FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Answering the most important questions about CSS
CSS stands for Comparison Shopping Service and is an online comparison portal. Through CSS within Google Shopping products are directly listed in the google search.
In 2017, Google was sued by the EU Court of Justice for a fine of 2.4 billion euros for antitrust abuse. The reason was that Google had excluded comparison portals from Google Shopping. As a result, Google dissolved its comparison platform on the European market (known as “Google Shopping”) and was henceforth Google Shopping Europe (GSE). With the Comparison Shopping Services Partner Program, Google continued to create the possibility for other price comparison portals such as Smarketer.Shopping to advertise products for retailers via Google Shopping.
Yes, only CSSs can place Shopping ads. You can use Google Shopping or any other CSS of your choice. You can also participate via several CSSs at the same time.
A Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) partner is a comparison site: a website that collects prices from different webshops, to steer its visitors to these webshops. Google Shopping (to be found under the ‘Shopping’ tab on the search results page) is actually the Google CSS. To comply with the EU guidelines, Google has disconnected its comparison site and created a separate company. That means that Google Shopping as a separate comparison site is a CSS that advertises shopping adverts on the Google search results page. Other comparison sites can currently also purchase shopping adverts from Google on behalf of webshops. A shopping advert like this looks exactly the same as a shopping advert from Google, but instead of a link with “from Google” there is a link “From [CSS name]” at the bottom of the advert. That is the only difference. When clicking on the advertisement, the visitor is simply redirected directly to the webshop for which the CSS advertises. Only when clicking on the “From [CSS name]” link does the searcher go to a CSS comparison page instead of the Google Shopping tab (the Google comparison site). To realize fair competition with Google Shopping CSS, Google uses a margin advantage of up to 20% for these CSS partners.
At the moment, CSS is available in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
CSS Partners have the ability to display Shopping Ads on Google for their clients. Any CSS Partner (like Shoply), apart from Google CSS, can be used to run shopping ads and save up to 20% on CPC. The current Merchant Center can be converted to a CSS Partner, or a brand new Merchant Center can be established for the client. Additionally, a merchant has the option to use several CSSs simultaneously.
To access the dashboard displaying all CSSs that have uploaded products from your website, log in to your Merchant Center account. Select the “Tools” option from the tools icon and settings menu [Gear], then select “Shopping ads setup.” The dashboard will provide you with contact information for each CSS. If you do not have a Merchant Center account for the specific domain, you can create one free of charge. Uploading offers is not required to view the dashboard.
The function of a CSS is always the same: to transfer product ads from the Merchant Center to Google. Thus, a store can choose any CSS partner to place its ads. However, CSS partners differ in terms of service quality, costs, and additional services, such as CSS margins (per click/budget/fixed sum) and support for feed software. Some CSS partners may also offer access to bidding tools, although it is recommended to use Google’s automation, as it has the most information and has been found to perform better than other bidding tools. Additionally, CSS partners must meet strict conditions, such as a minimum number of integrated stores, in order to maintain their CSS license. For instance, premium CSS partners are required to represent at least 500 merchants with their shopping campaigns.
No, you will not loose access to Google support. You will continue to have access to the Google Support teams that you are currently working with directly. Additionally, the support channels that were available to you prior to switching to a CSS partner will still be accessible to you.
Τechnically you can have partnership with multiple CSS partners, including our own company. However, doing so does not result in expanded reach because Google prohibits multiple listings of ads from one provider. Therefore, in terms of performance, we do not recommend this approach. There are no benefits to it, and in fact, it can lead to some drawbacks, such as competitiveness among your own ads and a poorer view of the outcomes.
After the transition, will the advertisements still be positioned alongside the unpaid listings in the Google Shopping section?
Certainly, CSS Partners also support free listings. If you require assistance with activation, our consultants are available to help you.
Sadly, Google is currently experiencing a technical glitch that can hinder the display of free ads. However, we have detailed instructions available to help you reactivate them on your own.
Also, it’s worth noting that the top row in the shopping tab comprises paid ads, and the CSS bidding advantage is applicable here as well. For more information on the benefits of a CSS partner compared to Google CSS, please refer to the question “The advantages of a CSS partner compared to Google CSS?”
Certainly, the functioning remains the same. At the start, the algorithm may enter a learning phase but typically after 1-3 days at most, better performance can be observed.
