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Data Feeds: What are they and why do you need them?

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Data Feeds: What are they and why do you need them?

If you want to expand your ecommerce store, you have stumbled across the term “data feed” or “product data feed.”

Each online marketplace has a slightly different shopping feed. A shopping or product feed is basically a CSV, TXT or XML file that contains your product information. This feed is used by online marketplaces to list your product on their platform. Listing your product with these feeds on marketplaces like Facebook, Amazon, Google, and other product advisors can help you increase your sales.

Some common channels you can incorporate into your selling strategy are:

  • Google Shopping
  • Bing Shopping
  • Facebook/Instagram
  • Amazon
  • Pinterest
  • ShareASale
  • Connexity
  • Yahoo Shopping
  • Commission Junction
  • WholesaleCentral

A product data feed for each platform is the key to business growth online. But what does that look like in practice?

What is a product data feed?

Shopping ads work. But how do you get shopping ads from your product feed spreadsheet?

Data feeds are simple.  First, you upload your spreadsheet into your desired marketplace or through a third-party service. The online marketplace will analyze your spreadsheet and create a listing based on your product information. They will then show your product when a user makes a relevant search.

Let’s look at this example:

Let’s say a user is looking for a green t-shirt for men on Google, either as a regular search or they refine their search to the Shopping results. Google scans its advertisers’ site looking for keywords that match the user’s query. And if your store has a product labelled “green t-shirt for men,” it’s likely to appear in the top results.

If you’ve ever used Google AdWords, you may be used to working with keywords. The main difference with shopping data feeds is that you don’t determine which keywords work. Google does.

For your products to reach the top of the shopping feed, you’ll want to make sure your product descriptions are as complete as possible.

And that’s just for Google. Each feed has its own nuance and recommendations. If you only have a handful of products, it’s easy to use a spreadsheet to prep your different shopping data feeds. But the more you sell, the more complex your product listing and advertisements become.

As you scale, you’ll want an automated data feed for shopping campaigns to help you save time and headaches.

A step-by-step guide to data feeds

Each feed is a little bit different. And it makes sense. Think about how different Facebook, Amazon, and Pinterest look and feel as a user. While most of the information is the same, it is presented in a different way.

And that’s how you need to approach individual data feeds.

You’ll see overlaps in information, but each feed will have a slightly different spin on how that information is presented.

To make things easier, we’ll go over some requirements they have in common:

1. Product Titles

Your title is the most important part of your ad. To craft a stellar and relevant product title, think about what your customer would be looking for when describing your product. You will likely have a very narrow word count range, so you need to make sure every word counts.

Try to include attributes like color, brand, size, style, model, gender, age-range, and any other descriptor that is relevant.

2. Product Categories

Most shopping sites divide products into various categories and subcategories. For example, you might from women’s appeal to dresses, blouses, and so on.

3. Product Image

Similar to your product title, your product image will be shown to potential buyers. So it needs to stand out. However, most sites also have rules about what you can include in the product photo. Usually, you should not have watermarks, text, or logos. Most high-quality photos are taken against a white or slightly off-white background with different views of the product once the user clicks to the channel page.

4. Product Description

Finally, you’ll need a short but precise product description. You don’t need to write a lot, but you should include keywords you couldn’t fit into the title and all relevant product information. Data feeds are smarter than you think and will be able to understand spammy or keyword-stuffed behavior.

5. Custom labels

Finally, you have the chance to add custom labels for individual products that you want to differentiate from similar products in that category. This approach helps you maximize the results for products that benefit from additional, specific keywords. For example, you can add whether an item is seasonal, on clearance, or the year it was released.

How do you optimize your data feed?

Over time, you’ll want to do more than sell more stuff. You may also want to sell in more marketplaces, and each marketplace needs its own optimized product feed.

To start optimizing your data feeds, you’ll want to have as much product information as possible. There are a number of required and optional attributes, which describe the product. Requirements differ per country.

It’s smart to fill out as much information as possible.

To give you an idea, here are a selection of required attributes:

  • ID
  • Title
  • Description
  • Image_Link
  • Availability
  • Price
  • Brand
  • GTIN
  • MPN (if GTIN not available)
  • Condition
  • Multipack
  • Is_Bundle
  • Age_Group
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Material
  • Pattern
  • Size
  • Item_Group_ID
  • Shipping
  • Tax

And here are some popular optional attributes:

  • Additional image (optional)
  • Mobile (optional)
  • Availability_Date (optional)
  • Expiration_Date (optional)
  • Sale_Price (Optional)
  • Sale_Price_Effective_Date (optional)
  • Unit_Pricing_Measure (optional)
  • Installment (optional)
  • Loyalty Points (optional)
  • Product_Type (optional)
  • Energy_Efficiency_Class (optional)
  • Min_Energy_Efficiency_Class (optional)
  • Max_Energy Efficiency_Class (optional)
  • Age_group (optional)
  • Size_Type (optional)
  • Size_System (optional)
  • Excluded_Destination (optional)
  • Included_Destination (optional)
  • Custom_Label (optional)
  • Shipping_Label (optional)
  • Shipping_Length (optional)
  • Shipping Width (optional)
  • Shipping_Height (optional)
  • Max_Handling_Time (optional)
  • Minimum_Handling_Time (optional)
  • Tax_Category (optional)

Not all of these fields may apply to your specific products. It’s good practice to include as many as possible.

Understand your quality score

Google uses a quality score to evaluate your individual product feeds and organizes them under each product ID. This score is generated in part by how closely your product and its landing page matches customer search queries based on similar keywords.

Generally, a high-quality score will result in higher-performing ads.

Your product title, description, unique product identifiers, and product category pull the most weight in determining how relevant your product is—and, therefore, how high your quality score is.

Automate your product data management

As your store scales and you offer more products, creating customized data feeds for each item becomes more and more difficult. For business owners, it’s more efficient and cost-effective to shift to an automated platform that centralizes all your data feeds.

Review your progress regularly

Analytics and performance reports on ads based on your product feeds are there to help you tweak and optimize your feeds. Based on your results, you can decide what items are selling well, which you need to cut, and whether you need to revisit your product feed information.

You’ll want to monitor a number of KPIs, some of the most prominent ones including:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Conversions
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Cost Per Order

Simplify your data feed experience

If you want to grow your online business, product data feeds are not just useful — they are required. But they take a lot of time and energy to set up and optimize. To make the most of your time, you’ll want an automated, one-point solution that keeps everything organized and provides updated analytics.

Want to start selling in multiple marketplaces quickly? FeedFactory automates and pushes your product feeds to major marketplaces. You can get started instantly with our free version - no card necessary.

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