Product Feeds for Google Shopping
– The definitive guide
In this post you will learn exactly what a product feed is and how to set up a Google Shopping product feed in 2020.
This guide includes:
- Step by step set up guide
- Product feed tools recommendations
- Why it’s important to continue optimize your product feed after set up
- And lots more
So are you ready?
Let’s get to it!
Here is what we will go through
Chapter: 1 – Google Shopping feed basics
Chapter: 2 – Setting up a Google Shopping Campaign
Chapter: 3 – Why optimizing and managing product feeds is essential
Google Shopping feed and product feeds – Huh?
Google Shopping, also known as Product Listing Ads (PLAs) or perhaps the most common name; Shopping Ads, is administered by three components: Google Merchant Center, your product feed and Google Ads. In this Guide we will walk you through everything you need to know to boost your Shopping campaigns.
The first thing you need to get on top of is your Google Merchant Center (GMC). This is the area where you can administrate your product feed and do a day to day health check of your technical shopping set up.
The second thing, the product feed is a spreadsheet that lists and organizes your product catalog in a way that Google can easily read and understand. A product feed can be in different formats but the most common formats are csv or xml. In short you can describe a product feed as a list where all your products are listed vertically and all their data factors horizontally.
The third part consists of the campaign structure where you set budgets, adjust bid strategies and optimize your Google Shopping campaigns. All the optimizations of the shopping campaigns are done in Google Ads.
We will get to how to set up a Google Shopping campaign later on in chapter 2.
Google Shopping Ads (PLAs) works differently when compared to the classic Google Search Ads.
When it comes to Search Ads the keywords you bid on will determine which type of search queries that will trigger the text ad.
As an advertiser when using Shopping Ads you don’t have as much control over search queries that will trigger your Ads. Google will consider your target keywords in Google Ads but will also crawl advertisers Google Shopping feeds and websites to define which ads are most relevant for a given search query.
The relevance of your ads will therefore also depend on the quality of the information you have provided in your Google shopping feed. That’s why using a feed management software will be an important tool to use to be able to optimize your Google shopping feed and product feeds for other channels as much as possible.
Google Shopping Campaign set up
Step 1 – Creating a product feed
A product feed is a file including all information regarding your products which you will need to provide to Google (as explained above in chapter 1). This is the trickiest part with setting up a Google Shopping campaign since the information in the product feed has to be correct and according to Google’s specifications.
Usually your ecommerce provider allows you to export a product feed that can be used for Affiliate Marketing, Google Shopping and Facebook Dynamic Product Ads. This Feed will usually be updated once every day to keep your inventory up to date. We always recommend that you create unique feeds for every channel since they usually have different specifications and requirements.
If you don’t follow Google’s guidelines your products won’t be accepted and you will not be able to show your products as PLA’s.
So what is a product feed again? No worries, we´ll get to that now…
A product feed is basically a spreadsheet (as shown below) where the columns are the fields with requirements from Google thas has to be filled out with product data for every product you want to market. The feed is exported from a business system or ecommerce provider – it reflects your inventory of products.
A product feed should always include basic fields such as:
- Product title
- Link (product url)
But you will also stumble upon a couple of fields that are unique when it comes to Google Shopping feeds such as:
- Google product category
You are able to find the entire list here
It could be difficult or easy to complete the product feed, it all depends on the quality of the product data that’s provided by your e-commerce platform. We usually recommend our clients to add as much information as possible. If you add all your data then you can choose what to include or not via the Feed Management tool you are using.
E-commerce platforms such as WooCommerce, Shopify or Magento all have plugins or apps that are available to make this process a bit smoother. There are different options when it comes to plugins when you need to retrieve your product feed, any of the ones mentioned below should do the trick.
WooCommerce – Google Shopping feed
If you are using WooCommerce there are two plugins that we recommend you to use when creating your product feed.
