Answering the most important questions about CSS
For whom is Shopping CSS suitable?
What does CSS stand for?
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. Using Smarketer, you are at the same time listed in the Smarketer Shopping Portal.
Since when and does CSS exist and why?
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.
Do I need to use CSS to place Shopping ads on the Google general search results page?
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.
What is a Google CSS partner?
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.
In which countries can CSS be used?
Currently, CSS can be used in the following 21 countries: 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.
How does advertisement via CSS partners work?
CSS Partners can place Shopping Ads for their customers in Google. CSS Partners (like Smarketer Shopping) other than Google CSS can be used for this purpose, saving the up to 20% Google margin. An already existing Merchant Center will be converted to the CSS Partner, also a completely new Merchant Center can be created for the customer. A merchant can also use multiple CSSs at the same time.
How can I find out which CSSs advertise on my behalf on Shopping ads?
Sign in to your Merchant Center account. Click the tools icon Tools and setting menu icon [Gear], then choose Shopping ads setup under “Tools.” You will find a dashboard showing you all CSSs that have uploaded products from your website. You can also find contact information for each of them. If you don’t have a Merchant Center account for the domain in question, you can create one for free. You don’t need to upload any offers to see the dashboard
Are there differences between the CSS partners?
A CSS always fulfills the same function: it transports the shopping ad from the Merchant Center to Google. A store can therefore look for any CSS partner to place its ads. However, there are differences between the CSS partners, among other things, in the level of service, costs, and additional services. Each CSS partner determines its CSS margins (per click/budget/fixed sum) and, if applicable, additional services (support, feed software, etc.) itself.
Some CSS partners advertise access to bidding tools. Our recommendation is: Use Google’s automation, Google has the most information. We have also tested 30 of the best bidding tools for our agency and the results from Google’s automation were the best.
A CSS Partner that is conspicuously cheap or even free should be checked especially well before committing. CSS partners can also lose their CSS license because strict conditions such as a minimum number of integrated stores must be met. Premium CSS partners, for instance, must represent a minimum of 500 merchants with their shopping campaigns.
Will I lose the support from Google if I switch to a CSS Partner?
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CSS Premium Partner - What does Premium mean?
Smarketer Shopping is a Google CSS Premium Partner. Premium means that the CSS service represents more than 500 merchants with their shopping campaigns. As a Premium Partner, Smarketer gets more support from Google and can therefore offer its customers a higher service level.
Can several CSS’s be used at the same time and does that bring any benefits?
A partnership with several CSS partners at the same time is technically possible and can also be implemented with us if desired. However, more reach is not achieved through this, because Google prevents multiple listings of ads from one provider.
So in terms of performance, we do not recommend this. There are no advantages but in fact even some disadvantages like cannibalization of your own ads and a worse overview of the results.
Will the ads after the switch still be placed with the free listings in the Google Shopping tab?
Yes. The free listings are also possible with CSS Partners. If you need help with activation, our consultants will be happy to assist you.
Unfortunately, at the moment there is a technical bug from Google that can unexpectedly block the playout of the free ads. We have instructions that you can use to activate them again yourself.
By the way: The top row in the shopping tab also contains paid ads, the CSS bidding advantage applies here as well (see the question: “What are the advantages of a CSS partner compared to Google CSS ?”).
Does CSS also work for Smart Shopping campaigns?
Yes, it works in the same way. The algorithm may start a learning phase at the beginning, but after a short time (usually 1-3 days at most) the better performance is already apparent.
Please note that the goals are set correctly, if for example “click maximization” is pursued, the clicks and thus the costs will go up due to the higher reach, but potentially the conversion will not. Through better placements and higher reach can result in higher losses due to the scattering.
The advantages of a CSS partner compared to Google CSS?
Google CSS is a subsidiary of Google and is called “Google Shopping Europe” short for GSE. When a Merchant Center is built, it is automatically first connected to the Google CSS, a CSS change must proactively be requested.
If you are still in Google CSS, your potential for cost savings or better results is still unused. The Google CSS deducts up to 20% of the Shopping Ads budget as CSS margin and is therefore significantly more expensive than other CSS partners.
Here’s an example:
On Google CSS:
If you place a 1 Euro bid on a Shopping Ad, up to 20 cents of it will flow to the Google CSS. The ad is only placed with 80 cents bid between the ads of the competition. With a 1,000 Euro shopping budget per month, that’s up to 200 Euros and with a 50,000 Euro budget, it’s up to 10,000 Euros CSS lost marketing budget.
The Smarketer CSS costs 1 percent with more additional services. You save costs of up to 19% in the Google Shopping area. If you continue to use the full budget, the reach “values” (impression share + clicks) increases immensely.
Where can I find more information on the Google CSS program?
