As outlined in the first guide of this series, on 13 February 2013 Google Shopping is changing to a fully commercial model which will be based on Product Listing Ads (PLAs) managed through Google Adwords. PLAs are search ads that are designed to create a more engaging user experience supplying searchers with rich product information (such as image, price, and brand), which is provided via a retailer’s Product Data Feed.
This second guide will explore the new Product Data Feed requirements in more depth. It will also provide direction to help ensure that your Product Data Feeds meet Google’s new standards.
Why are these changes important for retailers?
Google’s aim with the new Google Shopping format is to enhance the user experience further. To this end, retailers are required to increase the quality of their Product Data Feeds and so ensure that their products are posted and listed correctly.
Google will therefore be enforcing a high standard of accurate product information, far higher than before. If retailers don’t meet the required standards when Google carries out routine checks, they will be penalised with disapprovals and even account suspension.
Ten top tips to optimise your Product Data Feeds:
1. Get the basics right:
For each item, there are a minimum of nine attributes that are required to describe the basic product information, such as title, description etc. This includes existing and the newly required attributes such as Google Product Category and Image Links. The requirements include;
- ID – An identifier of the item
- Description – Description of the item
- Title – Title of the item
- Condition – Condition or state of the item
- Link – URL directly linking to your item’s page on your website
- Product type – Your description category of the item
- Additional image link – Additional URLs of images of the item
- Image link – URL of an image of the item – New Requirement
- Google Product Category – Google’s category of the item – New Requirement
2. Specify accurate availability and price:
Retailers are required to specify the availability and prices of all listed items. Google will carry out regular checks to ensure this information is correct and consistent with those listed on the retailer’s website. If Google finds that the values are different it may remove all product listings from Google Shopping. The information required includes;
- Availability – Availability status of the item
- Price – Price of the item
- Sale price – Advertised sale price of the item
3. Submit Unique Product Identifiers correctly:
To enable product listings to be shown on the appropriate product page Google requires Unique Product Identifiers to be submitted. Most retailers are required to post at least two of the three attributes for each item;
- Brand – Brand of the item
- GTIN – Global Trade Item Number of the item eg. UPC/EAN/ISBN/JAN
- MPN – Manufacturer Part Number of the item
Google recommends that for Media products all three attributes are provided, while for Apparel and Accessories just the brand attribute is required.
4. Categorise your products appropriately:
For retailers of Apparel & Accessories, Media and Video Game Software products, the new requirements have become even more complex. Google now requires products to be categorised as a Google Product Category, which is Google’s own product taxonomy. This is in addition to the current Product Type attribute already required.
As a minimum, retailers of Apparel & Accessories, Media and Video Game Software products are required to include one of the seven predefined Google Product Category values per item, for more information visit Google’s Merchant Center.
5. Provide all product variants separately:
For retailers of Apparel & Accessories, Google requires further information on each item in the Product Data Feed:
- Gender – Gender of the item
- Age group – Target age group of the item
- Size – Size of the item
- Material – Material of the item
- Colour – Colour of the item
- Pattern – Pattern/Graphic of the item
- Item group id – Shared identifier for all variants of the same product
Where there are multiple variations of an item by ‘colour’, ‘material’, ‘pattern’, or ‘size’, Google requires all unique variants to be provided separately. For example, if a t-shirt is sold in four colours and five sizes, 20 item variants would be required, and an ‘item group id’ for each variant is also required.
6. Ensure delivery methods and costs are clearly stated:
Google is quite clear on this matter; they require the delivery methods, times and costs of items to be clearly displayed. If retailers are unable to provide accurate delivery information, then estimate data should be submitted.
7. Include other optional attributes if possible:
There are two additional attributes which are not obligatory, but which we recommend retailers submit in order to optimise their Google Shopping results;
Nearby Stores - Google Shopping can show store locations next to products. To enable this feature, retailers will need to submit store locations through Google Places.
Additional Attributes - There are two additional attributes which can be used called ‘excluded destination’ and ‘expiration date’, which provide further control on the destination of items, and the period during which the items are valid.
8. Submit the Product Data Feed with the most up-to-date information:
It is important to upload your feed as soon as the product database and the website have been updated with new product information, such as price and availability, so that it has the most current information related to each product. If the website consists of several parts that are updated individually, create a feed for each of them and submit them at the appropriate time. Google recommends that retailers submit data at least four times a day.
9. Use the Content API for items that need very regular updating:
If the prices and availability of listed products change very frequently such that four updates per day are not enough to meet Google’s quality standards, use this tool for individual product updates.
10. Carry out a test run of the Product Data Feed prior to submitting data:
This will allow you to troubleshoot issues before the feed is live. Failing to do a test run will not only make it more difficult to remedy errors after submission, but could result in penalties and account suspension.
What should retailers do now?
Google will be taking acute interest in ensuring that Product Data Feed regulations are adhered to. We would therefore recommend that you carry out a full Product Data Feed audit as soon as possible. This will enable you to identify and solve any issues so that your products will appear correctly, and will in turn help you to make the most of the retail opportunity.
To help you ensure that you are fully prepared for the February deadline, our data feed specialists would be happy to carry out a FREE full Product Data Feed audit. We would also be pleased to provide further guidance on feed set up and optimisation.
Working jointly, Net Media Planet and GoldenFeeds provide the complete solution to help you maximise the new retail opportunity from Google Shopping. GoldenFeeds is the leading provider of high quality Product Data Feeds, which deliver an enhanced user experience and ensure that brands can optimise the online sales channel. To learn more about the services offered by GoldenFeeds, please visit www.goldenfeeds.com