It’s important to ensure that the goals are appropriately set. For instance, if the objective is to maximize clicks, then the higher reach will lead to increased clicks and subsequently higher costs, but there may not be a corresponding increase in conversions. Higher reach and better placements may result in increased losses due to scattering, so it’s important to keep this in mind.
Google CSS is an abbreviation for Google Shopping Europe, which is a subsidiary of Google. When a Merchant Center is created, it is automatically linked to Google CSS, and you need to proactively request a CSS change. If you are still using Google CSS, you are not utilizing your potential for cost savings or better results. Google CSS charges up to 20% of the Shopping Ads budget as a CSS margin, making it more expensive than other CSS partners.
For instance, if you place a 1 Euro bid on a Shopping Ad on Google CSS, up to 20 cents of it will be deducted by Google CSS. This means the ad will only appear with a bid of 80 cents among the competition’s ads. With a 1,000 Euro shopping budget per month, this translates to up to 200 Euros in lost marketing budget, and with a 50,000 Euro budget, the loss can go up to 10,000 Euros CSS.
In contrast, you can start with the Basic plan of Shoply CSS for free and the upgrade if you wish to have access to more premium services.
More information can be found on Google’s dedicated portal for Google CSS Partners. There you will have the opportunity to compare different CSS partners and the benefits provied by each of them. More information regarding the operation can also be found on Google support page.
1. up to 20% discount on your CPC In terms of saving costs, switching from Google CSS to a different CSS partner can save up to 20% of the Shopping Ads budget.
2. Higher Ranking The above means that the full budget is entered into the auction. As a result, ad ranking on Google Shopping improves.
3. Risk-Free The change is a simple technical step that does not put any information or data at risk. Only the CSS partner name changes in Shopping Ads and the Merchant Center, along with their conditions. Handling stays the same, and you get the added benefit of Shoply’s services (smart segmentation, product title optimizations, support and so on based on the preferred plan).
The only changes that occur when switching to a new CSS partner are the partner’s name appearing in the Shopping Ads and Merchant Center, as well as changes to the partner’s conditions. However, you still retain full control over the handling of budgets, feeds, and Merchant Center settings, just as you did before the switch.
When changing CSS partners, the Merchant Center is transferred from the collective account of the previous CSS partner to the collective account of the new CSS partner. Google performs this technical transfer.
One of the most common questions asked by customers who have switched is about the up to 20% discount on CPC. This discount is not refunded or displayed in your Google Ads account. Instead, it represents a bidding disadvantage for Google CSS. If you switch to another CSS partner, you can achieve the same effect as staying with Google CSS and increasing your bids by 25%. This will result in better positions for your product displays and you will be included in more auctions, leading to an increase in the number of campaign displays.
The transition process is smooth and there will be no gap in the ad display. When switching from Google CSS, there will be no decrease in performance. Instead, it is possible to increase ad reach and display with the same budget for every market situation. However, campaigns that use automated bidding strategies like Smart Shopping or Target ROAS may require a new learning phase which typically lasts for 3-7 days to adapt to the new circumstances.
Will the empirical data and experiences stored in the Merchant Center still be accessible after the switch to CSS?
Certainly, you get to keep your current Merchant Center and all the data associated with it, so there will be no loss of historical data.
It’s very simple to join Shoply CSS and can be done entirely online. To start the process, go to https://shoply.pro/#pricing, select your plan and register easily. You’ll need to provide your Merchant Center ID so that we can submit a switch request to Google on your behalf. After you’ve submitted the request to us, it usually takes no more than 4 days for your Merchant Center to be converted to Shoply CSS.
It is possible, from one Merchant Center to serve feeds for multiple countries.
Sadly, this approach is no longer functional due to the recent update to Google CSS. The authorization now requires the admin email to approve it. However, if you have lost access to the original admin email for some reason, you can ask Google to make another email admin by contacting their support team.
Your current campaigns will keep running as usual. There’s no connection between your Merchant Center and your campaigns, so there’s no need for any modifications to your campaigns or Google Ads account.
Shoply comparison portal is an independent and free CSS partner for retailers and agencies. We have extensive experience in building and optimizing shopping campaigns and we provide premium support for optimizing campaigns and feeds. Shoply is not just a comparison site, but we also offer premiun servcies to help you unlock the full potential of your shopping ads!
You can start by choosing the basic plan offered by Shoply which is free and the upgrade according to your needs to access extra feature that will help you optimise your campaigns and boost your return on ad spent. With Shoply you can achieve +30% on ROAS or more.