If you’re using search engine marketing to drive ecommerce sales, your fate largely depends on one thing: Google Shopping feed optimization.
Bold statement? Perhaps, but Google Shopping results that turn up in search offer an enormous amount of power to increase “return on ad spend” (ROAS) with your Google Ads campaigns and increase your traffic via Google organic search.
Search Engine Land called Google Shopping the “largest growth opportunity for most online retailers in 2019” while citing massive increases in impressions throughout the year.
And it’s not hard to see why—Google Shopping is the search engine’s response to Amazon, and it’s putting up some serious competition.
Google Shopping is receiving a lot of traffic from users due to its premium placement in search, lots of innovation from Google engineers, and significant results for ecommerce retailers. And therein lies your opportunity.
In this post, we’ll examine how ecommerce retailers can optimize their Google Shopping product feeds to unlock additional revenue. Let’s roll.
What is a Google Shopping Feed?
A Google Shopping feed is basically a spreadsheet you create that organizes your product catalog in a specific manner which allows Google to access and display your product information in search results.
The purpose of a feed is twofold:
- Allows Google to better respond to a search query with a relevant result for the searcher
- Allows you to increase CTR and ROAS on your Google Shopping campaigns
Technically speaking, the product feed you create will be a .txt or .xml document full of product attributes like title, description, category, price, and a whole lot more that we’ll cover in the next section. This should all look familiar if you’re used to a PIM system.
Speaking even more technically, Google Shopping will actually pull from two feeds—primary and supplemental. The primary feed is the essential product data like name, price, etc. The supplemental feed, which cannot stand alone and must be used in addition to the primary feed, holds (you guessed it) supplemental data that can help you customize how your Shopping result is displayed.
At this point, you might be wondering: Why? What is the point of all this mumbo jumbo?
Simply put, Google Shopping results aren’t delivered in the same fashion as Google Ads for search. With Google ads for search, advertisers expect to have their website or landing page show up for keywords they’re targeting.
With Google Shopping, however, advertisers don’t have direct control over which search queries cause their Shopping ads to appear. Rather, Google uses the feed from the advertiser to determine which ads are relevant for the user’s search and displays them accordingly.
Therefore, your ability to display Google Shopping results that are relevant to your potential buyers is completely dependent on your ability to play nice with the Google Shopping feed.
And there are serious consequences for not taking the time to strategize and optimize your feeds, including:
- Having no presence on searches that you’d like to show up in
- Having a presence on searches unrelated to your products; leading to low CTR, pitiful conversion rates, and sky-high CPA
- Getting crushed by your competition in paid and organic search results
Strategizing and optimizing your Google Shopping feed is not a “nice-to-have” asset for ecommerce—it is essential for your success. Similar to SEO, there are certain attributes in your product feed that are more important, so we’ll cover those first.
That said, let’s zoom in on all the different ways you can optimize your product feeds for Google Shopping.
Optimize Your Google Shopping Feed—The Basics
If you’re still reading, you’ve likely realized the value of optimizing your product feed, which is a great start. Below, you’ll find several different tips for getting the most out of your feeds.
First things first, you need to organize your product data into a format that Google requires.
Note that some attributes are mandatory, while others are optional. If possible, it is best to fill out your feed with as much information as possible while staying within the recommended character counts. This practice will give you the best chance of appearing for relevant searches.
Second, understand that this is an ongoing process and you’d do best to create a standard operating protocol for your team to follow.
Let’s continue into the most important product feed attributes.
When it comes to product titles, you want to take the Goldilocks approach—not too short, not too long, but with plenty of detail (and keywords) to attract both Google and your audience.
What’s too long? Anything over roughly 75 characters, so be concise.
How much detail? As much as possible without keyword stuffing.
Perhaps the easiest way to write effective product titles is to use the language that your customers use to describe the item. Since the Google Shopping results are based off of Broad Match search (no Exact Match or Phrase Match) you’ll need to make sure to use your primary keyword in the product title.
This one is extremely important because this is how Google Shopping organizes products internally. There are more than 6,000 different categories, so you’ll want to drill down and be as specific as possible. Note that a category can up to five levels deep, so be precise!
In addition to keyword matching, this attribute is critical to ensure your Pop-a-shot basketball game shows up under “Arcade Games” and not “Sporting Goods.”
