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How to Optimize Your Google Shopping Feeds

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How to Optimize Your Google Shopping Feeds

High shopping feed ad costs? You might need to optimize your product data feed. In this guide, we’ll go over how you can set-up and optimize all the various components of your Google Shopping Feed to improve your Quality Score and drive sales.

And to boost your Quality Score, you're going want to revisit your Google Shopping Feed.

How Google shopping feeds work

Your shopping feed is basically a spreadsheet of product information and details. These details are fed into Google’s algorithm, which will determine when to show your product information in a user search. For example, if a user searches for “Green iPhone X cases 2020,” and you have a product feed with that information, your product might show up.

When you are setting up your Google shopping feed, you should keep in mind that whatever data you add to your products will affect its Quality Score. The Quality Score determines who sees your ad.

The Quality Score is made up of the following components:

  • Ad Relevance:How closely related your listing is to the shopper’s search query will determine its relevance. This part takes data from the following:

o   Product Title

o   Product Description

o   Unique Product Identifiers such as GTIN (Global Trade Item Number), brand name, or MPN (Master Promissory Note)

o   Google product category

o   Any other unique product identifiers

  • Click through rate (CTR): This is a ratio based on how likely your ads will get clicked when shown to a user.
  • Landing page experience: How useful your landing page is to shoppers who click on your ads.

1. Setting up your campaign

1.1 Keyword Research

If you’ve ever worked with Google AdWords or SEO, you may know a little bit about keywords. Basically, keywords are what Google uses to identify sites or ads a user may want to see. For example, if you have an ad that is labelled “Green T-Shirts for Men” and a user searches for “Green T-Shirts for men,” your ad is more likely to show up.

There are a number of free and paid programs to help you discover keywords. But the first thing you should do is search for your product in Google first and get a look at the competition.

1.2 Product Segmentation

When setting up a campaign, it’s critical that you look at your products and divide them up by price, margins, inventory, seasonality, category, and other similarities. Grouping like products together will allow you to better optimize your custom labels and optimize your overall campaign structure.

1.3 Bring in the sales team

Before setting up your campaign, don’t forget to get feedback from your sales team for input on targeting leads and improving the sales cycle. This will help you set clear goals and understand how to tweak your feeds later on.

Pro-tip: Don’t just use keywords that match your product. Include negative keywords, too. Negative keywords tell Google which keywords are not relevant to your product. For example, if you are selling a “men’s green XL polo shirt” you may not want it showing up under “men’s green shirt,” which is more broad and may cost more.

2. Essential Google product data information

Google’s Merchant Center lists the requirements for all of their product data labels. But it can be challenged to read. The attributes are grouped by type, not by requirement. That makes it easy to miss one.

Below we have listed the most important required attributes you’ll need on your product feed:

2.1 ID

The ID is a unique value for a given product. Ideally, you should use a product’s SKU, but you can also use a store generated ID. Each id should only use valid Unicode characters for a max of 50 characters. You should also use the same ID for a product across countries and languages.

2.2 Title

Your product title is one of the first things your customer will see. It should include a main keyword and describe your product. It should also match the title of your landing page. There are a few other notes to ensure that your title is optimized:

  • Don’t include promotional language like “free” or “30% off”
  • Don’t use all capital letters
  • Don’t use unnecessary foreign characters
  • Include product identifiers like color, size, and so on.
  • If sold with a contract or payment plan, this should be included in the title
  • Your title should be no more than 150 characters

An example would be: Blue palazzo pants for women XL

2.3 Description

Your description doesn’t need to be long, but you have 5000 characters if you need them. The important thing is that your description is precise, accurate, and includes relevant keywords.

Like with your title, you should not include items like:

  • Promotional language like “free shipping”
  • Capital letters
  • Unnecessary foreign characters
  • Links to your store, sales information about competitors, other products, etc.
  • Formatting such as line breaks, lists, italics, or bold text

2.4 Google_product_category

Your Google-defined category is one of the more important attributes. But there are some specific requirements:

  • You must include only 1 category
  • You must include either the full category path or the numerical ID for that specific category.

You can see the full list of Google categories here.

2.5 Product_type

This attribute gives you up to 750 characters to further define your product. For example, you may use:

Home > Men > Shirt > T-shirt

2.6 link

You should always use your verified domain name for a link. So if your website is http://www.awesomeappearl.com, your link should be from this website. And always use the full address, starting with either http:// or https://.

Finally, you should never link to a page that includes advertising gimmicks like pop-ups or welcome gates that require someone to buy a subscription or sign up before accessing your product.

