August 13, 2019
Setting Up Google Shopping
Last week we took a close look at Google Shopping, its history, its future, and why you should use Google Shopping to sell online.
That was just the first part of our complete guide to Google Shopping. In this instalment, we’ll cover how to set up and link Google service accounts for Google Ads, Google Merchant Centre, Search Console and Google Analytics.
More importantly, we’ll cover setting up your product feed.
Setting Up your Account
The list of services Google offers has grown steadily over time, but many of them tie into other, pre-existing services. Google Shopping is one of these. You’ll actually need to set up two accounts:
- Google Ads (formerly AdWords)
- Google Merchant Center
Google Ads is the central service for paid ads delivered through Google and Google’s subsidiaries. Google Merchant Center is the company’s central control panel for merchants trading through them. It’s where you’ll set up your shopping feed, which is the core of any Google Shopping campaign.
For optimal results, we recommend you also set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics, which provide more detailed and extensive data about your site’s performance through multiple channels. This is a must-have for optimisation.
These accounts must be linked together so they can share data.
Linking Your Accounts
Once you’ve got your Google Ads account setup, find your Google Ads ID, which will be ten digits. Note this down and return to Google Merchant Center.
Open your Settings menu in Merchant Center and select ‘Account Linking’. Choose to link to Google Ads and enter your Google Ads ID. You’ll be notified that the two accounts are now linked.
At this point, you have everything you need in place to begin using Google Shopping – but not quite enough to get the most out of it.
You can generate a Google Ads Tracking code now and make sure that code is present on your order confirmation page – that will give you basic conversion tracking. However, if you set up Google Analytics for your website, you’ll have access to much more detailed information.
Google Analytics offers:
- More detailed conversion tracking, including multiple attribution models
- Customer engagement metrics
These give you additional tools for assessing how successful your Google Shopping campaign really is, as well as for developing more detailed remarketing lists.
We’ll cover remarketing in more detail later in the guide.
As with your Google Merchant Center account, it should be simple to set up your Google Analytics account.
Once your account is set up, you’ll need to generate an Analytics Tracking code. This code will then need placing on every page of your site.
If you’re now concerned about your ecommerce site’s hundreds or even thousands of individual product listings, don’t worry. Most modern content management systems (CMS) allow you to automatically update every page with the code, and to add it to new pages ‘automagically’.
Ecommerce CMSs are no exception.
It’s important that the tracking code goes into each page once and only once. Two instances of the code on a single page means you’ll be seeing double your engagement metrics on that page – including recording double the sales. That can lead to mistakes when you analyse the data later on.
Again, take the time to link your Analytics account to your Merchant Center and Google Ads accounts.
Setting Up your Product Feed
The product feed is absolutely central to your Google Shopping account. Everything else can be set up perfectly, your products can have a huge potential market, and a flawed product feed will still prevent you from taking advantage.
What is a Product Feed?
Your product feed supplies Google with key information about your product. The feed is designed to help you lay out that data in a way that can be easily crawled and assessed.
Making sure your data is accurate, clear, and properly laid out is an essential first step in a successful Google Shopping campaign.
Feeds can be set up through Google Spreadsheets or by an automated service (usually a browser extension or site plugin) that pulls the data from your site and formats it correctly.
Needless to say, only comparatively small product ranges should really be handled through the spreadsheet method.
However, different product categories have to conform to different feed requirements. Any confusion in your original listing or any error in the automated service can cause problems down the line, and there are only two ways to spot these issues.
- Manual review
- Noticing that one product or group of products is significantly underperforming, investigating, and finding an error
The second option comes only after you’ve lost valuable time and potentially wasted ad spend. With that in mind, whenever you add new products to your site and whenever you’re reviewing your Shopping Feed, there are several things to check:
- Product Title
- Product Description
- Product Type (if any)
- Product Category
- Apparel Categories (if selling clothing)
- New/Used Condition
All of the above should be as accurate as you can make it. We’ll go into more detail on Product Title, Description, Type and Image in the next section, as these are areas with real optimisation potential.
Google Shopping groups products into categories, subcategories, and subcategories of subcategories. These are another important way to affect what searches your products are shown for.
That’s why there are so many options. Google regularly updates their category system (called a taxonomy), and Google Shopping members can download an Excel file with the current listing.
The current document has over 6,200 categories and subcategories, and the number grows with each update.
(Some categories are also simplified; Google don’t release specifics about the decision process, but we can assume any subcategory they’ve rolled back wasn’t performing well, either because it received too few searches or because searches assigned to that category were not converting.)
Don’t be too worried by this, however – most products will only ever need their category setting once. Every update adjusts only a small part of the taxonomy, usually in changing market sectors. However, once a year or so it’s worth checking the new taxonomy to see if the sections affecting your products have changed.
Each product can only be listed in one subcategory. That’s important, because it means you want to be as accurate as you can. (Google will take your product into account in wider searches, but it will focus on searches in your specific category – where most of the sales are).
So, for example, if you sell protective clothing for motorcycle riders, your jackets should go in:
Apparel & Accessories – Clothing – Activewear – Motorcycle Protective Clothing – Motorcycle Jackets
While your trousers should be filed as:
Apparel & Accessories – Clothing – Activewear – Motorcycle Protective Clothing – Motorcycle Pants
It may be quicker to just set all of them as ‘Motorcycle Protective Clothing’. But this means missing out on more specific searches, with higher intent and better conversion rates.
So, what happens when your product doesn’t quite fit in a category, or has two categories that it could qualify for?
