The quality of your product data, more than anything else, will determine your products’ success on Google Shopping. That’s because Google looks at data quality in order to assign the ad relevance portion of your Quality Score.
Quality Score, which is ultimately what determines whether your products appear for any given search, consists of three parts:
- Ad relevance - How closely related your listing is to the search query.
- Click through rate (CTR) / expected CTR - A ratio showing how often people who see your ad end up clicking it. / How likely it is that your ads will get clicked when shown for that keyword.
- Landing page experience - How well your landing page gives shoppers who click on your ads exactly what they’re looking for.
Ad relevance, which is measured entirely based on the fields in your product feed, is most closely affected by:
- Product Title
- Product Description
- Unique Product Identifiers
- GTIN (UPC/EAN)
- Google Product Category
Other important fields that can affect your ad relevance and/or CTR:
- Product Type
- Apparel Categories
- Sales Tax
- Additional required fields
- Custom Labels
Guide to product feed field optimization:
Product titles should be descriptive but not long-winded. They should be search-friendly but not “stuffed” with keywords. The formula for the perfect product title will vary from seller to seller and from product to product, but here are a few formats we’ve found to be effective.
Note: Some of the title attributes that we provide in the following examples may differ for your ad, depending on how you classify your products. It’s important to come up with your own formulas based on what you know about your products and your customers -- and test, test, test -- before settling on one for good.
Brand + Product Type + Gender + Keyword 1 + Keyword 2 + Color + Size
i.e., Nike Pro Short Sleeve Training Top Men’s Short Sleeve Pullover Carbon Heather/Black/Black in Large
Product Type + Keyword 1 + Keyword 2 + Color + Size
i.e., Business Cards - 16 point Matte Finish in Multicolor - Standards Size 3.5” x 2”
Brand + Model Number + Material + Product Type + Size + Color
i.e., CharBroil Classic 480 40000 Propane Gas Grill with 4 Burners - Black
Things to keep in mind while creating your product titles:
- Include top keyword(s)
- Use the most common name of the product
- Use color, brand, gender, size
- Put the important information first (leftmost)
- Include model numbers and other descriptors
- Do not go over Google’s 150 character limit
- Do not “keyword stuff”
- Do not use promotional text, i.e., “On sale now”
- Do not use “short tail” keywords as titles, i.e., “Little Black Dress”
- Do not use ALL CAPS
Although the character limit for product descriptions is 5,000 characters, the optimal description length is 500 characters.
Keep the descriptions keyword-rich and product-specific. Include common uses to your products
Do not include other available variants, i.e., color, size, material, etc., as doing so can cause the wrong product to show. For example, if you list a black dress and include in the description that it is also available in red, Google might show the black dress to a shopper searching for a red dress.
The first 100 characters of your product description carry the most weight. Be sure to include the most important information at the beginning of the product description.
As noted in the product title optimization section above, brand is very important to how Google indexes your product listings and how it serves them up to relevant search queries. And that’s just in the title. Google actually requires brand as its own feed attribute.
If it’s your brand, this gives you the opportunity to control how your brand appears in Google Shopping, though it’s important to take into account how your shoppers will look for your brand when they search.
If you’re a retailer, get to know the brands you sell. Run your brands through the same steps as keyword research to get a good feel for how they appear in top listings.
In either case, whether a brand owner or retailer, be sure to list the brand of every one of your products. No exceptions.
MPN / GTIN (UPC/EAN)
Unique Product Identifiers (UPI) are among the most important attribute in your feed. These are Manufacturer's Product Number (MPN) and Google Trade Identification Number (GTIN).
The MPN is usually the SKU and the GTIN might be the UPC or ISBN. If you have already provided the Brand for your products (and, yes, you should have), you’ll only need one UPI; either MPN or GTIN. If you have both, though, use both.
It is vital, however, to only submit accurate values in UPI fields. Google uses UPIs to group the products it serves up to a search, so the values you enter in UPI fields should be universally used for that product. In other words, all listings in Google Shopping for that product -- yours and competitors’ -- should share that UPI.
False or incorrect UPIs will prevent Google from matching your products to established product groups, which can severely lower your impression share.
The Identifier Exists value should only be used for custom products or one-of-a-kind products or products created before GTINs were introduced, such as:
- Custom T-shirts
- Handmade goods
- Vintage products
- Books published before 1970
- Other special items
Google Product Category
Google’s category tree is exhaustive but not perfect. Your products will undoubtedly fit into one of its branches. In some cases, your products might fit into multiple branches. The most important thing to note when categorizing your products is that you want to be as accurate as possible for your intended searches; that means choosing the branch that your shoppers will most likely associate with your product while getting as far down the taxonomy tree as possible.
