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6 easy steps to optimise your Google Shopping feed

9 May 2019

By Jon Akass

Jon is a Product Owner at Volo, and writes about how retailers and brands can improve their ecommerce performance.

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A Google Shopping feed is just a stream of product data that is sent to Google. This data is used to generate ads for products when relevant keywords are searched and the bid is enough for the ad to be displayed.

Optimising the feed is important. This involves improving the structure and data quality of the feed so that ads are more relevant, convert better and can be managed effectively on the campaign side.

This is all about speaking your customers’ language. Through optimisation, you ensure that your feeds are relevant, resulting in greater impressions and lower CPAs. When data quality is improved, website traffic and conversion rates also improve. Not only this, but you will be able to optimise your expenditure towards groups of products more successfully.

In this guide, we are going to take a look at some of the important steps to optimise Google Shopping feed.

Step 1: Structure content and ensure it’s up to date

The first step is to structure your content. Selecting the correct ‘product type’ for your item is imperative. Google does not officially use your product type field for anything, which means you can use anything you like.

However, the complexity begins when you begin selecting more than one category, and you don’t select the main one. Take yoga mats as an example. As well as putting this into the category of yoga mats, you may also want to tag it in training mats and training accessories. Makes sense, right?

The issue is that if you don’t select a main category and your store’s Feed tool does not select the main category as the product type, you end up with random, unknown products within your product types.

Because of this, cleaning up product types in the Shopping Feed is best. While it won’t have a direct performance improvement, it is advantageous when you report on campaigns and set your bidding strategy.

So, how do you go about it? People seem to be split into two camps when it comes to this. Some believe you should assess each individual product to determine profitability, while others believe you should group all products together for a combined performance. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, so it’s about figuring out what’s right for you.

So, to summarise, here are the steps you should take when optimising your product types:

  1. Clean up your product types. Combine any duplicate product types into one.
  2. Nest your product types. You may have to go through everything one-by-one, but it will be worth it.
  3. Create product types from scratch. Sometimes this is the only option if your feed is badly messed up!

Step 2: Optimise titles

The next step to optimise Google Shopping feeds concerns your titles. To catch relevant search traffic, it is vital to create titles that are informative. You should include product and brand names, as well as variants such as colour, to capture attention and encourage a conversion.

You will need to spend some time experimenting and testing until you get this right due to the title length restrictions. Assess past title results too to get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Here are some of the different tactics you can use when constructing a product title: 

  • Add the brand and category to the product title
  • Add specific product info, for example, the material or size
  • Re-write the title manually (this is needed from time-to-time!)

While re-writing your titles, make sure you don’t end up with a messy title that cannot be read properly. This can easily happen when you’re trying to fit in keywords and product details. Remember, your title should be written for real people.

Step 3: Manage keyword use in title and description

Begin by finding out what keywords your items are already ranking for. Once you have done this, open up Google Ads, and run a Search Terms report. This will enable you to find your top performing queries.

To finalise your keywords, some of the key questions you should ask yourself include:

  • Do your product descriptions or titles contain this keyword?
  • What is your current shopping campaign spend on these keywords?
  • Does at least one of your items show up when you run this search?
  • When running a manual search, do PLAs show up for this keyword?

This is not a one-time process. You need to continually address your keywords, ensuring titles and descriptions are up-to-date.

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Step 4: Ensure categories and GTINs are used correctly

Google carries out continual assessments of all Merchant Centre data feeds. This means they need to be approved if they are to be used on Google Shopping. Ads which don't get approved waste time and money without capturing your customer demand. This ultimately comes down to lost clicks, and consequently, lost sales — which no one wants!

So, how can you put the odds in your favour? One option is to make sure that all of your listed products have a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). This can increase your conversion rate by as much as 20 per cent when compared to ads without GTINs.

Aside from GTINs, you also need to use categories correctly too. You can use the Google Product Taxonomy to find the Official Google Shopping Product Categories.

After you have used taxonomy to match up your items, it is vital to get more granular by leveraging the ‘product types’ section of your datasheet. The more details you supply, the easier you are going to find it to alter bids on a granular level and get visibility.

Step 5: Use Google’s inbuilt Merchant Promotions and product extensions toolkit

Google has an inbuilt merchant promotions and product extensions toolkit for you to make the most of. You can head to the Merchant Centre to create Merchant Promotions. Here are some examples of the best-performing ones:

  • Brand specific rebates
  • Tiered percentage discounts
  • Buy one, get one free
  • Free shipping
  • Lowering the free shipping threshold

You also need to use product extensions to amplify your ads. When a search query is conducted, any items that are related will show up under your ad. They will appear in a plus box formation, which is generated using your product feed in your Google Merchant Centre account.

Optimising your product feed is vital if you are going to roll out product extensions. To do the latter, you simply need to visit the Merchant Centre. Once here, you can select “Ad Extensions.” Adding a new extension can be done from here with ease.

Step 6: Custom labels for reporting

The final piece of the puzzle is to leverage custom labels. Custom labels are important because they give you the capability to run more detailed reports, which can then impact your strategies for bidding.

Some of the different uses for labelling include:

  • Tracking the success of a new collection
  • Tagging bestselling products
  • Grouping similar products to measure demand and the effect of other variables such as pricing and colour

Of course, you are not limited to these categories, as it all depends on the type of products you are selling. To determine what sort of labels you should use, ask yourself what sort of reports you would like to see. What is relevant to your product?

Optimising your Google Shopping feed makes business sense and is becoming easier

Data optimisation is vital to ensure that your ads are more relevant, result in greater impressions and convert better. Now, thanks to purpose built ecommerce technology, retailers can optimise data far more effectively. By automating the feed management and mapping process, ecommerce teams can achieve much higher quality scores and improve KPIs, having more time to focus on the strategic and human-driven elements.

These platforms use AI and advanced algorithms to take most of the legwork and manual effort out of creating listings and ensure that you collect valuable customer data generated through interactions, even on third-party platforms. This allows you to make more informed decisions and spend more time focusing on those creative choices, rather than filling in spreadsheets.      

Giving yourself the best tools for the job and following these tips will make the process of optimising your Google Shopping feed simple and give your products the best chance to stand out.

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