2.7 image_link

You will need an image link that clearly shows the product. You can use a non-animated GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, or TIFF file. But there are quite a few more specifications:

  • Non-apparel product images should be 100 x 100 pixels
  • Apparel images should be at least 250 x 250 pixels
  • Images should not be larger than 64 megapixels or a file larger than 16 MB
  • Don’t zoom in on the image or submit a thumbnail
  • Don’t include promotional texts, watermarks, or borders
  • Don’t submit a generic image unless your item is in Hardware (632) or Vehicles & Parts (888)
  • In the paint category, you can use a single color image

2.8 Condition

With this attribute, you need to specify whether your product is new, refurbished, or used.

2.9 Availability

This attribute is simple. It basically just states whether your product is in stock, out of stock, or if it's on preorder.

2.10 Price

Here, you must write in the product’s price and currency. This price must match the one listed on our landing page. Any user of the country you’re selling to should be able to buy the product at this price without buying a membership. In the US and Canada, you should also exclude the tax from the price.

2.11 sale_price

Once you’ve met the requirements for the price attribute, you can add a discounted or sale price. Like with the price attribute, it must match the landing page.

If you want a sale to start and stop at a specific time, you can use the sale_price_effective_date attribute.

2.12 Brand, GTIN, MPN

These three identifiers are required and give your product unique identifiers:

  • Brand – This is required except for movies, books, and musical recording brands. If there is no brand name, you must submit the manufacturer or supplier name.
  • GTIN – If your product has been assigned a GTIN, you must include it. When you enter the number, you should exclude dashes and spaces. The GTIN should not be a coupon (GS1 prefix ranges 98 - 99) or restricted (GS1 prefix ranges 02, 04, 2).
  • MPN – If your product does not have a GTIN, you should submit the MPN assigned by the manufacturer.

2.13 identifier_exists

A product’s category type determines which GTIN, MPN, or brand is required.  If your product does not have a GTIN, or an MPN and brand, your answer will be “no.” This attribute has the default value of “yes.”

Pro-tip: The ideal length for your description is 500 words.

3. Additional product attributes

The more information you have about your product, the better. These common product attributes can give Google and your customer more information on your product:

3.1 item_group_id

This ID is used for a group of products that come in different variations. For example, the same style shirt may come in black, white, and red. Or you might have two different versions of the same shoe depending on whether it is for a girl or a boy.

Attributes include:

  • Color
  • Size
  • Pattern material
  • Age group
  • Gender

If you plan to sell your products in Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, and in the US, this label is mandatory.

3.2 color

There are a few rules when listing product colors:

  • Don’t write references like “see image”
  • Don’t combine several colors into one word (GreenBluePink). Use a / to separate them, with no spaces between the color and the slash.
  • Don’t use any word that isn’t a color.
  • Only use words like white or black. Don’t use hex codes (#fffff) or other numbers.

3.3 gender

This is required for all apparel items and gender-specific products. You can use the values of male, female, or unisex when describing gender.

3.4 size

If your size has multiple dimensions you should combine them into one value. For example, if it is a size “8/Petite” dress. You can also designate “one size” fits all items.

3.5 age_group

There are five values you can use for an age group:

  • Newborn (up to 3 months old)
  • Infant (Between 3-12 months)
  • Toddler (between 1-5 years old)
  • Kids (between 5-13 years old)
  • Adult (teens and up)

3.6 adult

If your products contain nudity or sexually suggestive content, you are required to set this value to “yes”.

3.7 custom_label_0-4

This particular attribute allows you to assign unique labels to help you organize bidding campaigns. In other words, your customers won’t see this label. It’s only for your convenience.  Some common custom labels are:

  • Seasonal
  • Clearance
  • Holiday
  • Sale

3.8 additional_image_link

You can include up to 10 additional images (and we recommend it!). These images must meet the original image_link requirements, but you can show the product in use or use graphics and illustrations.

3.9 mobile_link

This attribute allows you to add a mobile-optimized landing page with a different URL. It must meet all the same requirements as a regular link attribute and you can use up to 2,000 characters.

3.10 cost_of_goods_sold

If you submit the COGS for your product, this attribute allows you to gain insight into your gross margin and revenue generated by your ads. To use this attribute, you must:

  • Use ISO 4217 codes
  • Use ‘.’ Rather than ‘,’ for decimal points

3.11 expiration_date

Use this attribute when you want to stop a product from showing on a particular date. You can only use a date less than 30 days in the future. The general time format is: YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ss

3.12 unit_pricing_measure

You can also show the measure or dimension of your product without packaging. For example, if a bottle of shampoo is 16 oz.

Pro-Tip: Check and see which items are displaying for each keyword most often. If you are getting a low click-through rate on a specific product, it may not be optimized for that specific user search. Try to use more broad keywords or tack on a sale price to test it.

4. Shopping policies

Google has a number of policies that can result in account suspension. This can not only halt sales but can also complicate your relationships with both suppliers and customers. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a suspension or account termination:

4.1 Prohibited items and activities

Various items are heavily restricted or entirely banned from Google. This includes products like alcohol, adult content, tobacco, counterfeits, copyrighted content, weapons, and drugs  (including certain supplements and over-the-counter medication).