Choose the closest category or subcategory to your product (or the category most of your sales come from, if it’s a choice between two). Your Product Description and especially your Product Type will help make sure searchers find it.
With hundreds of subcategories of clothing as it stands, Google chose to make the standard clothing variations a separate set of classifications rather than vastly multiply each Category.
Each item of clothing, as well as being broken down by subcategory, should also be fully tagged in each of the following:
- Age Group
- Size Type
- Size System
Many of these are self-explanatory. Age Group and Size Type, however, are essentially targeting categories to help Google map your product options to search terms.
- Age Groups include newborn, infant, toddler, kids, and adult
- Size Types include regular, plus, petite, big and tall, and maternity
As you can see, these correspond to extra information often included in search terms. Keeping these accurate helps ensure your advertising spend goes to the right users.
Brand is usually a required field. It’s often also a key term in searches by users with high intent.
Whether or not the brand field has any other use in the shopping feed algorithm is unconfirmed.
The product’s Google Trade Identification Number (GTIN) is a required field for all products which have a GTIN. Usually a product’s GTIN will be its UPC, EAN or JAN (or ISBN for books). Multipacks have their own distinct GTIN. (Google will disallow ads for products if more than one unique product has the same GTIN.)
It’s important to remember that the product GTIN probably isn’t your internal SKU. Make sure you have an accurate ‘map’ of SKU to GTIN/UPC/etc. Failing to do this can create no end of inventory issues.
(If you sell on multiple sales channels, it’s important that your ‘map’ covers every product number for every channel. At Cloud Commerce Pro, we take this so seriously that creating and testing a map like this is part of our inventory management set-up process, before the system ever goes live.)
If you don’t manufacture your own products and you’re not sure what your products GTINs are, you may need to contact the manufacturer to make sure you have the correct identifiers.
Products without GTINs are allowed (set identifier_exists to false), but will be treated as lower priority than similar products with GTINs. We recommend having your GTINs in order!
Online shoppers tend to become very frustrated if they place an order and discover that it will be delayed or cancelled (or gets refused) due to the product they want to buy being out of stock. This can lead to cancellations, complaints, negative word of mouth and more.
This is a situation Google’s algorithms are designed to avoid. And that’s a good thing for retail businesses, too; you don’t want to spend money promoting a product when the only way for a customer to buy it is to shop with your competition.
Keeping this information up to date is important. If you’re offering a large catalogue of products, automated systems are the best way to do this. Modern warehouse management systems like Cloud Commerce Pro can update stock levels the moment the product is scanned by a wi-fi enabled Android scanner.
This field is the field most likely to be updated regularly for an individual product in your Shopping Feed. Google recognises three options in the field:
- In Stock
- Out of Stock
Obviously, the importance of maintaining accurate stock listings is a little different for companies that practice drop shipping. But then, customers tend to be more understanding when ordering expensive made-to-order products In any case.
Many bargain hunters prefer to buy used products, hoping to keep costs low. Other customers may prefer to shop used in certain circumstances, for environmental or other reasons.
Setting the correct condition for your products on your Feed allows Google to specifically target more likely customers.
As you set up your Shopping Feed, you’ll be asked to set various other options. Shipping is probably the most important one; you can set up rules in the Merchant Centre to cover this much more quickly than manually setting each product’s shipping fields.
You can allow for free shipping, flat rate shipping, or courier calculated shipping.
Ad Group Organisation
As you set up your Feed for the first time, you may wonder about ad groups; what they are, how to set them up, and how best to put them to use.
This is a big enough topic that we’ve given it a full section of its own. You’ll find more in the ‘Campaign Structure’ section of this guide.
As you’ll already have realised, the bigger your product catalogue, the more daunting it is to set up your feed. So you may feel equally unhappy with the prospect of tinkering with your feed if, for example, you have an upcoming sale and sale prices need to be updated.
While an automated system of one kind or another is a good idea, supplemental feeds and Feed Rules are designed for this exact purpose.
You can also set up custom labels. This allows you to add information purely for your own use; it adds a new way of grouping products in Google Ads for simpler bid management and performance analysis.
You can already sort by brand or by category; custom labels allow you to add other ways to group products. For example, retailers buying different products from different suppliers might create labels so they can see how products are performing by supplier.
You also might mark heavily seasonal products together so you can easily reduce bidding on winter sellers as spring arrives and increase bidding in the middle of next autumn, ready for the winter boom.
Updating your Product Feed
Whether you’re looking to adjust a few listings, mark some products as out of stock, or add new products, you’ll need to update your feed from time to time.
Google regularly checks the data in your feed against the data on your website. Products can be disapproved if the prices no longer match – which can easily happen if you’ve updated sale price on your site but not your feed (or vice versa).
This process can be sped up and made more reliable at the same time. All you have to do is set up a tool to automatically update your product feed.
There are a number of different options depending on which eCommerce CMS you use. Usually there will be several different apps, modules or plugins.
Which would best suit your needs will depend on your preferences and budget – many of these apps are paid subscription services. As Google Shopping is steadily evolving, you should choose a service which is frequently updated, or you could soon find yourself trying to manage your feed with outdated systems.
If you have a multi-channel system which supports Google Shopping, it may have the functionality you need built in. If not, check with the system’s support team – chances are this question has already been asked.
The Support team will be able to recommend a service that works for your situation.
Next week, we’ll look at how differently Google Shopping uses search terms, what metrics you can use to improve your site, and how to optimise your product feed. That includes making the most out of Product Title, Product Description, and Product Type.
This article was updated on 20th August 2019 to reflect new Google changes coming into operation in September 2019.