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The Gold Pan Technique: Skyrocket
Your Google Shopping Sales

by Reese Garcia under PPC

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Contrary to how it sounds, the Gold Pan Technique isn’t for old-timey prospectors. It’s for serious marketers who are looking to drive more profitability from their Google Shopping campaigns. Why the need to pan for gold? Google Shopping campaigns can bring tons of traffic to your products. And a lot of that traffic is dirt. 

Don’t believe me? Without the proper controls, your Shopping campaigns can be overrun by something called the Mob Effect. You can read more about the Mob Effect in this dedicated post, but here’s the short of it: you can end up spending the bulk of your budget on products and searches that aren’t even selling.



4 products were able to do this to a Shopping campaign: steal half the budget, and contribute less than a tenth of the revenue.


But there are some serious gold nuggets within that dirt — gold nuggets that are your path to Shopping campaign profits. And there’s a system you can use to hone in on these nuggets.

It’s called The Gold Pan Technique.


gold digger like the gold pan technique

Using this technique doesn’t mean you have to call yourself a gold digger.
– image source


And using the Gold Pan Technique can take your Shopping campaign’s results from the high-spend, low-revenue example we saw above to something that looks like this:


ROAS increases from gold pan technique

360% more conversions, 80% higher ROAS.


Let’s dig into why so many Shopping campaigns start off on the wrong foot, and how to make them right.


The Problem With Shopping Campaigns

If you’ve had any traction with getting sales from Search campaigns, you probably know that the closer someone’s search matches your product, the likelier you are to get a sale.

For example, let’s say someone walks into your store and you’re hoping to sell them this shoe:


air jordan 14 retro mens shoe for gold pan technique example

After all, who doesn’t want a new pair of Jordans? – image source


If someone just says they want a pair of “shoes,” it’s a shot in the dark at whether they’re going to be interested in this specific pair of Jordans.

If someone else walks in and says they’re looking for a pair of Jordans, there’s a decently probably chance that they may be interested in this pair among the other models you carry.

But if you have a customer who walks in and asks specifically for the AIr Jordan 14 Retro, the sale is basically a done deal – it’s an exact match.

So, how does this translate to your Google Ads strategy? Search campaigns make it easy to follow these examples, because they allow you to distinguish between a generic product, a specific brand, and a particular model with keywords. And because those keywords are tied to specific bids, this also affects your profits.

Now, here’s the problem with Shopping campaigns. Shopping campaigns don’t have a built-in way for you to control your search queries.

And because the quality of a search query can have such a direct affect on the likelihood of you gaining a sale, this lack of control also affects your profits.


Spongebob's Shopping Campaigns confusion

Why wouldn’t Shopping campaigns give us more control? – image source


But that’s where the Gold Pan Technique comes in. Let’s dig into it.


Why The Gold Pan Technique Will Save Your Shopping Profits

Just like the name sounds, the Gold Pan Technique makes it easier for you to pan through the less profitable search terms and get right to the nuggets: high intent searches that are meant for your products.

The reason why the Gold Pan Technique is so effective is because it allows us to do exactly what Shopping campaigns don’t make obvious: segment our traffic by generic, branded, and product-specific searches — almost as if we have the granularity of keyword-level control.

The results of this segmentation are pretty noticeable across the different types of traffic. Here’s an example of results between branded and non-branded shopping traffic:


branded versus non braded ROAS in gold pan

Segmenting your traffic can bring you more revenue – event at a higher ROAS.


This becomes possible by using multiple shopping campaigns in combination with a few advanced settings.


gold pan technique campaign screenshot

Kind of like this.


Because you’ll be using this multi-campaign setup to funnel your higher-intent searches toward campaigns precisely meant to bring you those gold nuggets, you’ll want to make sure that your campaigns have a matching ad group and product group structure–so that you can measure results consistently across campaigns.

Plus, this makes the setup easier since you can copy and paste these in AdWords Editor.

