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Currently there are three main ways of managing your products in Google Merchant Center.  The three options are: Google Spreadsheets, Automatic Upload (scheduled pull), and Direct uploads.  All of these options are effective at powering a feed. Of these, the most common is direct uploads through FTP, Google Cloud Storage, or manual uploads.

I’ve discovered a pattern when changing from a direct FTP upload to an API upload process: a discrepancy in product counts. Normally this would be easy to catch/manage for accounts with stable inventory, but in this case, the client’s catalog amounted to over 2 million products spanning 2000+ feeds – and that’s before you tack on the fact that their inventory changes in many of their stores by a couple thousand (plus or minus) each day.

I’ll walk you through the glitch we’ve found in the process and how to react to make sure you’re not wasting unnecessary spend.

What we found was that when we switched to the API process over the direct FTP, any products that were not included in the new API feeds were left in the account.  This means that for the next 30 days (expiration duration of a product not updated), any product originally in the last FTP push was left active. Our new API feeds were working correctly except that they did nothing to the products only found in the last FTP push.  We dubbed these “Phantom products,” as they existed only in Google Merchant center but not in our active feeds.

The fault wasn’t in the feeds for FTP or API but in how Google processes these two.  When you make this change, Google does not clear all the products existing in your stores.  So any product or store that should be removed will not be.

To remedy this, we found that completely deleting all your existing products via manual or script was necessary followed by a fresh upload.  We did eventually switch back to FTP instead of API and found the same process was necessary.

I hope that anyone looking to make this change takes heed of this blog to avoid spending on out-of-stock or error-prone products.

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Joseph Hall
Joe joined 3Q Digital in June of 2013. He has worked within SEO and SEM at Baytech Web Design since graduating from Santa Clara University in 2011 with a degree in Marketing. Over the last few years, he has worked on a range of industries such as financial, technology, and real estate. When out of the office, he enjoys spending time hiking through America’s great outdoors.