What are the benefits of a CSS switch from a merchant perspective?
The Google CSS (one of many) costs about up to 20% of the Shopping Ads budget. From the switch, these are no longer deducted from the Shopping Ads budget, the full budget goes into the auction.
Your online store will effectively participate in the auction again with 100% of its bid, this improves the ranking of ads on Google Shopping.
The change is a simple technical step that does not lead to any loss of information or data. Only the name of the CSS partner (in Shopping Ads and the Merchant Center) and the partner’s conditions change. The handling remains exactly as before, and you have the additional advantage of service support of the market leader in Google Ads in Germany, Smarketer.
What changes, as a result of the CSS switch?
Only the name of the CSS partner (in the Shopping Ads and the Merchant Center) and the conditions of the partner change. The handling remains exactly as before, budgets, feeds and Merchant Center settings are still controlled by you.
What happens technically when I switch to CSS?
Each CSS partner has a collective account for the Merchant Center. During the CSS switch, the Merchant Center is moved from the collective account of the old CSS to the collective account of the new CSS. This is a technical step and is performed by Google.
What will I notice about the up to 20% discount after converting?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions from customers who have just switched. The up to 20% discount on the CPC is not an amount that is refunded or displayed in your Google Ads account. It is a bidding disadvantage for Google CSS. The effect is the same as staying with Google CSS and increasing your bids by 25%. You realize better positions of your product displays and you will be included in more auctions with it being higher. The number of your campaign(s) displays will therefore increase.
Can there be a performance hit when switching?
The transition is seamless, so there is no playout gap. In the case of a change from Google CSS, it behaves as follows: There is no drop in performance; on the contrary, in the case of a switch, playout and reach can be increased with the same budget for each market situation. Campaigns with automated bidding strategies (such as Smart Shopping or Target ROAS) can fall into a new learning phase, which can usually last 3-7 days, to adjust to the new circumstances.
Will the experiences and empirical data of the Merchant Center remain available when I switch to CSS?
Yes, you keep the existing Merchant Center, so the empirical data will remain complete and available.
How does switching to Smarketer CSS work?
Joining Smarketer CSS is super easy and can be done entirely online. Go to https://www.smarketer.de/google-css/ and easily register. We need your Merchant Center ID to submit a switch request to Google. Converting your Merchant Center to Smarketer CSS takes no more than 4 days after you have submitted the request to us.
Integration via Full Switch or Association?
Full Switch means that the customer’s Merchant Center (MC) is hooked into the Multi-Client Account (MCA), Smarketer then has control, can allow betas easier and support you and your business better. Often support requests are directly related to the MC because of item issues, etc.
Association means that the customer uses the CSS itself without Smarketer having insight. An MCA of the customer has to be included via Association.
Smarketer rather offers the Full Switch and only rarely the Association, with which it is very difficult to release and support betas – since a lot of additional communication is needed and which robs time.
Is it possible to book only consulting with Smarketer without changing the Merchant Center?
Yes, according to the contract it is also possible to specify that Smarketer does not commit to any operational action, thus the actions are limited to consulting.
Can feeds for multiple countries be served by one MC?
Yes, multiple feeds can be served from one MC.
Can CSS be requested without access to the admin email?
Unfortunately, this does not work. Since the latest Google CSS update, the authorization must come from the admin email. You can request Google to make another email admin if for some reason you no longer have access to the original admin email. For this, you have to contact support.
How do I become a CSS Partner of Smarketer?
You can find an overview of our service on Smarketer CSS Partner. Let us advise you free of charge and we will create an offer tailored to your exact needs.
Can I still manage my own campaigns?
Your existing campaigns will continue to be deployed. There is no linking of your Merchant Center with your campaigns. Your campaigns and Google Ads account will continue to run without any adjustments.
What are the most important reasons for choosing Smarketer Shopping CSS?
The Smarketer comparison portal is a free and independent CSS partner for retailers and smaller agencies. Through our many years of experience as a Google advertising agency, we have in-depth expertise in building and optimizing shopping campaigns in all industries. More than 80 account managers are specialized in different industries and develop sustainable growth strategies. Smarketer.Shopping supports you in optimizing campaigns and their feeds and offers you all-around premium support.
Well-known brands such as home24, Rebuy and Kickz are using our high-level services and are advertising via Smarketer Shopping. We provide not only an exceptional comparison site that attracts a great number of visitors but as market leaders in Google Ads in Germany can provide full-scale Google Ads support. Our Google Ads experts are aiding you with your distinct challenges and support you in reaching your targets.
What are the costs?
Joining Smarketer Shopping CSS-Only costs €39 per month. There are no further costs associated with the use of our CSS service. We will ensure that your Merchant Center will be converted to Smarketer CSS.
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