This means you can base your ad group / product group structure off of SPAGs, categories, or whatever else makes the most sense for your business. It just has to match, and you’ll want to have this part finished before we dive into the Gold Pan Technique setup.

You’ll also want to understand how many campaigns you should use based on the products you’re selling because this affects your setup.


How Many Campaigns You’ll Need To Pull Off the Gold Pan Technique

Because there are such clear distinctions between generic, branded, and product-specific searches, (and because of the example above) it’s easy to assume you’ll want to use three campaigns.

But that’s not always the case. And the reason is pretty simple: there are many industries where people simply don’t do high enough of a volume of product-specific searches.

Quick example:


product-specific searches in gold pan technique

Product-specific doesn’t really apply to apparel.


Do you think enough people are doing exact searches for “Men’s Brown Leather Captain Lace-Up Boot Size 10 by Thursday Boot Company” to warrant a third layer of segmentation in their campaigns?

Probably not, and the Google Keyword Planner is able to back it up:


sifting out gold from garbage

Not worth a dedicated campaign.


When it’s obvious people don’t search for your products by full name, use a two-campaign structure — this’ll be the best for you to get to your gold nuggets faster.

On the other hand, you’re likelier to need a product-specific campaign if you’re selling devices or electronics. In these situations, people are likelier to search for a SKU or model number, especially if they have an exact product in mind.


unifying your product numbers

All of these ads are dedicated to one model number.


So, if you sell devices/appliances, give yourself the advantage of SKU-level segmentation. Otherwise, don’t build an unnecessary campaign layer.

Now, let’s get into the actual setup.


How The Gold Pan Technique Works

To segment your Shopping traffic between the dirt and the nuggets, you’ll need a few key ingredients.

First, you’ll need either two or three Shopping campaigns, depending on your industry.

Then, you’ll need to combine these with Shopping campaign priority settings, shared negative keyword lists, different bids across your campaigns, and a shared budget to tie everything together.

By themselves, these ingredients may not make much sense, but here’s a preview of what we’re working toward:


gold pan technique breakdwon by generic, brand, and product campaigns

A breakdown of your ingredients for Generic, Brand, and Product-Specific shopping campaigns.


Because there’s a little bit more detail involved in setting up a three-campaign structure, we’ll use this as the example. If you only need two campaigns, just ignore the setup for the SKU campaign.


Set Up Shopping Campaign Priorities

The first thing you’ll need to set up across your three campaigns is priorities. When you have multiple campaigns that contain products (just like you will in this structure), priorities tell Google which campaign should serve an ad first in the order of High, Medium, and Low:


gold pan technique shopping settings

Remember what I said about “not obvious”? This setting is minimized by default.


And if you remember the table above, you probably noticed that the generic campaign gets the highest priority. No, that’s not a typo.


true confusion

But why would the lowest-intent traffic get the highest priority? Don’t we want to make more money? – image source


There are two main reasons. First, we want to be able to capture all traffic that the product feed is optimized for so that the campaign’s potential isn’t limited. To do this, we have have to give the generic campaign the highest priority.

The second reason is that we’ll be using these priorities against shared negative keyword lists in order to create a sort of funnel — in other words, the strainers needed to make our gold pan work.

So, to finish this first step, you’ll set your priorities like this:

  • Generic Campaign – High Priority
  • Brand Campaign – Medium Priority
  • SKU Campaign – Low Priority


Use Shared Negative Keyword Lists To Funnel Your Searches

Now that your priorities are organized, you’ll create shared negative keyword lists to drive your higher intent traffic into the appropriate campaign. You’ll need a shared negative keyword list for:

  • Universal negatives (search terms that are never relevant) to apply to all campaigns
  • Brand negatives to apply to the Generic campaigns and block it from gaining brand traffic
  • SKU negatives to apply to the Generic and Brand campaigns to block them from taking that traffic


Important note: don’t apply anything other than universal negatives to your SKU campaign. The shared negatives for the other campaigns will block the bulk of irrelevant traffic from showing up here. You won’t want to apply brand negatives here, because that could block a search that contains both your brand and SKU number in the same search.

