Google shopping-white-paper - part ii


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Google Shopping white paper covering best practices to structure your data. This is a follow up white paper from the product-specific PLA strategy I wrote about in part I. Please feel free to read both reports!

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Google shopping-white-paper - part ii

  1. 1. Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  2. 2. Data Feeds: Do’s and Don’ts Index I. Overview II. Formats §§ TXT §§ CSV §§ XML III. Product Feed Specifications §§ Required Attributes §§ Additonal Attributes IV. Uploading Data Feeds §§ §§ §§ §§ Manual Upload Automatic Upload Google Spreadsheet FTP Protocol V. Optimizing Feeds §§ §§ §§ §§ Product Type Attributes Title & Description Attributes Image Attributes Keeping Data Fresh VI. Conclusion 800.330.9450 01 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  3. 3. Google Product Data Feeds: An Overview While many ecommerce websites are al- will help improve impressions, CTRs and ready utilizing Product Listing Ads (PLAs), conversions. it is imperative that companies understand the “dos and don’ts” of how to properly set Google defines a data feed as “a file made up a product feed and optimize it accord- up of a list of products which use group- ingly—particularly in the light of recent ings of attributes that define each one of a merchant’s products in a changes from product listing ads to Google “... it is unique way.” By describing Shopping ads. imperative that products and using these companies under- is much easier for online This is because PLAs access both Google AdWords and Google Merchant Center (a.k.a Google Shopping); ecom- shoppers. stand the “dos & don’ts” The first important decision to make is to choose the merce merchants need of how to to have full control of properly set up a their Google Shopping attributes, finding products format of the data feed. The data feed. Google match- product feed and es search queries to the optimize it ...” format needs to be selected according to an individual’s needs as a merchant as well as the ability to create the data that is sent to Goo- file. Using third party solu- gle Merchant Center. On tions, SQL programming, top of this, Google has Microsoft Excel and Access, feed specifications that need to be accurate along with other tools can help configure and up to date in order for the campaigns and format product files. Google actually to run properly. There are a multitude of supports data feeds in three general for- data issues that can arise when optimiz- mats: text (.txt), comma separated (.csv) ing a data feed and enhancing data quality and XML (.xml). 800.330.9450 02 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  4. 4. Data Feeds: Do’s and Don’ts File Formats .TXT Format Smaller merchants are likely to prefer the use of a .txt format, as it requires the least technical knowledge and can easily be created using a spreadsheet editor, such as Excel or a Google Doc. The screenshot below shows an example of the spreadsheet version of a product feed. Field attribute names need to be included as headers in the first row, while the rows thereafter describe items according to the attributes. When adding products and the corresponding attributes to the feed is complete, the file needs to be saved as a tab-delimited file. You can access the Google Feed Specifications at: which we will talk about later on in this report. .CSV Format A comma-separated value is very common and looks just like excel. This file format is very similar to .TXT in that it requires the least amount of technical knowledge to use. The format is widely supported by consumer, business and scientific applications. The most common use of this format is moving tabular data between programs that natively operate on incompatible formats. This works because so many programs support some variation of CSV at least as an alternative import/export format. 800.330.9450 03 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  5. 5. .XML Format XML is for more technically advanced merchants and the data feed can also be submitted as the extended version of RSS 2.0 or Atom 1.0. These files can be created and edited using any text editor tool. Merchants using RSS 2.0 need to know that there are three pre-defined elements at the item level: title, link, and description, where all three are required for product data feeds. In order to include additional required elements as well as more detailed information about each product, Google extended RSS 2.00 by adding the Google Merchant Center feed namespace. The screenshot below shows an overview of required and recommended attributes that need to be included in the data feed before it can be uploaded to Google Merchant Center. Besides declaring the Google Merchant Center namespace (see yellow highlighting), a prefix within every attribute tag must be added to distinguish attributes from elements defined in RSS 2.0. Without the prefix, all of the attributes and values would be ignored. Atom 1.0-based data feeds differ from RSS 2.0 feeds in that they require five pre-defined elements at the entry level—title, id, link, summary, and updated. 800.330.9450 04 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  6. 6. Product Feed Specifications It is important to understand what field It is also important to understand that an attributes are available for data feeds. The item refers to a single variation of a prod- more relevant data sent to Google Mer- uct as a SKU might come in multiple varia- chant Center, the better chance Google tions – different color, material, pattern, or has to match search queries to product size. Parent-child relationships are espe- data. It’s important to know how the data cially important in the apparel category is formatted in order to optimize it accord- where Google will police data policies the ing to Google’s rules. most. As the screenshot below shows, some Visit Google Shopping to review http:// attributes are required, while others are recommended. Items like clothing/apparel swer/188494?hl=en product feed specifi- or media might also need additional attri- cations. butes. §§ If required attributes are not included for an item, that item will not show up in Google Shopping results. §§ If recommended attributes are not included for an item, that item will show up less frequently in Google Shopping results. The screenshot (above) shows an overview of required and recommended attributes that need to be included in the data feed before uploading to Google Merchant Center. 