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If you’re in retail and haven’t made sure your Google Shopping feed is in tip-top shape, you stand to lose a lot of revenue as the holiday surge swells. Follow these steps to capture all you can out of the next few weeks (and re-check before Cyber Monday so you can sleep better at night).

Initial Setup

In order to set up shopping campaigns and Google Merchant Center, you’ll first have to add the product data for the products that you plan to advertise. There are a few ways to go about doing this, but the most common would be to set up a product feed in a data feed file using Google Sheets or Excel. Information in the shopping feed must align with Google’s product data specifications and general shopping policies, and also must match the information on your website. (Click here for an advanced tip on using the Color Value attribute to tweak traffic.)

Necessary Fields

Product type

Since Google Shopping doesn’t use keywords, it’s very important to be as specific as possible.

The broader the category, the more search queries the products can show up for — which may seem like a good idea, but trust us, it’s not! Since the ads are charged on a pay-per-click basis, you’ll want to be sure only relevant traffic is driving to the ads. Google’s full taxonomy can be found here.

Example: Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Activewear > Motorcycle Protective Clothing > Motorcycle Jackets

Title

The title is what shows up on the search engine results page and has a big impact on CTR.

Google will allow up to 150 characters, but will only show around the first 70, so you’ll want to put the most important or eye-catching words first.

Description

Google will allow up to 5,000 words in the description, but will only show about 2 sentences. Without bidding on keywords, Google will be using the description for search queries, so make sure the descriptions are keyword-rich.  

Example:

Link

The link must drive to the product page and not the homepage and must include the https:// part. If there’s a mobile-specific page, it can be added in the mobile_link attribute.

Image

A high-quality image link must be provided. It must be 800×800 and free of text and logos, and it should be a clear image that shows the entire product.

Example:

Condition

Condition is a necessary field, with the options new, used, and refurbished.

Availability

Options here are in stock, out of stock, or pre-order. Keeping this updated is crucial; advertising out-of-stock products would be a pretty disappointing user experience.

Price

All that is needed here is the amount and the currency, which must be the same form of currency as the country the products are being advertising in — for example, 50.00USD. It’s very important to be sure that the price in the feed matches the website, so if you run a promo or the price changes, it must be updated or Google will penalize or disqualify the ad.

ID

The ID is mostly for your own reference. It can be the SKU or reference number, or whichever number makes sense to the business. Keep in mind that the numbers should have some consistency or order to them to make for simple filtering.

Product Segmentation and Shopping Campaign Optimization

Use Custom Labels

To take the feed organization to the next step, extra fields called custom labels can be applied which will allow you to create specific filters in Shopping campaigns. Custom Labels allows advertisers to break products down by any attribute and group them based on conditions and business goals. This allows for greater freedom during bidding, as you can group products you want to advertise separately, such as best sellers, high margin, or seasonal products.

Custom labels are 5 optional columns, titled custom_label_0, custom_label_1, custom_label_2, etc., which can be customized to your business and feed.

Set a Campaign Priority

Campaign priority is especially important when the same product is in multiple Shopping campaigns. By setting a priority, you can control which campaign should participate in the auction. The options are low, medium, and high. The priority levels will determine the bids, using the following rules:

  • Of the campaigns, the highest priority campaign will bid. For example, if a product is in two campaigns and one has a high priority and the other medium, the bid from the high priority campaign will be used despite the amount of the bid.
  • If the high priority campaign runs out of budget, the next lower priority campaign bids.
  • If multiple campaigns have the same priority, the highest bid for that product will be the product shown on the search engine.

Once the feed is uploaded, Google will take a few days to crawl through the feed and either approve or disapprove the products. If the feed is set up properly and all settings are in place, your Google Merchant center account will look like this:

And that’s it! Feed management won’t ensure that you beat all of your competitors, but it’s the foundation for Google Shopping success, and the stakes are only getting higher as the days go by. Happy Shopping season!