Most of the plugins for WooCommerce provides similar functionalities such as:
- Custom labels where you can add extra product fields
- Category mapping
- Field mapping
- Generation of the actual product feed into an XML, CSV or txt file
Some of the plugins will also enable you to double generate the product feeds so you can use it for several channels.
This is critical if you want to use the feed for more than one channel!
Shopify – Google Shopping
There are plenty of alternatives for Google Shopping plugins in the Shopify app store.
Magento – Google Shopping feed
If you run your E-commerce on Magento there are plenty of alternatives for plugins to generate product feeds. There are a couple of free and paid extensions.
- Our favourite extensions which would be: Channable (M1) or Channable (M2)
- Another extension that’s works as well: DataFeedWatch
The above free tools are easier to manage than the paid extensions listed below but the ones below will give you more options to customize your product feeds.
Google Shopping on other E-commerce platforms:
If you are not using any of the platforms above it might be a bit more of a hassle for you to create a product feed, you just have to do it manually.
It is possible to make manual edits straight in Excel or a Google Spreadsheet that also would sync automatically with the Google Merchant Center. But this would be the last option, a better option would be to use a tool that acts as a bridge between your product export and Google Merchant Center.
Despite which option you’ll choose the end goal is to create a .CSV-, TXT- or XML-file with all your products that you can upload to Google Merchant Center. Later on in this guide we´ll get to the advantages of using a Feed Management tool but let’s mention some of them already now since we are starting to dive into the world of data. A Feed Management tool makes it easier for you to enrich your feed with data that you are missing from your Ecommerce provider.
Let us say that an Affiliate channel requires a field for “delivery time” but you do not have that in the feed. Then you go ahead and create that column manually and create a rule – “If “delivery time” is empty then take “delivery time” and set to value “1 day”.”
Also, If you use a feed management tool you can connect the feed to Google analytics and create rules for automatically optimize bids based on performance of individual products.
Step 2 – Creating a Google Merchant Center account
If you don’t have a Google Merchant Center-account the first step will be to create a new account. It’s pretty easy to set up an account in Google Merchant Center.
Google will need you to verify that you are the owner of the domain that you wish to advertise for.
Click Settings → Business Information → Website → Enter your URL → Save
There are three alternatives to verify ownership in Google Merchant Center:
- Google Analytics
- Google Tag Manager
- Or if none of the above works you could use a metatagg by adding a code-snippet to your websites HTML-code.
This is an important step where you have to make sure to add the correct shipping costs under “Shipping” in Google Merchant Center. This is critical due to the fact that Google Ads will show your shipping price directly in your product ads.
You will also have to create a Shipping Service that includes a specific area. After that you will be able to define the shipping costs for each specific service.
Click Settings → Shippings and returns → + Button
Google Merchant Center also supports complex shipping alternatives provided from FedEx and UPS. In this case you are able to tag the shipping price with either a set price or a percentage.
Configure tax preferences (this only needs to be done if your running a business in USA).
If you are selling outside of the USA you need to be aware of the VAT but you don’t need to state it for Google.
When that is done, it’s time to upload your product feed to Google Merchant Center and hopefully there shouldn’t pop up any issues while doing so.
Notice that some tools such as Shopify are connected to Google Merchant Center through their API. In this case the information will be sent automatically and you won’t need to upload any product feeds.
Google Merchant Center will then process the data and let you know if anything needs to be fixed or adjusted. After this step this is where you usually will encounter issues since if things aren’t 100% sorted out you will get error messages and have to fix them to be able to get your product ads up and running.
Errors and warnings indicate that there is missing or incorrect information in your product feed, or could be that the information is not according to Google’s product data requirements. Some errors and warnings are usually easy to fix, but others require you to look up and add product information to every one of your products.
This can quickly get very time-consuming. So start with the most critical warnings:
- Fix account and feed errors as fast as you can. If not treated, these can result in an account suspension.
- Tackle the item level errors. They are necessary because they will cause your products to be disapproved, which means they won’t show up in Google’s search results.