- GoDataFeed’s categorization engine - There are currently more than 6,000 categories and subcategories in Google’s taxonomy. Fortunately, you don’t have to sift through all of them because you can simply search GoDataFeed’s category tool for matching categories. Be sure to do a variety of searches relevant to your product title and keywords, however, in order to uncover the most accurate category.
- Get as far down the taxonomy tree as possible - You can only choose category per product, so it’s important to get as accurate as possible. Some products will fit neatly into Google’s taxonomy; some won’t. Get as specific as you can. For products that are left hanging just 2 or 3 branches into the taxonomy tree, use Product Type to further clarify for Google.
Product Type is immensely helpful in providing clarity to Google about your products. It gives you a measure of control beyond Google’s taxonomy. It’s especially useful to retailers whose products don’t fit neatly into the taxonomy tree.
In order to get the most out of the Product Type field:
- Use your store’s categorization as a guide
- Get as far down your category tree as possible, i.e., use the last subcategory in the product page’s “breadcrumb”
For example, consider using a product type that follows the following format:
- Product page’s breadcrumb: Shoes > men’s shoes > running shoes > trail running shoes > Mizuno Wave Hayate 3
- Product type: trail running shoes
Product images don’t directly affect ad relevance but they have a huge impact on CTR. Follow these product image best practices for best results:
- Background - Google requires a white background behind your images.
- Clean composition - Watermarks, text and logos are not allowed in the background or as an overlay on the product image.
- Image quality - Use high-resolution images of at least 1,200 pixels in height/width.
- Virtual showroom - Think of your images as a virtual product display. Try to anticipate what questions customers may have and think of how you can answer it in an image. Provide alternative views and angles. Give close-ups and in-action images. Display product variations.
More than anything else, price will be the determining factor for purchase. Especially if your products are sold by other retailers advertising on Google Shopping.
Before committing to a price, search your products and scope out the competition’s price range and position relative to pricing. Although Google does not report pricing as part of its Quality Score metrics, research shows that increases in selling price negatively affect ad placement and impression share in Google Shopping SERPs.
A study by Search Engine Land found that products whose prices are lower than the market average generate the “lion’s share” of traffic in any given seller’s Google Shopping inventory.
“The difference in impressions,” says Andreas Reiffen, author of the study, “is clear proof that the Google Shopping algorithm favors products with lower prices and therefore serves those product ads for a higher number of relevant searches.”
Google provides some additional (required and optional) fields for apparel products. These can help your products in two distinct ways:
- Accepted values inside these fields often match longtail keyword searches
- These attributes are used as levers for filtering within SERPs
Attributes and acceptable values:
- Gender (required for apparel): male, female, or unisex
- Size (required for apparel): actual size of product
- Age Group: newborn, infant, toddler, kids, adult
- Color: color of product
- Size Type: regular, petite, plus, big and tall, maternity
- Size System: US, UK, EU, DE, FR, JP, CN (China), IT, BR, MEX, AU
If you sell in the U.S., you must set up tax rates for each state you charge taxes for. If you sell in the U.S. but don’t charge tax, indicate that in your tax settings.
There are multiple options for tax rate and these can be applied both at the account and data feed level. Be sure to consult your tax advisor to understand which options would work best for your business.
- The manual option - This applies a flat rate that charges all customers the same amount of tax regardless of where they're located.
- The destination-based option - This applies taxes based on where your customer (the buyer) is located. This option assumes that you have nexus everywhere in the state (in every city and county). So if the state is a home rule state where sub-state nexus matters, the destination-based option might not be accurate.
- The tax attribute within the data feed - For the collection of non-standard tax rates or if products are exempt from tax.
Shipping rates that can be set up in your Merchant Center settings:
- Free shipping
- Fixed rate
- Carrier-calculated rate
If you use carrier-calculated rates, shipping rates will be based on dimensions, weight, user location and origin postal code. The following attributes are required in your data feed for the carrier-calculated option:
This field only has three accepted values:
- “in stock”
- “out of stock”
This field only has two accepted values:
In a previous email, we discussed how custom labels allow you to group products in ways that make sense to your business rather than Google’s categorization structure. Now let’s talk about implementing custom labels as attributes in your data feed.
You can have up to five custom labels in your product data feed. These start with 0 and end with 4.
Be sure to assign a specific definition for each of the five custom labels and specify the possible values for each. Use these custom labels consistently across all products in your Merchant Center account, assigning the appropriate value to each product according to the custom label definition.
Each of the five custom labels can only have one value per product.
The values for custom fields will vary based on your products and your business’ unique needs, but there are common examples that can easily be adopted by a wide range of sellers:
- Seasonal - i.e., Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
- Price point - i.e.,Under10, Under50, Under100, Over100
- Price margins - i.e., LowMargin, HighMargin
- Promotional - i.e., Clearance, OnSale
- Performance - i.e., BestSeller, LowSeller
Next in the Google Shopping optimization series, we’ll get into bidding.