You can find a detailed list of prohibited items and practices at the Google Merchant Center.

4.2 Landing page specifications

To avoid errors in regards to your landing page, you should:

  • Ensure that your landing page link is working
  • Always use a specific product landing page rather than your homepage
  • Remove welcome gates or popups

4.3 Setting shipping options

You can set your shipping rates in your Google Merchant Center account or on your product feed. The first option may feel more intuitive. Using your product feed isn’t a bad option, but incorrect values can easily produce errors and cause problems in the overall workflow.

Regardless of which method you use, you should be thorough and clear when explaining your shipping costs and time estimates.

Pro-Tip: Have a specific domain for each country you plan to sell in. This makes it easier for Google and yourself to keep track of country-specific products and policies. And it reduces the chance of errors based on geography.

5. Bidding to Win

After you’ve got your product feed down, you’ll need to fine-tune your bidding strategy. For a successful bid, you’ll want to strike a balance between your budget and impressions. It’s easy to miss the mark and overspend or underspend if you don’t do the research beforehand.

Items like a product’s price, profit, performance, and seasonality can affect your decision making.

5.1 Bid range formula

Ideally, you’ll want to create a bid range. That means you’ll want to determine your minimum and maximum bids. The following formula is one way to figure out your ideal range:

1.       Product price – total cost = profit

2.       Profit x product price x conversation rate = Maximum Bid

3.       Maximum bid x 0.5 = Minimum Bid

5.2 Custom bidding strategies

There are a few factors that can come into play when creating a solid bidding strategy:

  • Competition: The more competitive a category or product area is, the higher the bid
  • Brand: You can base your bids on products with the same brand name
  • Category and Product Type: You can set specific bids to products in your same category

5.3 Understand your customer’s shopping behavior

For small and big budgets alike, it’s often more beneficial to tailor your ad times to specific time frames. To do this, you’ll need to know more about your customers. When and where do they shop? If you can pin down specific times of day, you can stretch your budget.

Pro tip: Try testing your images, product descriptions, or titles to find the best lowest-cost ad. This is called A/B testing. To A/B test an ad, change one thing about it, such as the image or a word in the title, and see if your cost goes up or down. Then compare the best result with another small change.

6. Understanding analytics

Finally, once you’ve got your product feed going, you’ll want to monitor the results of your ads. On a daily or weekly basis, you’ll want to check in on KPIs like impressions, clicks, and conversions. These will allow you to access not only what is working, but what isn’t.

On a more long-term basis, you’ll want to keep a close eye on conversion rate, average order value, cost per order, and cost per acquisition.

7. Advanced optimization

After you’ve been reviewing your analytics for at least 3 months, you can begin reviewing and changing your ads. You may want to update the images, title, description, or landing pages for low-performing products. Or you may decide to remove a product altogether.

Pro tip: You’ll want to keep track of daily, monthly, and quarterly trends in impressions, clicks, and conversions.

8. Common bugs and fixes

Feed errors are a nuisance. Sometimes a single error can prevent your entire database from updating! Here are some of the top bugs and how to fix them:

8.1 Rejection from Google Policies

You may have read Google’s extensive prohibited products and practices list, but did you know that the rules can change per country? To avoid getting rejected by Google, make sure you also review country-specific restrictions wherever you plan to sell.

Even if your product isn’t on the restricted list, some labels are required in certain countries. Not using them can raise red flags for Google.

8.2 Problems with price and availability

When you want to advertise a sale price, do not change the actual price of the item! There are specific attributes for sale price, including labels for the start and end date.

8.3 No/Wrong Google Category

If your product does not have a category, you will get an error. It’s often easier to use Google’s category code, which you can find on this list.

8.4 No/Wrong Unique Identifiers

Unique Identifiers like brand, GTIN, and MPN are required. In the US, this is called a UPC and EAN in Europe. Not including this product descriptor is a sure way to get an error.

8.5 Targeting several countries with the same domain

Data feeds are highly localized. This means that you can’t use a US domain if you want to sell in Germany, Japan, or any other country. It is often more efficient to have a specific domain per country.

Pro tip: Don’t hesitate to contact Google Support for assistance. Users report that most issues are resolved within 1-3 days.

Simplifying the product feed process

Creating an optimized and Google-approved product campaign is a labor-intensive process. Not only do you need to create and update your product feeds, but you’ll also need to test and monitor them.

As your store grows, it’s often better to automate the process. An automated Google data feed means that you can easily and efficiently update your feeds, and often these programs come with better analytic functions.

FeedFactory can get you started optimizing Google Shopping Feeds for free. Learn how.

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