If I had a nickel for every time a client asked for Google Shopping feed advice, I could quit my job and move to the Bahamas (sorry SD). For someone not used to configuring or managing these campaigns, the process can seem daunting.
If you are a mid to large merchant (2,500+ skus) on a more complex ecommerce platform, managing your own Google shopping feeds and campaigns is probably not feasible. Instead of reading this article, you should reach out to an agency like SD for assistance. If you’re a smaller merchant who handles digital marketing initiatives in-house, read on for advice on feed generation, optimization, and troubleshooting. By the end of this article, you should have a good handle on the basics and feel ready to get started.
Assuming you already have Google AdWords and Merchant Center accounts, the first thing you need to do is generate a feed. There are two ways you can handle this:
- Find an app or extension that can generate a feed for you. There are many good options available, but here are two that I have personally used and often recommend:
- Google Shopping Feed for Shopify (they also offer one for Bing)
- Rocket Shopping Feed (aka Rocketweb) for Magento 1 & 2
- If you have a small product catalog (under 100 skus) and don’t want to pay for an extension, create a manual feed using Google sheets.
- If you go this route, make sure you use automatic item updates to ensure that availability, stock status, and price remain accurate over time.
At the very least, you should configure your feed to generate each day during a time when site traffic is low. If your product catalog is large, consider splitting the process up into multiple batches to reduce server load time.
Once you have a tool to actually generate the feed, you must figure out how to configure it. This help doc gives a good overview of the information and format required by Google. These are the ‘optional’ fields I suggest including if they are applicable to your business:
- Additional image link
- Sale price
- Google product category
- Product type
- Identifier exists
- Product variants like material, pattern, and color
If you’re on Shopify, this process should be relatively straightforward. If you’re on Magento, chances are good that this is where you’ll run into the most issues. Since each site’s product catalog and infrastructure is different, it’s hard to predict exactly where you’ll run into trouble. Here are some quick tips that may help if you’re struggling:
- Only include simple (child) products in the feed and use the item_group_id column to tie them together with the configurable (parent) id. There might be a specific instance where a retailer only wants configurable products in the feed, but this isn’t common.
- If your products don’t have an associated gtin, mpn, or upc, you can set this column to match simple product id.
- The attributes in Magento are the only ones available for your feed. If you’re interested in including information that isn’t available (like pattern or material), you must first add it as a Magento product attribute.
- If you run into feed formatting issues (too many characters, letter case inconsistencies), you can probably set a rule to fix it, either via your feed extension or in Google Merchant Center.
- If there’s information you want to include in your feed that Google’s standard columns don’t support, you can sneak it in using a custom label. I often use custom labels to differentiate bestselling products so that I can set separate bids for them.
If you run into any issues with feed generation (errors, lack of progress), reach out to your development team or the extension creator.
Once the feed has generated, you’ll want to test it for accuracy. If you’re using Rocketweb there is a “test feed” option that allows you to input skus and quickly see whether or not they are present. This feature is good for a quick spot check, but you should also plan to save the feed as a text file, import it to excel, and do a more thorough review to ensure that all wanted products are present and information is correct.
If products that should be included are missing, take the following steps:
- Review the product in question in your catalog. Does the information that you expect to see in the feed match up with the way you mapped your columns?
- Check any feed rules that are currently in use. Could they be impacting this product?
- If you’re using Rocketweb, also check the product catalog listing to make sure that it isn’t set to “skip from being submitted.”
Google Merchant Center
Once you’re confident that the feed is in good shape, submit it to Google Merchant Center. If there are errors, work through them, re-fetch the feed, and remember that you can always set rules to correct bulk errors. At this point, you might be thinking something like, “Wow, this is a tedious process.” If so, you are 100% correct. It can often take several rounds of testing, tweaking, and submitting before you get a feed that has all of the necessary information and adheres to the required format. Be patient, continue testing, and when in doubt, review the Google help docs or reach out to your feed provider. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be participating in Google Shopping auctions in no time.
Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Senior Digital Strategist