So, you should have shared negatives that look like this:


unversial, branded, and SKU usage in gold pan technique

Universal, brand, and SKU.


The only campaign that should have all of these lists is the Generic campaign. The Brand should have SKU and Universal negatives, while the SKU only has universal.

Now, let’s cover your bids.


Adjust Your Bids For Profits

Now we’re getting to some of the real magic of the Gold Pan Technique. Before, you couldn’t bid differently for different kinds of search terms in your Shopping campaigns. But now you can bid differently at the Generic, Brand, and SKU level. And when you see how much higher your brand and SKU ROAS is, why wouldn’t you?

So, your bids across these campaigns will look something like this:

  • Generic Campaign – Lowest Bid
  • Brand Campaign – Medium Bid
  • SKU Campaign – Highest Bid


Here’s a real example:


GoldPanImage Safe

There are 60-80% differences between these product bids.


You’ll notice these products have 60-80% differences in their bids from one campaign to the next.

If your bids are set too close together, or even in an inverse order with Generic having the highest bids, this may cause Google to ignore your priority settings and serve traffic to the wrong campaign. Not panning for gold.


Tie It All Together With A Shared Budget

You may be curious as to why I’m suggesting a shared budget if you’re juggling multiple campaigns types.


homer confused over why people don't use the gold pan techniqe

Wait, why would we want to use one shared budget when we could control budgets by these nifty generic, brand, and SKU categories? – image source


Another good question. Let’s say you dedicate a specific budget to each of these campaigns. Your Generic campaign is going to gain the most traffic, because it has the most potential traffic volume — it’s not on the hunt for just brand or SKU-level searches.

So let’s say that, because your Generic campaign is getting the most traffic, it has exhausted its daily budget before the other campaigns.

Because it’s not practical or feasible to come up with exact, non-brand negatives for every possible search under the sun that your products could trigger, your Brand and SKU campaigns start pulling in generic traffic. That’s where your ROAS starts dropping, and suddenly you’re no longer panning for gold.

That’s where shared budgets come in. A shared budget ensures that all three (or two) of your campaigns always belong to the same auction. This’ll prevent the example we just talked about, and will ensure that your higher-intent traffic is funneled down to the right campaign in each auction.

To create your shared budget, just go to the shared library, and add a new budget. Pretty straightforward.

And here’s an example of what the setup looks like:


relevant campaigns and budget in gold pan technique

Just add the relevant campaigns, your budget, and you’re set.


Having this last setting included will make sure your Shopping campaigns always stay within the same auctions, meaning you won’t have to worry about your Brand and SKU campaigns picking up irrelevant traffic for budget reasons.


Gold Pan Technique Recap: Pan Your Way To Shopping Sales

At this point, you should have three (or two) separate shopping campaigns dedicated to receiving Generic, Brand, and SKU traffic. As you collect data, you’ll want to stay mindful of some common pitfalls.

Keep an eye on your search terms to ensure each campaign is picking up the right search queries. If you’re seeing generic search terms in Brand or SKU campaigns, make sure that you’ve added a shared budget for all three, and that your bids are distinguished enough across each campaign for the traffic to remain segmented.

If you’re not getting enough traffic, make sure generic bids are high enough, and that your Brand and SKU bids are proportionately higher.

If you follow these rules, you’ll start to see differentials across your campaigns like this:


branded and non branded campaigns in gold pan technique

Higher revenue, higher ROAS.


And, over time, your overall results will start to look like this:


overall growth from your gold panning success!

Higher and higher over time.


Now, start panning for gold.

Klientboost Blog Author Reese Garcia

Reese Garcia

Director of eCommerce PPC

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