This is another required attribute and is used to provide more details about your product than the title. While the character count is 5,000, there is no need to fill your descriptions with excessive verbiage.
A good product description will:
- Provide in-depth details about the product only (not the company, “free shipping,” etc.)
- Use secondary keywords beyond the product title
- Use formatting such as line breaks, bolding, italics, and bullets
Include as many details as possible without droning on just to fill up the maximum character count.
Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)
Based on the bar code system, the GTIN is basically the UPC of ecommerce. While perhaps not as sexy as the product attributes listed above, the GTIN is crucial for Google Shopping to understand and track your products. It’s also required to use the service.
We buy with our eyes, so it goes without saying that you need to use high-quality images. But for Google Shopping, there are a couple more best practices you’ll want to follow:
- Image size: Ensure your images are at least 800x800 and around 10MB (the max file size is 16MB)
- Multiple shots: Use at least three different images of the same product
- White background: If possible, ensure all product photos use a seamless white background
- No watermarks: Don’t use watermarks, logos, or promotional text
These are the basics, but you can consult the Google Merchant Help Center for a full list of image rules and best practices.
Keep Your Data Clean
As we move out of the basic Google Shopping best practices into a few more advanced tactics, it’s crucial to remember to keep your data clean. When you are working with large amounts of data, there are bound to be some errors. But letting these errors go unchecked can end up costing you in the form of inefficient ad spend.
Luckily, the Google Merchant Center was created to help you find and fix any errors with your product feed. Simply upload your feed and you’ll see any errors you have at three different levels: Account, Feed, and Product. Keep in mind—Account-level errors can lead to your Google Shopping account being shut down, so address those immediately. Errors at the Feed and Product level should also be addressed ASAP, as they can cause performance issues with your ads.
Optimize Your Google Shopping Feed—Advanced
If you’ve covered the topics above, your feed is in pretty good shape, but there is still a ton of room left for improvement. Enhance your feed even further with these advanced tactics.
It’s a pretty common tactic to run a discount on your ecommerce site using a promo code, but it’s way more ninja to use that same promo code with your Google Shopping ads.
To accomplish this, you’ll need to use the promotion_id attribute in your product feed. Once you’ve mapped the products on sale to the promotional attribute, the discount code will appear in Shopping results.
Ads with these promo codes tend to have extremely high CTR and conversion rates.
If your niche contains a lot of competition and a lot of price volatility, you may want to consider this tactic. Dynamic repricing allows you to adjust your prices automatically based on where your competitors are priced that day.
To pull this off, you’ll need a few things:
- Custom labels (explained below)
- Price-comparison software
First, you’ll use your software to pull your competitors’ pricing. Next, merge that data with your product feed and match them by product ID. Then, create a custom label with ranges of price such as low, medium, and high. Finally, use your ad account to bid on the different price ranges according to your strategy.
Note: As with all price-dropping strategies, use with caution as to not lose the trust of your shoppers.
We’ve talked a lot about optimizing your feed in ways that will allow Google to favorably display your products, but custom labels don’t help with that. Instead, custom labels allow you to better organize your internal data for enhanced reporting, deeper insights, and increased segmentation capabilities.
Think of custom labels like a filter you can use to analyze your campaign results and map out certain bidding strategies. Price range (as we talked about in the previous section) is a common custom label. So if you are using “price range” as a custom label, you can associate products from different categories that are similar in price to analyze your ROAS that way. Or, you can use “price range” as a bidding tactic by bidding more aggressively on expensive items or items that have higher profit margins.
We hope that you enjoyed this guide to Google Shopping feed optimizations. But, even more importantly, we hope you can use it. There is a ton of value hiding in your product feeds, but it can be a little tricky and highly technical to unlock it.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that the Google Shopping feed is only one of hundreds of different channels that your customers could be using to shop online. From Google to Amazon to eBay to Walmart, your customers are out there—and you should be, too!
Plytix’s all-in-one content management platform for retail can help you get up and running on Google Shopping quickly, but that’s not all—with our data feed syndication, you can be up and running on all your sales channels quickly.
Curious about omnichannel? We’ve got you covered—check out our free ebook Going Omnichannel: A Guide to Expanding Your Ecommerce Business Beyond Your Website.
It’s chock full of tactical advice that you can use to drive your ecommerce business forward. Get it here for free.