….. or a data feed management software. Channable would be a good option as mentioned above in the product feed section.
Going through all the potential warnings might seem tedious but it will help you get better results and increase the visibility of your products so don’t be lazy
Step 3 – Creating a Google Shopping campaign
As soon as your products have been approved in Google Merchant Center you should go on to create a Google Shopping campaign. If you don’t have an account already in Google Ads make sure to create a new account.
Google will tell you that you have to set up a new campaign to proceed with the set up. To be able to skip this step for now (you can return later) fill out the necessary data that needs to be filled out to be able to get on with the process. Make sure to pause the default campaign that will be created as soon as you get past the set up and into the Google Ads tool.
Before you can start marketing your products in Google Shopping you will need to set up your billing information and link your Google Merchant Center to your Google Shopping Ads.
Go back to the Google Merchant Center and click Settings on the right upper corner and choose Linked accounts.
Type in your 10 digit Customer-ID for your Google Ads account and tada! You are now ready to go!
Now you’re ready to create a new Google Shopping campaign (or you could edit the default one that has been created earlier). Start by clicking on Campaigns and then → the + “New campaign”.
Select Shopping as campaign type.
The next step will take you through the process to create a new campaign with the product feed that we set up via GMC.
We recommend choosing a small daily budget to begin with if you want to start slow and then scale up as the performance is getting better and better. When you start and do not have any data in your account you can choose Enhanced CPC as your bid strategy which will enable you to set a relatively low cost-per-click but with some automation features.
Later when your campaign is getting clicks and conversions you can change your bidding strategy to maximize conversions, tCPA or tROAS.
After you have set up the campaign you will finally start showing shopping ads!
To think about when your Google Shopping campaign is live – Improve your campaign structure
If you followed the aboves steps, all of your products will have the same maximum cost-per-click (or CPC) as default. This will not be optimal since not all of your products are equally valuable. You should therefore create separate product groups and set different bids depending on factors such as: margin, profitability or popularity.
A basic level structure would be to separate your products into product groups based on brand or category.
But if you want to set the bids according to your product margins, you must use custom labels to add that information to your product feed, and that’s an excellent example when a feed management tool such as Channable comes in handy.
Why is it important with product feed optimization?
Data is king!
The more information you have added to your product feed, the more relevant your products will be to people’s search queries. In turn → Google will reward you by showing your ads more often and for less money.
Optimizing your product feed is like building a bridge. The product data feed is the foundation of the “bridge” from where you build all your Google Shopping campaigns on top. If the base structure of your bridge isn’t stable your bridge won’t hold and will eventually breakdown and likewise if your data is deficient, it will be difficult to perform via Google Shopping Ads → you will waste money on expensive CPCs.
Here is a list of potential outcomes if your product feed is not optimized:
- It will cost you more money for your ads to run → you will pay a higher CPC than what’s necessary.
- Competitors will own the search results space and your products will be missing out.
- You might show up for search queries that are not relevant → spending money on the wrong audience.
- You products won’t show for certain search queries.
For example, let’s say you sell Nike shoes. If your titles only contain basic information, such as “Nike shoes” and don’t include size information, color information, or model information in your product title, you would not turn up for some of the key relevant search queries.
Just consider these click statistics from 2019:
- 49% click on text ads
- 31% click on Shopping ads
- 16% on video ads
Source: Search Engine Land, 2019
Wouldn’t you say that it’s quite important to put some effort into your Product feeds so you can grab as big market share as possible from the Google Shopping channel?
This is especially important if you are a retailer or e-tailer!
What Do You Think?
Now we would like to turn things over to you:
- Which part of this post was your favorite?
- Maybe you have a tip that we didn’t cover here?
Either way, let us know and please leave a comment below.
Would you like to hear more?
Are you an e-tailer that needs help with feed management? Or know someone that is in need of product feed optimization?
Don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take it from there!
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