When it comes to showing your content on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP), it helps to write in a language that search engines can understand. You can have high-quality content on your website, but if Google cannot understand the relevance of the content, your data might not show as often as possible. A way to avoid Google misinterpreting your data is to structure it in a way that not only makes sense to humans but also to the search engine. This is where structured data comes into play. And one of the most popular structured data “languages” is Schema.
Schema was developed between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo in order to help search engines better understand the data on your website and how best to represent that data on the SERP. Think of Schema as a language that search engines can understand and interpret.
While Schema is important for your SEO results, as well as allowing you to show Rich Snippets on the SERP, what we are talking about today is the impact structured data has on Google Merchant Center and Microsoft Merchant Center. When you submit a product to Merchant Center in a feed, Google and Microsoft don’t just take your word for it – they will check certain attributes of the feed like condition (new or used), price, and availability (preorder, in stock, or out of stock) against what’s showing on the website.
This serves the purpose of making sure that people only see in-stock items and that they aren’t being shown one price in shopping ads or free listings and another price on the website. If the two don’t agree, Google and Microsoft will default to what they see on the website, not what’s in the feed, and can either display the wrong price or disapprove the products for mismatched page price.
Google and Microsoft will check the website in a few ways:
- Looking at the structured data – This is the ideal way.
- Scraping the page for detail – This does not always work well, particularly for Google. Many times Google will “see” a price on the page that’s not actually the feed price. And that can go horribly wrong!
Scenarios I’ve seen:
- Using the “As Low As” price. We have clients that might offer a volume discount, so if you buy 10 of an item, the per-piece price could be as low as $1, yet if you buy one (which is what you put in the feed), the price is $2. The “As Low As” price usually shows higher or more prominently on the product page than the one-piece price, and so the $1 price gets picked up. Here’s another example where they are pulling the 5500 out of the product name and latching onto that as the price:
- On websites where there are variants of an item that are not all the same price – like an XXL size T-shirt costing $1 more than smaller sizes unless the variant is selected by the URL, a price mismatch can happen.
- Google is changing the price of an item because the price on the page was near an abbreviation that made it seem like the product was priced in a different currency. (Yes, this really happens!)
The best and most accurate way to prevent issues is by giving Google structured data that includes the ID/SKU, price, condition, availability, and more.
Further, using schema to structure your data for shopping ads allows you to activate automatic item updates in both Merchant Center UIs. Automatic item updates can help keep your data more accurate by detecting discrepancies between your product data and what is on your landing page. This feature is incredibly useful as Google Merchant Center (which is more touchy than Microsoft) can disapprove or even suspend your GMC account if your product data does not match your landing page data.
When automatic item updates are enabled, your product data will automatically be updated to match the landing page data. For example, an online gold retailer updates their prices constantly as the price of gold fluctuates throughout the day. By using schema to correctly markup the price data, Google and Microsoft have the ability to change the price on the ad to correctly match the most updated price on the website. Or maybe you change your prices but only send your updated feed overnight. Google and Microsoft will automatically update the price until the feed is reloaded.
This not only gives the searcher an accurate ad that reflects the product offering, but it also acts as a safety net to avoid any unwanted product disapprovals in Merchant Center.
And price is not the only attribute that can be affected by automatic item updates. You can markup your product condition, and availability attributes in order to keep your inventory up to date.
Schema.org has tools to help you structure your data in a way that Google and Microsoft understand. You can view common markups and even test your structured data! Google and Microsoft work best when they can understand the content of your website and the relevancy of your data.