Hold on to Your Hats. The Google Merchant Centre Feed is Changing in the UK

 

Don’t Panic! Google Shopping is changing – but we are here to help!

The end is nigh for free product listings on Google. From February 13th 2013, Google will start migrating existing Merchant Centre feeds to a commercial model, with a completion date sometime in June 2013. This will impact a lot of businesses, and will take time and resources to ensure you are ready to rock when the time comes. But fear not, High Position is here to help!

So, what issues may I encounter with my Google Merchant Centre Feed?

As this is moving to a completely paid service, Google Shopping as we now know it will be gone forever come June. The listings are now managed through AdWords as a Product Listing Ad (PLA). So, if you don’t already have one, you will need to set up an AdWords account, and link this to your Merchant Centre as shown below –

If you sell products with variants, such as apparel, this is where it gets a bit scary…

Previously, you could have three listings of the same product on your feed, for example:

For now, no problemo! However, Google now wants you to use variants – and this will mean lots of additional columns in the feed. Currently, the fields that you need to worry about are:

id

title

description

google_product_category

product_type

link

image_link

condition

shipping

availability

price

brand

After the migration, your feed will need to include all of the above attributes, plus the below attributes if you want to optimise your feed to cover all the possible variants:

So, rather than your feed having 3 products listed all with the same description and the colour and size variants stated in the title, you will now need to include the colour in the title and colour column, the size in the title and size column, and we would also recommend that both of these are included in the description too. You will be required to submit one item per variant combination. For example, if Billy Bob (shown looking miffed below) offers his lovely hats in 3 different colours and each colour is available in 3 different sizes, he must now submit a total of 9 items, all with unique product  ID’s – but under the same ‘Item group ID’.

For all items that have variants, you need to group them using the ‘Item group ID’. An ‘Item group ID’ attribute will have common values for a group of variants whereas the ‘ID’ attribute should have unique values across a group of variants and for all other items.

In addition to colour and size, it will also be required to include the apparel attributes ‘age group’, ‘gender’ and ‘brand’ to describe and identify your apparel products.

You will also need an image for each variant which visually depicts that specific variant product. You should be able to (thankfully) get away with submitting the same image URL value for all size variants of a product if specific images are not available!

For those of you who are selling apparel, there’s still more you can do to optimise your feed, and it is recommended.

If you have other non-standard variants, such as Petite or Maternity ranges, Google recommends that you indicate this too: 14 Maternity, XS Petite etc.

It is also recommended that if a user selects a Red Billy Bob Hat in a Size Large (for example), that the user is sent to a landing page which shows these options already selected.

Product descriptions should also be where you showcase the product. Whereas previously, a short and sweet description would suffice, Google will now be looking at the quality of your title and description, as unlike traditional AdWords ads, the Product Listing Ads will be triggered by matching how relevant the copy in your product feed is to the users search and quality scores will be determined by this.

BUT…please be aware that you CAN still use negative keywords to stop your PLA’s from showing when you don’t want them to, for example; if Billy Bob does not want his hats to show for ‘cheap Billy Bob hats’, by including the negative term ‘cheap’, his ad will not show and as a result, his budget won’t be wasted by people clicking his ad looking for a reduced price product.

Google did not confirm whether the product description and product title on your site would be sufficient for use in the feed, but they did hint that the description should be around 150 words, and be ‘unique’.

Other things to consider…

Google cannot guarantee that your products will show for a given query – as only a limited number of ads will be shown, it all depends on the relevance, ad quality and bid as to where you will show. With Product Listing Ads, you don’t need to write ad text like you do with normal AdWords advertising. Instead, Google creates ads based on the data in your feed.

As you are bidding based on the data in your feed, and not on keywords, you need to ensure that when setting up the auto targeting in AdWords that the attributes are matched EXACTLY with what you have entered in your feed, or you risk your ads being disapproved. Before you submit the products – make sure you use the validate button to check you have an exact match in your feed, or you will end up pulling your hair out later on.

How Can I Stand out Against my Competition?

To encourage potential customers to choose you over your competitors, in future you will may also want to include a promotional message which will appear under the ad to help it stand out. This feature is again managed through AdWords – but don’t worry – tutorials and troubleshooters will be coming from me and other members of the lovely High Position PPC Team early in 2013!

High Position have started looking for the best API’s that will help e-commerce merchants manage their data feeds to make things (hopefully) a little less painful – and will keep you updated with our findings!

For more information, contact a member of the PPC Team at High Position, or visit -http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2456103

 

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