Many people get confused or are struggling to understand the Google Shopping Feed. In this article, we demystify things like feed generation, attributes, and how to upload your feed to Google Merchant Center.
What is the Feed?
The feed is a very important piece of the Google Shopping puzzle because Google uses it (the feed) to get to know your products, make optimisations, and advertise your items. Let's start untangling the knot by going through the attributes, then what you need for the feed generation, and finally the upload process to Google Merchant Center.
Feed attributes are the product attributes that will help Google Shopping advertise your product. There are 2 kinds of attributes:
- Attributes that will help Google identify your product and correctly categorize it.
- Attributes that will help customers who they looking to buy something specifically for their needs.
With that in mind, you will find the feed attributes listed below:
- id (required) - The product's unique identifier (i.e. E975).
- title (required) - The product's name (i.e. LG Optimus G).
- description (required) - The product's description (i.e. Black, 4.7 inches, 4G Smartphone).
- link (required) - The product's landing page (ex. https://www.example.com/phones?id=42).
- image_link (required) - The URL of the product's main image (i.e. https://www.example.com/image1.jpg).
- availability (required) - The product's availability (i.e. in stock) (supported values: in stock, out of stock, preorder).
- price (required) - The product's price (i.e. 15.00 EUR).
- sale_price (optional): The product's sales price (i.e. 9.99 EUR).
- google_product_category (required for Apparel & Accessories, Media, and Software categories) - Google-defined product category.
- brand (required for all new products, except movies, books, and musical recording brands) - The product's brand (i.e. LG).
- condition (required) - Your product’s condition (i.e. new) (supported values: new, refurbished, used).
- color (required) - Defines the dominant color of the product. (i.e. "Bears", "Tigers" etc).
- gtin (required for all new products with a gtin assigned by the manufacturer) - The product's Global Trade Item Number(GTIN) (i.e. 34314843924).
- mpn (required only if your new product does not have a manufacturer assigned gtin) - The product’s Manufacturer Part Number(mpn) (i.e. 34LG323).
- adult (required if a product contains adult content) - This attribute indicates if the product is only for adults (supported values: yes, no)
- material (required if relevant for distinguishing different products in a set of variants) - The material or fabric that a product is made out of (i.e. Leather).
- pattern (required if relevant for distinguishing different products in a set of variants) - The pattern or graphic print featured on a product. For example, a t-shirt might have a logo of a sports team and have pattern values of “Bears”, “Tigers”, etc.
- gender (required) -Defines the gender of the product (supported values: "Male", "Female", "Unisex").
- size (required) - Defines the size of the product (i.e. "XL", "XXL").
- is_bundle (required) - Indicates a product is a merchant-defined custom group of different products featuring one main product (supported values: yes, no).
As you can see, there are attributes for specific use cases, so choose carefully. However, there are even more attributes that you could consider - check them out and see what fits your case. Bear in mind that the more attributes you expose for your products, the more exposure they get from Google. But, beware, because unused or careless attributes can cause your products to be banned from Google Shopping or not showing correctly to your potential customers. If you have questions about how to export these attributes, consult your developer, who will give you all the details you seek.
The following section covers the feed specifications and tips to ensure running your ads succesufly.
Google Shopping feed tips
When creating the feed, Google provides a list of requirements where it specifies what data format to use, which product information to submit and more about policies to respect in order to assure creating successful ads for your products.
# Product data
The ID is used to distinguish each product, it is pivotal that the number used on the feed is unique to avoid any potential conflict. If you’re targeting different countries or the same country with with different languages, you may use the same ID for the same product.
Tip: Use the product SKU for this attribute as its unique and will prevent any confusion.
The title is used to describe your product and match it to the user’s search. Google allows you to describe your item in a max of 150 characters so be specific and make sure to include keywords that best define your product.
Tip: Avoid including promotional texts in your title such as price, shipping details, company name, delivery date etc ...
This is where you describe your product, features, technical specifications, and visual attributes. The description helps showing your products to the right users so be specific and accurate, you’re allowed up to 5,000 characters but we recommend you list the important details in the first 150 to 500 characters.
Tip: Same as per the title, avoid including promotional texts here as well.
This is your product’s landing page. You will need to provide a direct link that would direct your users to the page that contains the product. Your URL needs to be under the following format “http://www.example.com/asp/sp.asp?cat=12&id+1030” and your landing page must also be mobile friendly.
Tip: Make sure you use your verified domain name and that all redirects back to it.
This link leads to the image of the product. The image used should be a clear image of the actual product being sold, not the company's logo or an image that contains promotional elements.
