSs consent to this migration. Ask your new CSS to reach out to Google support for the migration. Note that a Merchant Center account can be associated with only one CSS at a time.
Google Ads accounts do not need to be migrated. Your Merchant Center account determines which CSS your ads are associated with. If you use product data from a Merchant Center account that is associated with a specific CSS for any campaign in any Google Ads account, that campaign is considered to belong to the associated CSS.
If you migrate a Merchant Center account from Google Shopping to another CSS, note the following:
- Ads on Display remarketing and surfaces beyond general search: If the CSS you migrate to is not opted in to serving ads on Display remarketing and surfaces beyond general search, your ads will only appear on Google’s general search results pages and will stop serving on other surfaces.
- Product data for countries where the CSS program is not available: If the migrated Merchant Center account contains product data for countries where the CSS program is not available, these ads will stop serving because CSSs cannot place ads in those countries. If you want to continue to place ads both in countries where the CSS program is available and in countries where it’s not, you have two options:
- Create a new Merchant Center account with Google Shopping for your product data for countries where the CSS program is not available. Migrate the existing Merchant Center account to the CSS to place ads in CSS program countries.
- Ask the new CSS to create a new Merchant Center account for your product data for CSS program countries. Keep the existing Google Shopping Merchant Center account to place ads in countries where the CSS program is not available.
When migrating your Merchant Center account from Google Shopping to a CSS, two different setups are possible:
- The account is migrated as a sub-account of the CSS’s multi-client account. In this case, the CSS automatically gets access to your account.
- The account is migrated as a stand-alone account. In this case, the CSS does not automatically get access to your account. CSS staff need to be added manually as users to the account.