Advanced Google Shopping Structures for Query Sculpting

As an advanced Google Shopping user you know performance will vary considerably depending on the product and search query.

However most people just hand over the management of search queries to Google and use Google’s ‘black box bidding’, a term coined by Christian Scharmüller, to deal with automatic query matching in Google Shopping.

If you want the best results and want to take back control from Google, you need to get the structure right to allow you to bid based on each product and on the search Query – this is where query sculpting comes in.

What is Query Sculpting?

Query sculpting is an advanced Google shopping tactic that gives you back a lot of the control that Google has taken from Google Shopping users. It is in effect, a way of structuring your Google Shopping campaigns so that you can bid based on the type of search query as well as the individual product.

The diagram below shows the performance based on search query for a product. You will see that generic terms perform the worst and branded terms have the best performance. Query sculpting uses negative keywords to filter these terms into different campaigns where you can bid to performance.

You effectively create two duplicate campaigns and add the branded terms, in this case adidas, as a negative keyword in one campaign.

This campaign will then only pick up non-branded terms that perform worse so you will set lower bids.

The other campaign will pick up the branded terms and should have higher bids as the performance is better.

3 Dimensions of Google Shopping

The most simplistic way of explaining how to structure your account to filter queries effectively to be able to bid on individual products comes from VILJEM PITAKO, who talks about the 3 dimensions of Google Shopping.

Source: Smarter Ecommerce

Dimension 1: Product SKUs

To give you the most control you need to be able to set bids for each product. The way to do this is to use what is called a single product ad group (SPAG) structure where each product has their own ad group, bid and negative keyword list.

Setting up this structure can be time-consuming so we would suggest you turn to automation to do this. At Clicteq we use a tool called Optmyzr to create these automatically at scale.

Because campaigns have a limit of 20k ad groups, you will want to create different campaigns for different product groups which is where having a well optimised feed comes in.

Dimension 2: Devices and audiences

The second dimension that you can control are bid modifiers for each device, audience and time of day and day of the week.

You can set the bids manually, however at Clicteq we have opted to automate this process using Google Ads Scripts to save time and to provide more regular optimisation than humans.

We would suggest using this script to set bid modifiers across devices and audiences and this script to change bids 24 times per day, making your campaigns more responsive than off the shelve bid management platforms like Kenshoo and Marin.

Dimensions 3: Query sculpting with negatives

Query sculpting is the final frontier in taking back manual control of your Google Shopping campaigns. Using the priorities within Google ads and a set of negative keywords to filter certain types of queries into certain campaigns based on how likely they are to convert.

There are two main ways that you can sculpt search queries, you can do it manually using a method that Martin Roettgerding devised. You can also do it programmatically using Google ads scripts to filter queries.

Manual query sculpting

Query sculpting as a concept was created by Martin Roettgerding and over time different people have refined the strategy and put their own personal spin on it.

Martin’s model is quite simple and uses negative keywords and different priority levels to filter different types of search queries into different campaigns. It works by instead of using a single shopping campaign, creating three with different intent levels.

  • Product Campaign – This campaign will be focused on picking up search terms that contain the product name within it. Going back to the adidas shoes example from earlier this campaign would pick up terms like “Adidas swift run shoes”.
  • Brand Campaign – This campaign is focused on picking up search terms that contain the brand terms. So in the adidas shoes example this would be any terms that contain the word “Adidas”
  • Others Campaign – This is a catch-all campaign that will pick up any terms that are not specific to the product or the brand. An example here would be search queries like “Men’s running shoes”.


The diagram above shows how the model works with the three different campaigns. One thing to note is how you should use priorities and bids based on the search query.

You will expect your product campaigns to perform the best as the terms are specific to that exact product so you should bid the highest, you should set high bids for the brand as these will also perform well and then low bids for the “rest” terms that are likely to perform the worst.

Priorities should also be used to filter the queries down into the right campaigns, with the products campaigns getting the lowest priority and “rest” getting the highest priority.

This is a basic model that works effectively to bid based on search queries and we have seen some success with this model at Clicteq when running clients Google Shopping campaigns.

For a more advanced approach we suggest Programmatic Query Sculpting.

Programmatic query sculpting

Being an agency focused around automation, we couldn’t help but add this method of using Google Ads scripts to filter search queries.

This method allows you to effectively create “exact match” Google Shopping campaigns.

You take a list of all of the exact match keywords that you want your Google Shopping Ads to appear for and add them as negatives to one of your Google Shopping campaigns.

This Google shopping campaign will then effectively only pick up terms that are not on your list and therefore you expect not to perform as well so you will downweight the bids. We will call this campaign the broad match campaign.

You should then have a second duplicate campaign called the exact match campaigns that will pick up the exact keywords that you want to appear for.

Source: Search Engine Land

The only snag is it can also pick up keywords that are not exactly on your list, which is where using Google Ads Scripts come in.

You first need to set up a Google Sheet with the list of keywords that you only want to appear for using these instructions here.

Once you’ve done that you can setup the script to run daily and it will do the following. Review each search term that your Google Product ads have appeared for. Check to see if it is on the list within Google Sheets and if it is not, it will be added as a negative keyword

Over time you will find that your exact match campaigns only appear for search terms that are on your keyword list.

You can use this as a stand alone strategy or on top of the other strategies that we have discussed in the article.


Search query sculpting is a long term effective strategy for gaining back some of the control that advertisers have lost through Google’s black box bidding and automatic query matching algorithms.

For the best result you should look to take control of the three different elements of Google Shopping within Google Ads.

You should always look to use a single product ad group structure, using automation will make your life a lot easier here and don’t forget to break campaigns down by category or brand so you don’t exceed the 20k ad groups per campaign rule.

Using automated bidding through Google Ads scripts will allow you to set bid modifiers for both audiences and devices giving you additional control over when your Google Shopping ads will show.

Finally you should focus on using query sculpting, and for the most advanced users, programmatic query sculpting to effectively bid based on the intent of the search term the user has entered.

wesley parker
About wesley parker

Wesley is Founder and CEO at Clicteq. He currently manages a £6 Mil Adwords portfolio across a range of different sectors. He regulally features in leading search publications such as Econsultancy, Campaign Magazine and Search Engine Land. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

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