8 Google Shopping Product Feed Best Practices

Product Feed Best Practices – Your Guide To Google Shopping Feed Optimization


In the good old days of newspapers and television, advertising was akin to sending out messages in a bottle. You hoped that the right people would find it.

But digital marketing is different. You leverage the features and functionality of the marketing channel you are using (in this case, Google shopping) to ensure that the right people can find your message/brand ads. This way, your effort is not wasted, and you get optimal returns on ad investment.

And if that “channel” is Google shopping, that starts with Google shopping feed optimization. By adopting and implementing the best Google shopping product feed practices, you can ensure minimal wasted ad expense and optimal returns. 

This guide is for beginners and experienced marketers alike. Whether you are learning how to add products to Google shopping or you’ve already run several successful campaigns, you are likely to find useful tips and Google shopping feed best practices in this guide.

What Is Google Shopping Product Feed?

Product feed spreadsheet

 

A product feed or a Google shopping product feed is “a list with up-to-date information about all of your products.” That’s one of Google’s definitions of a product feed. Another is that a product feed is a file/ document that contains the list of products you want to advertise through Google's merchant center.

So a product feed is a list that contains two key segments of information:

  • The names of all the products you are advertising
  • The updated information on all the products

Since Google shopping supports and displays products that are already listed elsewhere (your own e-commerce website, Amazon, etc.), you’ll most likely have all the relevant information on hand that you need to provide to Google, so it knows about your product. 

Choosing the best way to give your information to the Google merchant center (that is likely to result in minimal errors, and most or all of your products will go live immediately) is one of Google shopping feed practices. 

There are three main ways to do it:

Manual Upload

Manual upload comes in a variety of ways:

  • Fill up the information directly on the Google Merchant center feed management page.
  • Export the relevant information from your product’s existing e-commerce listing, create a Google spreadsheet (it automatically defines the relevant information fields), and enter the data manually under each category. 
  • Upload the data if it’s already in a format that Google will understand.

One major problem with a manual upload (even though it offers you fine-tuned control) is that it's time-consuming, especially if you have a lot of products and their information that you want to upload. If uploading the information for each individual product takes 15 minutes on average, you won’t even be able to upload 50 if you work 16 hours straight.

Still, the method is useful for merchants with a handful of products, and the pricing doesn't change too often. The time-cost will be justified by the fiscal cost it saves if you use a paid tool. 

A Google shopping feed practice here would be to provide all the relevant data, even if you can get your product approved for Google shopping by filling out a few fields. The more information you give to Google, the easier it would be for it to serve your ads to the right audience. 

Feed Management Tools

You can feed the data that already exists on your e-commerce website and use a feed management tool to help Google merchant center fetch the relevant product information. E-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, etc., offer extensions and applications (both free and paid) that act as intermediaries and transfer your product data from their listing to Google merchant center. 

It’s ideal for uploading data about a massive number of products at once. You can also set up scheduled “fetches” that will allow the Google merchant center to fetch data from your original listing. So if you update your listings or an automatic repriced updates the price almost every day, you can (and should) set your feed management tool to fetch the relevant/updated data every day. 

Content API

Content API is recommended for advanced users who either have the relevant programming knowledge to set up and use these APIs or are willing to learn. These are by far the most efficient methods of managing your Google Shopping product feed and makes Google shopping feed optimization relatively easier. 

With a content API, you can link up several different applications and accounts like your e-commerce account, Google analytics, your CMS, etc., with the Google Merchant center and enjoy the benefits of centralized and connected control. Modifying feeds also becomes easier with a content API, and you may also be able to automate certain tasks.

 

Three things to remember are:

  • Submit/resubmit a full feed at least every 30 days. The higher end of the frequency is four times a day. This ensures that the data is updated and relevant.
  • If you have multiple feeds (Say one manual and one automated), don’t move around items from one feed to another.
  • For very large feeds, keep your product limit in mind. If you exhaust your list simply by going by order of products (alphabetical, numerical, etc.), you may lose some of your winning product and waste your ad budget on irrelevant products.

 

Google Shopping Feed Optimization: Understand The Feed Types

Google shopping feed types

 

Remember, not all different feed types will be the right fit for you, but understanding all your options can help you leverage the best ones. If you stick to the default feed type, you might be limited by the potential of what Google shopping can do for you.

Google Merchant Center Feed: It’s the primary feed that you have to have. It has all the information Google requires and any additional information you want to provide to help you rank better (with lower CPC). Most of the Google shopping product feed practices that we will discuss in the later section are related to this feed type. 