800.330.9450 05 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  7. 7. Product Feed Specifications: Required Attributes Brand: This needs to be the brand name of the item, not the store name, unless the product is manufactured by that store. This field is one of the three unique product identifiers that are required to process data. ID: Each item has to have a unique identifier and the ID cannot be re-used between feeds. Title: This describes the item, so be sure to include any characteristics such as color or brand to differentiate one item from another. The title can be up to 70 characters long. GTIN: This is the Global Trade Item Number for the specific item. Description: Use up to 10,000 characters to include further information about an item. Be aware that this is displayed in the shopping search results. MPN: This is the Manufacturer Part Number of the item, and it identifies the product to its manufacturer and specifies each item. Product type: This field categorizes the product submitted. It’s imperative to utilize Google category values at the most granular level as well as including product type (merchant category value). This allows Google to place products in the most targeted search query results. Note: It is possible to insert both Google and merchant category values in this field but not vice versa. Gender/Age Group/Color/Size: This is required for apparel products. Tax: This attribute is only accepted in the US and can be used to override any merchant level settings in a Google Merchant Center account. Link: This is the URL that links directly to a product. Shipping: Provide specific shipping estimates for items to override the shipping settings submitted in a Google Merchant Center account. Image link: This attribute will display an image of the item. The accepted image formats are GIF, JPG (or JPEG), PNG, BMP, and TIF. High resolution images are a good practice as Google will show pictures with higher image quality over other devices like mobile and tablets. Shipping weight: This attribute is required in order to set up a shipping rule in the Merchant Center that is based on weight. Item group ID: This is required for all variant apparel products in the US. Condition: This lets the buyer know if an item is ‘new,’ ‘refurbished’ or ‘used.’ This is a required field and very important to show if a product is being sold at a discount. Color: This defines the dominant color of an item but multiple colors can be added by using a ‘/’ in order of prominence. Availability: This declares whether an item is ‘in stock’, ‘available for order’, ‘out of stock’ or ‘preorder’. Material: This attribute describes the type of material or fabric that makes up an item. Price: The price needs to contain the most prominent price on the landing page and must include a currency according to the ISO 4217 Standard. Pattern: Pattern or graphic print featured on an item. Size: Specific size of a product. 800.330.9450 06 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  8. 8. Product Feed Specifications: Additional Attributes Google product category: This attribute is recommended as long as it is not required to further describe your item by category. There are over 4,000 Google product categories merchants can choose from at http:// Expiration date: This is the date that an item listing will expire. If you do not provide this attribute, items will expire and no longer appear in Google Shopping results after 30 days. You cannot use this attribute to extend the expiration period to longer than 30 days. Additional image link: Any images that show your product/item from a different angle, images of packaging or variants of the product. Custom Label 0: This attribute can be used to group the items in a Shopping campaign by calues of your choosing, such as seasonal or clearance. You can create up to five custom labels, numbered 0 through 4, for each item in your feed. You may submit one value per item for each custom label attribute. Sale price: This attribute shows the advertised sale price of the item and is recommended for items that are on sale. Custom Label 1: See Custom Label 0 description above. Sale price effective date: This is used in conjunction with the sale price attribute and indicates the date range that applies to the sale price. AdWords grouping: This attribute groups products in an arbitrary way. It can only hold one value and can be used with CPC or CPA bidding. Custom Label 2: See Custom Label 0 description above . Custom Label 3: See Custom Label 0 description above. AdWords label: This attribute only works with CPC bidding but can hold multiple values. Custom Label 4: See Custom Label 0 description above. AdWords redirect: This attribute allows advertisers to specify a separate URL that can be used to track traffic coming from Google Shopping. Unit Pricing Measure: This attribute allows you to specify unit pricing information for an item. The attribute defines the measure and dimension of an item, e.g. 135 ml or 55g. The unit price refers to the volume, weight, area, or length of the product without any packaging or the net drained weight of the product (in the case of food). Gender/age/size: While these attributes are required for all apparel items, it might also make sense to include them for any other items to further describe the products. Color: This attribute describes items by color. Unit Pricing Base Measure: The ‘unit pricing base measure’ attribute specifies your preference of the denominator of the unit price (e.g. 100ml). Online only: This attribute clarifies whether an item is available for purchase only online. Energy efficiency class: The ‘energy efficiency class’ attribute allows you to specify the energy efficiency class for certain product categories as defined in EU directive 2010/30/EU. Excluded destination: Attribute allows you to control the destination of your items, and the period during which your items are valid. 