For many e-commerce merchants, Google Shopping is an essential piece of their online sales strategy and new customer acquisition. Within the Google AdWords interface, advertisers are able to optimize their Google Shopping bids and sales based on historical data. For best-practices and effective strategies on optimizing Google Shopping within the AdWords interface review my previous blog posts: Adjusting Google Shopping Bids For Individual Products, How Segmenting Google Shopping Campaigns Can Boost Profitability and Top Tips To Optimize Google Shopping.
Products that are eligible to run in Google Shopping are determined by a data feed that advertisers upload to Google. These data feeds are NOT uploaded directly into AdWords, but rather into an advertiser’s Google Merchant Center Account.
What Is A Google Merchant Center Account?
A Google Merchant Center Account is an account that Google requires merchants open before they can list their products in Google Shopping. The Google Merchant Center Account is where merchants upload their data feed which contains information on products they wish to advertise in Google Shopping.
In order to get started, new advertisers need to create an account by visiting www.google.com/retail/merchant-center/ and clicking on the ‘Sign Up’ button. When creating a new account, advertisers will be required to supply the name of their store, website and agree that their site does not contain adult products as defined by Google.
Before an advertiser can submit a data feed, they must first verify and claim the URL for the account they create. In order to claim a website, owners have the options of adding some HTML to their metatags, using information in their Google Analytics tags or information contained in their Google Tag Manager. Any of the methods will work and therefore it is up to the discretion of individual advertisers to select the method they prefer.
Once the tags are implemented, advertisers can determine immediately whether the process worked and if successful the site will change status to being verified and claimed. In addition, at any time throughout the lifetime of the account, an advertiser can confirm that their account is successfully verified and claimed by clicking on the settings link in the left hand menu.
Once an advertiser has claimed and verified their account they will have full functionality in their account. However, to properly manage their Google Merchant Center Account, advertisers need to know the layout and where different options and settings are located.
Each account uses a left hand side menu that includes the following options: Dashboard, Diagnostics, API Diagnostics, Feeds, Products, Promotions and Assortment.
The dashboard contains an overview of the account. Although, for new merchants the dashboard will be blank, for existing merchants the dashboard becomes an important snapshot into the health of the account. For advertisers with account history, the dashboard will display a summary overview of their products including a graph displaying active products, expiring products, products awaiting review and disapproved products. In addition, the dashboard will show scheduled feeds and a graph displaying the account’s paid click history.
Reviewing the Merchant Center’s diagnostics is essential in determining which products are eligible for display in Google Shopping. This information is NOT available in the AdWords interface and is one reason that reviewing the Merchant Account on a regular basis is highly recommended.
Diagnostics will provide the number of items currently disapproved, awaiting review, expiring and active. In addition, the diagnostics tab contains information on the status of the account, feeds and individual items. If there are issues present in any of these areas, it will also generate links helpful for fixing listed issues.
In this account example, the diagnostics view contains links to current errors in the feed. By clicking on the ‘Errors & Warnings’ link an advertiser can determine how many of their products are currently being affected and by which issues. Note, that not all listed issues will keep products from being eligible for display; however many will. Therefore, it is a good idea to periodically review what errors may be occurring within a data feed.
Within the feeds link, advertisers can review current feeds as well as create and schedule new feeds. Available options for new feeds include: online product inventory updates, product review updates, products and promotions.
Feed types are mostly self-explanatory based on name as to their function. New merchants will want to concentrate on the ‘Products’ type for their initial data feed.
Once the feed type has been selected, advertisers will need to select the country they wish to advertise and name the feed before selecting the input method for the feed. Input methods include: E-Commerce platform methods (limited), Google sheets, Scheduled fetches or Regular uploads (the most common).
Once a data feed has been successfully uploaded it is valid for 30 days. So at the absolute minimum merchants will need to re-upload monthly. However, typically for e-commerce merchants where their product information changes, in order to stay current with data, will require more regular uploads.
Creating the location and method of a new data feed is the easy part of the process. More involved is creating the actual feed. Google currently supports over 30 different attributes and although not all are required it is recommended that advertisers populate as many fields as possible that are relevant for their products.
Current supported attributes include: id, title, description, google merchant category, product type, link, mobile link, image link, additional image link, condition, availability, availability date, price, sale price, brand, gtin, mpn, identifier exists, gender, age group, size type, color, size, material, pattern, shipping, shipping weight, excluded destination, expiration date, product applicability, promotion id, product review average, product review count and their custom labels.
Don’t worry, there are 3rd party services available that work with advertisers to set-up regular data feed uploads and populate different fields based on information currently contained within e-commerce websites.
The products tab allows advertisers to search products that have been previously submitted to Google. In addition, advertisers can sort and view their products by status (all, active, inactive or searchable). Unfortunately, Google does not currently allow advertisers to download information from the products page and views are limited to 50 products.
While in the products tab, merchants are able to view specific details regarding individual products within their feed by clicking on the product title. This feature is helpful allowing merchants to review information within their data feed for a specific product without having to open and review the actual data feed.
Promotions allow advertisers to stand apart from their competition who sell the same or similar products. A strategic way to bring added emphasis to product listings, review my blog post, Enhancing Google Shopping Using Promotions for details on creating and implementing promotions within the Merchant Center interface.
The assortment tab displays the most popular searched products during the last 14 days on Google that a merchant is NOT currently advertising. The information Google provides on these products include: product image, brand, title, description, category, merchants advertising the product and price. Advertisers have the ability to view all the different Google categories to list products they may find relevant. The assortment tab can be very useful for merchants looking to gain ideas, insights and valuable data about trends regarding the types of products customers are searching.
The final option in the left menu is settings. Settings are broken into sub-categories that include: general, website verification, FTP credentials, Google cloud storage, AdWords, Double Click, Tax, Shipping, Automatic item updates and E-Commerce Platform.
After a website is claimed (which is required before a data feed can be submitted) typically the most important areas in the settings page is going to be tax and shipping. Advertisers will want to ensure these settings are correct because both are needed to determine the end price a customer will pay for advertised items. Incorrect pricing can negatively affect a merchant’s account standing and provide customers with a negative experience.
Although once a merchant has setup their Google Merchant Center Account and have their data feeds automatically and successfully updating it can be tempting to forget about the Merchant Center and fully concentrate efforts on optimizing listings exclusively within the Google AdWords interface.
Optimizing listings and categories within the AdWords interface is essential to the success of Google Shopping Campaigns; however equally so is the regular monitoring of the Google Merchant Center Account.
For it is only within the Google Merchant Center Account that advertisers can view issues related to their data feed that may prevent items from being eligible to display; learn insights regarding other advertisers and configure account information such as shipping, tax and contact information. For these reasons, without constant monitoring of the Merchant Center Account it will not possible to fully optimize Google Shopping listings.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues. Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.