Google Promotions Feed: Everybody loves a good bargain, including your customers, and if you are having a sale or offering a discount, it should be reflected in your Google shopping ads. It's only available for a limited number of countries, including the US, and requires you to provide six additional pieces of information (promotion attributes and data). A good practice is to check Google’s requirements and restrictions before creating a promotional feed.

Google Local Inventory Ad Feed: If your business (or your client's business) also has a physical location and they want to solidify the connection between the online Google shopping ad and the brick-and-mortar business location, you can experiment with the local inventory ad feed. You can use it to tie products to a physical store, which can help buyers realize how close (or far) the business actually is. It can also encourage higher footfall on the physical location. Inventory attributes like quantity and the price (if they pick it up directly from the store, i.e., without paying shipping costs) can also be buying motivators. 

Google Manufacturer Feed: Google tends to differentiate between manufacturers and resellers. If you are selling your own product, you have more control over the marketing and online presence of your product. It requires a manufacturer account. You can add an MPN in addition to the GTIN, helping endorse your status. You can also create 20 feeds per country. 

Dynamic Remarketing Feeds: Creating responsive ads to target repeat customers and potential leads that fall through different stages of the buyer's journey (after clicking the ad or at the checkout) is a great way to target people who have a significantly higher chance of converting. Just make sure you do not breach any privacy laws while remarketing to customers who’ve already been through the awareness stage (or more advanced stage).

Product Rating Feed: If you have 50 or more reviews on a product, you can choose to have them displayed alongside your Google shopping ads by adhering to the feed requirements. There are three ways to get your reviews connected to Google shopping ads: Google customer reviews, Merchant center, and third-party reviews aggregator. Setting up this feed can help you make your product more attractive to buyers. 

 

Best Google Shopping Product Feed Practices

Google shopping product feed best practices

 

Google shopping product feed practices allow you to rank better in Google shopping ads without overspending your budget. With a fully optimized product feed on Google shopping, you can achieve your online visibility and e-commerce goals while staying within your ideal ROAS limits. 

You don’t just need to be familiar with the best Google shopping product feed practices when learning how to add products to Google shopping. Even if you are experienced in running Google shopping campaigns, revisiting and adopting good practices can make Google shopping feed optimization easier and significantly less taxing for you.

Here are the ten best practices that can help you create an optimal, efficient, and winning product feed.

 

1. Create A Supplemental Feed

When you create a product feed for Google shopping, you are creating a primary feed. It's the main list of products and their descriptions that Google uses for all your Google shopping listing purposes. Each item is assigned a product ID. For many reasons, you may not want to make extensive changes to your main product feed. 

For example, you need to change your product descriptions or even titles for a specific time-bound event, or you are probably running a sale on the part of your inventory. These changes can be messy in main product feeds, especially if you have too many products.

You can use supplemental feeds to bridge the gap. They allow you to override values, and you can use them to replace specific keywords from all (or part) of your listings and descriptions. For example, if one of your baby soft food products is more popular among the elderly demographic, you might want to change its target keyword to reflect this trend and become available to the right target audience. You can also:

  • Add data and attributes that are missing from your main feed, or add additional attributes to part of your inventory for better online visibility
  • Create custom labels for seasonal products
  • Add local information to some of the products that you or your client keeps at their physical business locations
  • Add or override country-specific attributes for certain campaigns or products

The supplemental feed’s main benefit is that you can pick and choose products from your primary feed and make changes in bulk. You can also get more creative with supplemental feed and devise rules that inform Google when to pull data from which feed (primary or supplementary) and when to override labels and attributes. You can also use it to add more data for all or some (maybe your winning) products on your primary feed. With the additional information, Google shopping ads can hone in on your target audience more accurately.

 

2. Go Deep With Google Product Category Attribute

When choosing the product category attribute (either manually or automatically through an automatic feed manager), make sure you are going at least two to three levels deep (Google’s recommendation). 

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So when you are selling gaming pads, choosing the exact attribute (six levels deep) allows you to zero in on your ideal target audience (those that want precisely that, i.e., a gaming pad). If you choose a game controller, for instance, you'll be competing for a place with vendors who are selling joystick controllers and racing wheels, which will simply increase your CPC and reduce your CTR, even though it might increase the number of times your listing pops up on Google shopping.