800.330.9450 07 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  9. 9. Uploading Product Data Fields Manual Upload Once a data feed has been successfully created, it is time to upload it to a Merchant Center account. For entering data manually, follow these steps: 1 Sign into the Merchant Center account. 2 Go to Data Feeds > New Data Feed. 3 Choose where to display products (by country), in order to target different countries; submit a feed for each individual country as some countries have different attribute requirements. 4 Choose Google Base as the format and enter a name for the .txt file. 800.330.9450 08 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  10. 10. 5 Save the changes, then go to “manual upload” to upload the feed. Third-party technologies can also be used to automate the feed by using an FTP or SFTP protocol. This is illustrated below: Once the feed has been uploaded, Google will process and test the feed. Depending on the size of a file, it may take a while to process the feed. Check back on the status of the uploaded data feed by clicking on the dashboard in the Google Merchant Center. A linked status will appear next to the file. Click this link, to view the details about the feed validation. It will show any errors that need to be fixed before trying to upload the feed again. Make sure that any errors and bad formats can be fixed otherwise it’s much more likely that products will be disapproved. To review the quality of a data feed, go to the Products link in the left navigation bar within Merchant Center. This page displays the status of each product and will display up to 10,000 products randomly. If there are more than 10,000 products, a user must search by status in order to view them individually. Note: it may take up to 24 hours for products to start appearing in Google Shopping results. 800.330.9450 09 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  11. 11. Automating the Process: Feed Schedules & Upload Formats Once the feed has been uploaded, it is be less than 1 gigabyte, and the user-agent scheduled to expire after 30 days. In order “googlebot” cannot be blocked from the for products to continue showing in Goo- directory containing the feed. Moreover, gle Shopping results; the feed will need to the feed be re-uploaded. The feed will be need to URL has to point directly to the data feed updated and re-uploaded on a daily ba- file in one of Google’s supported file for- sis or as frequently as products or prices mats. change. Important: The URL of the file location must begin with http://, https://, ftp://, or While manual feed uploads are easy and sftp://  usually don’t take a lot of time (processing the feed, however, may take longer depending on the size of the feed), an automated schedule can be created to have the feed upload automatically without having to worry about it. To accomplish this, click “create schedule” in the data feed overview, and the following window will appear: Fill it out with the desired frequency, timing and location of the feed and then click “schedule” to complete the set up process. This upload method requires the size of the file to 800.330.9450 10 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  12. 12. Uploading via: Google Spreadsheet Data feeds can also be submitted via Google Spreadsheets. If a smaller sized company doesn’t have the technologies to automate data manipulation rules and feed rules, it is possible to submit via Google Spreadsheets. For this option, either use the existing template that Google provides or submit a Google spreadsheet that can be created by an individual: §§ Click on the new data feed and provide the target country, format and data feed file name §§ Select the checkbox next to “I want to use Google spreadsheet” to store, edit and upload the feed. §§ Data can be uploaded by generating a template feed or by using an existing Google spreadsheet that contains all of the individual product information. The spreadsheet must be viewable to everyone with a link. The advantage of this option is that it is simple to create and to update as content is uploaded directly from the information given in the spreadsheet. However, this format cannot be used to upload a large volume of data: files must be no larger than 20MB. 800.330.9450 11 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  13. 13. Uploading Via: FTP Protocol FTP is an advanced method to submit data §§ To use FTP, go to the Settings link in the Merchant Center account and click FTP. feeds to Google Merchant Center. This format has to be used for files larger than 20MB. The file also needs to be smaller §§ Enter a username and password for the FTP account and click Save Changes. It may take several hours before the account creation takes effect. Also, once the FTP account is created, the chosen username cannot be changed. than one gigabyte. If a file is larger than one gigabyte, it can be split up and uploaded in several parts. This is the process Vertical Nerve uses to submit product data. 800.330.9450 12 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  14. 14. Methods for Submitting Data via FTP: Using Web Browser: §§ Open a browser window §§ Type and click enter §§ Enter the FTP username and password, then select log on §§ Drag and drop the feed into the browser window and wait for the file to transfer. Using an FTP Program An FTP program must be installed on the computer to use this method. The computer will need to be configured so that it can connect to Google’s FTP server: §§ Host name: §§ User: the FTP username set up in Google Merchant Center §§ Password: the FTP password set up in Google Merchant Center §§ Logon-type: it should be set to normal, not anonymous. 800.330.9450 13 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  15. 