I’ve been to Google multiple times for Shopping campaign training, most recently just earlier this month, and every single time they talk about the importance of feed data. The reason behind that it is because, as a Googler at one of our training sessions loves to say, “Crap in, crap out.”
The feed is the backbone of your Shopping campaigns. So, what makes for a good data feed?
Unique Product Identifiers
These include Brand, Global Trade Item Numbers – also known as GTINs, which is what those outside of the U.S. call UPCs – and Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs). These are used to match against Google’s product catalog to make sure a product is valid.
They also level the playing field against your competitors. If you both have the same item in your feeds, but your competitor has the Brand, UPC and MPN and you only have Brand and MPN, they will “win” the auction because Google will value their product over yours.
Title, Product Category and Description fall into the product content bucket. Of those, title is absolutely, hands down, the most important thing you can do to show up on relevant searches.
Guess which one of the following titles will show up for more relevant searches:
- Blue T-Shirt
- Nike Men’s Blue Crew-Neck Short Sleeve T-Shirt, Size Medium
If you guessed the second one, you are absolutely right. Including things like gender, color, style and size in the title are very important. Brand can also be important if it’s a brand name with high name recognition.
These include Product Price, Sale Price, Tax and Shipping. If the price in your feed doesn’t match the price on your landing page, Google will disapprove that item. And if enough items are disapproved for incorrect prices, your Merchant Account can and will get suspended. Same with shipping costs – shipping must calculate properly or Google will suspend the Merchant Account. Shipping cost and tax can also be set within the Merchant Account, not just in the feed.
The Google Product Category is getting less emphasis these days (which is a good thing in my opinion). A lot of products out there don’t fit into any of the categories in the Google taxonomy. In their place, Product Types are becoming more and more important as a signal to Google on what an item is.
Product types usually follow a website’s hierarchy, which tends to be well grouped. Aim for between three and five product types. For example, let’s say you sell shirts, pants and hoodies. Some good product types for those products might be:
- Short-sleeved t-shirt – Clothing > Tops > Shirts > T-Shirts > Short Sleeve
- Hoodie – Clothing > Tops > Sweatshirt > Hoodie > Pull-over
- Skinny jeans – Clothing > Bottoms > Pants > Jeans > Skinny
Redundant? It might feel like it, but what a great signal to Google about what these items are, and when they should show your Shopping ads.
What Else Helps?
The goal is to fill in the data gaps to include the most detail possible. Additional attributes that can really help include:
- Full descriptions: Two to three complete sentences. Be careful not to use sentence fragments and bullets that don’t convert into proper sentences.
- Color: Required for apparel, color is also a bonus for non-apparel products.
- Size: Also required for apparel, size can be really helpful with other products, as well.
When choosing images for your feed, ensure that the images you use accurately display the product you’re selling, and are of a high quality. Never scale an image thumbnail up to a larger size to meet Google’s size requirements. And no watermarks or text overlays are allowed.
Lastly, the frequency with which you update your feed is important as well. Be sure to update the data daily. Google likes fresh content. If you can’t update the feed daily, at least do it weekly.
The bottom line to all of this is that the data in your feed is the backbone of your Shopping campaigns. It’s what determines if and when you’ll show – no amount of bidding more or increasing budget will change that. Spend the time to improve the feed.
Editor’s note: This post was originally written on Jan. 25, 2016, and was substantially updated on Aug. 29. 2019.