Google recommends that products should only be categorized by type, so you should avoid keyword stuffing and synonyms. The goal here should be to offer as much clarity to Google about what the product is, as possible, so it can show it alongside the right products. If it's confusing, the search engine might clump your product in the wrong set, and you'll waste your ad budget.

 

3. GTIN Is A Necessity, Not An Option

The Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), which has been used in barcodes for years, is one of the most crucial feed attributes, and not using it would be aggressively against the best Google shopping product feed practices. It can also be called a Universal product code, which essentially means that it’s a unique identifier for a product across the globe. This helps Google identify the product for what it is and classify it with similar products.

GTINs allow Google to pull the most accurate information about the product directly from the manufacturer, so even if you missed filling out some crucial attributes, Google would know all there is to know about the product and will place it with similar products. GTIN attribute also increases your product’s chances of appearing on Google shopping ads if someone searches for phrases like “best” or “top” product. Your product will also show up on Google’s price comparison list.

There are some cases where you might not need to use a GTIN, like when it’s a one-of-a-kind product (custom-made jewelry/dresses), manufacturer part, vintage, antique, etc. 

 

4. Product Title Optimization

Title optimization is an integral part of Google shopping feed optimization, and there are a few best practices you may consider adopting:

  • The product title should be clear, concise, and inform the user (and Google) what the product is while remaining within the word count limit. It's usually 150 characters, but it's truncated around 70 characters, so make sure the most crucial pieces of information are in the beginning.
  • Instead of putting up generic phrases/keywords, put in words that your customers use when searching for products like yours. For example, creating a title “Black Hoodie White X Logo Men’s Large” instead of “Hooded Sweatshirt Jet Black Color White X Logo In Front, Size Men’s Large,” might better appeal to your target audience and entice more clicks, even if both convey the same information to Google.
  • Adhere to Google's rules, don't use capitalization or promotional words, only convey information useful to the consumer, and avoid technical jargon/foreign words, unless they are the selling point of your product.
  • A comprehensive keyword search can help you find and place the right keywords in the title. But avoid cramming too many keywords in the title at once. 
  • Unless you can come up with a better one (in accordance with your target audience’s preferences), use one of the widely used “formulas” for titles from different product categories. Like clothing items usually have the title formula: Brand+Gender+Product Type+ Relevant Product Attributes (Usually color, size, and material). And be CONSISTENT with your formula for all products that fall under the same category.

While your title is for both Google and your target audience, the latter should take priority. Also, it’s a good idea to test your keywords regularly to identify which keywords are working out best for your Google shopping feed. Once you’ve identified the winners, you can add them to your relatively low-performing products as well to ensure they show up more on the Google shopping results. If they create more impressions, but the CTR stays nearly the same, you’d know the issue lies somewhere (maybe with the product variant, price, shipping, etc.).

 

5. High-Quality Product Image

The image you are using to showcase your product should be high quality, adhere to Google’s requirements of background and clarity, showcase the attributes you’ve added in the titles and the description (color, size, etc.), and it shouldn't contain any text or bookmarks. Since more queries are generated on mobile devices nowadays, make sure your image is optimized for that. Within these boundaries, if you can find a way to stand out from your competitors, you can get more clicks (simply because of consumer’s curiosity).

 

6. Attributes Best Practices

Don’t be content with required attributes only. Try to add recommended and even optional attributes. It can help you stand out from your competition, give Google and your potential consumers more information about your product, and help the search algorithm identify ideal users to target your ads. The ads are created from your feed, and attributes are a crucial part of the feed. 

The attributes should also be consistent with the webpage Google that will direct your consumers to and ensure accurate updating of core attributes like prices. You also need to simplify your attributes for your users and Google (unless you are sticking to your industry practices). For example, instead of Indigo, you may consider writing purple. Again, each attribute should match with what you’ve written on your landing page.

 

7. Consistency In Variants

The variant that's displayed on your Google shopping ad should also lead to the appropriate landing page. It's a good practice to create landing pages for different variants. Because if a customer clicks on Google shopping for a pink bed sheet and is taken to a page where a blue bed sheet is on display, and they have to click once more to get to the right variant, you might lose the customer. When creating a feed, you can define different variants under a parent product, and in most cases, it’s better than creating a different product for each variant since it makes it easy to make changes across the board.

 

8. Leverage The Power Of Custom Labels 

Google helps you label your product using a few predefined attributes like condition, brand, category, etc. This helps with classification and filtering. But if that’s a swiss knife, custom labels are a full-scale hardware store with a 3D printer. Custom labels can help you categorize your products in any way you like (seasonal, different price ranges, target audience, performance, sourcing difficulty, etc.). Google allows you to create up to five custom labels for your products. 