Tip: Google recommends that you use an image with a high resolution and at least 800x800 pixels.
# Price & availability
The supported values for availability that you can choose from are “pre-order, in stock or out of stock”. Make sure the product’s availability accurately matches the availability on the landing page.
Tip: If you use any other value other then the mentioned above would be considered as an error and may result in your product being disapproved.
The price of the product needs to be the same mentioned on your landing page and the currency has to match the country your targeting.
Tip: You need to take under consideration the different tax requirements when submitting information depending on the country you're targeting.
# Product Category
Google product category
This attribute is used to indicate the category your product belongs to. It is required if your product falls into one of the following categories Apparel & Accessories, Media and Software categories. Make sure to use a specific category to help ensure that your ads are shown in the most relevant situations.
Tip: For all other categories not mentioned above, this attribute is optional but we still recommend you to include it.
The product type is your own product categorization system, you get to choose the values you wish to include unlike the google_product_category attributes. Since you’re not limited by Google’s categorization, use this to your advantage and include more granular categories as it helps classifies your product more precisely.
Tip: It's Alright if you choose to submit the same values for both Product Type and google_ product_category as long as the later is supported by Google product category.
# Product identifiers
The brand attribute is used to help identify your product so make sure you only provide the brand name of the product that people shopping online will recognize. It is required for all products except for the ones with no associated brand such as movies, books, music records or customized items.
Tip: Don’t use your store’s name as a brand unless you are manufacturing the product.
Gtin or Global Trade Item Number is a number that uniquely identifies your product [Mostly known as a barcode]. The source of the Gtin changes as per your location or the origin of your product. This attribute is required for all products with a manufacturer-assigned Gtin and any failure in submitting it can result in your product being disapproved.
Tip: Don’t submit a Gtin for a product that doesn’t have one. Just like in the brand, if the product is manufactured by your store it’s more likely not to have a Gtin.
The Mpn or Manufacturer Part Number is required for all products without a manufacturer assigned Gtin.
Tip: Just like the brand and Gtin, if the product doesn’t have a clearly associated mpn or is a custom-made product then the attribute is optional.
NB: It is required by Google that at least 2 out of the 3 attributes stated above is included in the feed : brand, gtin or mpn.
Next step is to identify the great things feed optimisations can do to your product feed.
At this point; stop.
Read on our tips on Google Shopping Feed Optimisation and then come back.
Many people think that all they need to do is just upload their product feed to Google MCA (Merchant Center Account), with the attributes listed in the previous section. Unfortunately, it takes a bit more than that. To get the best possible results, you do need to keep optimising your feed. The two most common optimisation techniques every store has to do with Google Shopping are:
(1) Give products multiple feed attributes - The more feed attributes a product has, the more Google can advertise and promote this. This results in a better experience for your potential customer.
(2) Optimise the attribute of the product title - The product title attribute has to contain the brand + attributes + model etc. depending on what kind of product you are selling.
It is clear that everything up to this point is about data. Once you are through with this step, all is left is to upload your product feed to your MCA.
Upload to Merchant Center Account
The simplest way to upload your product feed to the MCA is to upload it directly to the MCA from your PC (if you have the product feed file).
- Login to your Merchant Center Account.
- Go to Accounts and select your store.
- Go to Products and select feeds.
- Press the plus icon to add a new feed.
- Select the country and language, and make sure the shopping checkbox is selected. Then, press Continue.
- Type in a feed name >Upload> Continue.
- Type in the file name and click on Upload file now.
- Select your product feed file and press Continue.
If all goes well, you should be able to see your feed in the list after completing the last step. Of course, it is a waste of time to do that every day when your developer can use the API to automate the whole process. However, the purpose of this example is to give you a small taste of what is going on behind the scenes.
In step 3 you may have noticed the supplementary feed option. Well, MCA is offering you a way to describe the extra attributes in a separate file than having everything in a single file. If you decide to use the supplementary feed, you will need the id attribute again to identify which product these attributes belong to.
How often should you upload your product feed?
At, least once per day. If you have more than daily updates in your product feed, though, you may need to upload your feed up to a maximum of 4 times a day (periodically once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once in the evening and once after midnight). For more information, take a look at Google beginner's guide.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what's involved in getting your product feeds properly optimised and uploaded to your MCA. But, that's only the beginning of the road that will allow you to master Google Shopping. So, feel free to browse through our blog for more awesome articles on efficient and effective ways to utilise Google's tremendous tools to take your store under the spotlight, boost your exposure and, of course, skyrocket your revenue!