15. Using a DOS Prompt Send the feed using the DOS command prompt without having to use an FTP client: §§ From the Start menu, select Programs, then select MSDOS Prompt, or from the Start menu, select Programs, then select Accessories, then select Command Prompt §§ When the black prompt screen appears, use ‘cd’ to get to the directory that the file is saved in. §§ Type in ftp §§ When the FTP connection is made, the prompt will ask for the username. Enter the FTP username of the Google Merchant Center account. §§ Next enter the password, which was previously set up in Google Merchant Center. §§ Type put <filename>. This command will send the file from the computer to Google’s FTP server. §§ Everything is complete after the “transfer complete” acknowledgement. 800.330.9450 14 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  16. 16. Product Data Feeds: Performance & Optimization Once the product feed is created, it has While most advertisers would now stop been uploaded to Google Merchant Center and focus on building out their Product without any errors and has been running Listing Ads campaign in Google and opti- for a few days; the optimization process of mizing the product ads within AdWords, the feed can begin. the product feed needs to be constantly optimized as well to guarantee a strong Besides consistently monitoring the data overall performance. To learn more about feed for errors, account managers need to Vertical Nerve’s Product Listing Ad optimi- also ensure a high-quality shopping expe- zation processes please ask for our recent rience for customers. This can be achieved white papers on our product-specific PLA by accurately describing all items, up- strategy or request one of our PLA webi- dating the status of your products on the nars. website at all times, and complying with Google’s Shopping policies. Vertical Nerve Just like an approach to website/content/ takes this process very seriously. Our ad copy optimization, product feed opti- team ensures that your product titles, de- mization includes incorporating keyword scription fields, promotional texts, Google research and testing different product category values etc. are optimized so that images, titles and descriptions. each product is displayed with relevant keyword phrases that have high conversion ratios. 800.330.9450 15 Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  17. 17. KEy Product Attributes As a rule of thumb, it is important that the customer who clicks through a website and sees the same product information (price, availability, etc.) as is presented in #1 Google Shopping results. Google provides the following tips to ensure fresh data: §§ Create or update a product feed right after the database is updated. §§ Submit the feed to Google at the same time as the website is updated. #2 §§ Try to minimize the amount of time that the data is being processed, if a third-party feed provider is used. #3 §§ Use the Content API for Shopping if the product information changes very frequently such that four updates per day are not enough to meet quality standards. 800.330.9450 This attribute classifies the product in order to closely match the organization of products on a website. However, it is also important to choose a powerful description to reach the highest potential of traffic but with the least competition. So a clothing retailer for example, would want to research whether it is best to use “clothing”, “clothes” or “apparel” to classify products. Title & Description Attributes The text of the title attribute will be shown on the general search results and Shopping results pages. The description will only be shown on the Shopping results page. First, make sure the title and description is consistent with the image of the product. Secondly, make sure that it includes an exact description of the product being offered. Include trends, holidays, or other current events in the description to gain an advantage over competition. The titles and descriptions need to also fit §§ If an update is made to a website multiple times per day, remember to submit the feed multiple times per day. §§ Make sure that any scheduled feed fetch from the server happens at the same time as the website is updated. Product Type Attributes 16 Image Attributes This is a very important attribute that often gets overlooked. To ensure an excellent customer experience, the image needs to exactly match the product that users a are looking for, down to the color, size, material, etc. Google also recommends high resolution images so that users can see quality pictures through smart phones and tablets. This is an optimization strategy the Vertical Nerve team recommends to improve mobile marketing strategies. It may also be beneficial to use unique product images in the case that one or more products being sold are the same as the competition. Just as testing occurs with different ad copy choices in AdWords, it is also crucial to test different images and build on the results that are seen. These tests need to be performed on regular basis to keep the product feed fresh and attractive to customers. Google Product Data Feeds: Do’s & Don’ts
  18. 18. Product Data Feeds Conclusion Some aspects of managing PLA feeds can Google Shopping product data allows be complicated, but the guiding principles merchants to control PLA impressions are simple: providing as many relevant because Google will match search query attributes as possible and keeping product results to that product data. feeds up to date allows Google to show the most relevant products to customers, lead- Please contact our sales team for more in- ing to hiring sales for merchants. Quality formation on how Vertical Nerve can help data that is relevant to products pages will improve PLA impressions. help improve impressions. Written by Dice Nakamura VP of Business Development / Ecommerce Strategist Vertical Nerve helps companies grow their online revenue through highly effective Search Marketing and improve their online conversions through Web Analytics, Conversion Rate Optimization, and website Design & Development. Serving national brands since 1999, Vertical Nerve is a Google Analytics Certified Partner and Premium Authorized Reseller, a Google AdWords Certified Partner, Bing Contact Sales: 800.330.9450 © 2014 Vertical Nerve Inc. Ads Professional Agency and Optimizely Certified Partner. Learn more at