You can use the custom labels to classify products that might have the same acquisition costs but different profit margins and set bidding ranges accordingly (why waste more ad spend on a product that's bringing you next to nothing?). Similarly, you can create custom labels and set rules for several different classification approaches, which can help you differentiate winners from losers and apply your ad budget more efficiently.

 

A Few Other Best Practices 

A few other things that can help you optimize your feed to perfection are:

  • Ensure that the product attributes not evident in the image are conveyed to the potential buyer in the title (not description). For clothing, size, gender, brand (if the logo is too small), etc. together with the image the convey information like color and style will show clint the “full picture” of what the product is.
  • Make sure to provide complete information to the users, including accurate shipping costs and taxes, and this information should be regularly updated. Discrepancies in what the customer sees on Google shopping and on your landing page can turn potential customers away.
  • Whether you use a tool or have simply set up your Google shopping feed for daily fetches, it’s a good idea to automatically update your product data on a daily basis (even if there aren’t any changes). This will ensure that almost no small changes fall through the cracks and your Google shopping feed is always updated.
  • Automatic feed management tools and content APIs are worth spending your time on. Once you’ve set up your feed the right way, a content API or an automatic tool can make managing it a breeze. You’ll only have to make changes in your primary listings and they would reflect in your Google shopping feed.
  • Be careful with repricing your products. If you sell your customers a t-shirt for $10 a piece and the very next day you are selling the same item for $7, the people who bought it at $10 might feel like they got cheated (unless it’s a sale/special offer). Wild swings in low-price items might not be a good idea. If you sell luxury items that go out for a premium, dropping the price might actually hurt your sales.
  • Use feed rules to make your data more comprehensive for Google. These rules essentially transform your feed data to match the product requirements that Google has. Feed rules allow you to make mass changes relatively easily, like adding brand name to your product, adding age group to your attributes, changing the status of products like converting vintage to used, etc.
  • Learn to use Regular Expressions or RegEx for your Google shopping feed. It allows you to play around with strings (keywords) in your product feed and you can do things like finding and replacing duplicate words, removing spaces and special characters between words (to optimally utilize character length), and changing similar attributes at once.
  • You can add promotions to your regular Google shopping feed and it’s a good idea to entice customers who are looking for discounted products. Highlighting sales and merchant promotions might have the potential to convert even reluctant buyers. Google will guide you how to create promotions and you have to choose start/end dates, promo codes, and products you want as part of your promotions (unless you are putting a lot on discount). Note that if using promotions is your regular method of selling, creating a feed under Google promotions instead of a free listing might be better.
  • Use product type in addition to a detailed attribute, especially if you sell niche products. This will allow you to go a layer deeper and Google might serve your ads to more “ready” buyers.
  • If you are up to running multiple campaigns, product segmentation might allow you to be even more granular with your Google shopping feed optimization. You can create a separate campaign for your winning products and optimize its feed for maximum value. Then you can add products to it (following the same pattern and feed rules) that are not performing so well to determine whether the winning products can give it a boost or will a losing product drag down a relatively successful campaign. 
  • It’s not an ideal solution, but if one of your products has been performing abysmally for a very long time and any effort to optimize it has failed, you might consider dropping that product by deleting the ID. This way, all the negatives associated with the product will be scrubbed off and you’ll get a fresh start. 

Final Words

The above-mentioned best practices can get you quite close to your ideal Google shopping feed optimization goals, but that’s only one part. It’s important to understand that even the best product feed practices might not yield optimal ROAS results if you are missing another crucial piece of the puzzle: A powerful bidding strategy. 

All the best Google shopping product feed practices point towards the same end goals: Helping you rank better and ensuring that your ad is served to the right target audience. But if you overspend your marketing budget and brute-force your way to a better Google shopping ranking by sacrificing your ROAS, your overall profitability will go down, and your time and effort cost of Google shopping feed optimization will be for nothing.

So to ensure that the Google shopping practices you adopt and implement gets you closer to your sales and ROAS goals, consider using a tool like Bidbrain that doesn’t just offer AI-assisted bidding, but also helps you with feed optimization. It takes the human element out of the equation, automates the whole process, does the heavy lifting for you, and allows you to spend more time on other aspects of growing your business. AI-assisted tools are no longer experimental, and refined and perfected tools like Bidbrain are already helping users grow their sales by 20% to 50%. 

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