If you are an ecommerce website owner, chances are you are already using Google Shopping to promote and sell your products. If you aren't using Google Shopping yet, it is high time to start setting up your Google Merchant Center and create your first product feed.
Where to start?
If you haven’t already, go over to the Google Merchant Center and register an account. Be sure to complete the setup process by selecting a location and agreeing to the Terms of Service. Now that you have your brand new Merchant Center account you need to create your first product feed. There are several ways to do this step.
Creating your product feed
It’s important to note that your product feeds need to be either a text (.txt) or XML (.xml) format. You can create your feed with a spreadsheet editor such as Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc, or you can use Google Sheets.
Using a spreadsheet editor to manually create your feed
If you decide to go the spreadsheet way, you need to understand the basic layout of the product feed. This template is an excellent starting point.
You’ll notice right away that the fields for id, title, description, link, price, condition, image link, product type, quantity and gtin/mpn are marked as ‘required’. Those are the bare minimum attributes that you need to have your product approved. Some types of products require additional attributes, for example, Google Product Category attribute is required for all the Apparel, Accessories, Media and Software products.
After you’ve created your first product feed, you’ll have to upload it into your Merchant Center. You’ll do that by going to “Products” and then selecting “Feeds”. You create a new feed by clicking on the plus button. Be sure to select the “Upload” as an input method and in the next step you’ll be prompted to manually select the file to be uploaded.
Using Google Sheets
Using Google Sheets can be a more straightforward way of creating your product feed, especially if you have a huge number of products and doing it all manually seems like an arduous undertaking.
First thing you need to do is to open the Feeds page in your Google Merchant Center and click the plus button to create a new feed. Here you have to select Google Sheets as the input method. You can either generate a new spreadsheet from a template or you can select an existing spreadsheet.
Once your Google Sheet is registered you can use the Merchant Center add-on for Google Sheets.
It crawls your website looking for schema.org annotations and then uses what it found to auto-populate your spreadsheet. It also validates the data and submits the spreadsheet directly into the Merchant Center.
The Merchant Center add-on can be found by simply doing a quick search for ‘merchant center’ in the “Get Add-ons” search box.
Product feed apps to make your life easier
If all of this seems like too much work to you, there are many apps out there that can help you speed up and automate the whole product feed creation process. I’ll mention only a few of them here. Some of these apps are “full service”, meaning you won’t have to do much to get your product feed created and linked to Google Merchant Center. There are also some free options where you’ll have to do more work yourself, such as linking the feed to Merchant Center, and free options often come with less feed-customisability.
Feedoptimise can help you with the entire product feed management process, from creating the feed, to updating and optimising it. They’re a fully-managed service. Sign up with them (there’s a 30 day free trial) and they’ll connect to your store and do all work of feed creation and linking the feed to Google Merchant Center for you. These guys will work with pretty much any shopping cart, so whether you use Shopify, Woocommerce, Magento or whatever, they should be able to help.
A go-to app for anyone running their ecommerce website with Shopify. It uses a direct API feed that automatically keeps your product feed updated. It’s also totally free! Having said that, you do need to install the software, generate the feed, and link everything to Google Merchant Center yourself. Hey, you get what you pay for, if you want free then you aren’t going to get a nice fully-managed solution like the one mentioned above. Another disadvantage here is there is less ability to customise your product feed. The descriptions and headlines on your site are exactly the same as the descriptions and headlines in your feed, with no option to customise your feed’s headlines or descriptions beyond what is on your site.
A simple tool that automatically scans your website for products and then compiles the product feed with the data it found. You can then edit or delete certain fields or simply submit your feed. This is another paid solution offering a 30 days free trial. Similar to Shopify’s Shopping app, it only generates the feed, you’ll need to link it to Google Merchant Center yourself.
A highly customisable app that comes with a pre-configured template for Google Shopping. Excellent choice for anyone running their ecommerce website with WooCommerce. It comes in two versions, the free one and the paid pro version. You install the app as you would install any other Wordpress plugin and you’re ready to go. After the feed is generated, you need to link it up to your Merchant Center.
Product feed format requirements
It is important to properly format your product feed, otherwise you will encounter errors and your products will not be imported.
Here is a quick overview of the format requirements:
The first line of your spreadsheet must be the header
Header may contain only one attribute per cell
Each cell may only contain a single value per product
If an attribute accepts more than one value, you should separate each value with a comma or a slash, depending on the attribute
What about tax and shipping settings?
When it comes to setting up the tax rates you can set up the standard tax rates in your Merchant Center. You should only use the tax attribute in your feed for products that have different tax rates or are tax exempt. The tax attribute overrides any account tax settings.
To set up the shipping settings you need to open the Shipping page in your Merchant Center and click the plus button to create a new shipping service. In the service description section you'll select the target country, transit time, your minimum order value and set the name for the shipping service. Under affected products, you can set the shipping service to be eligible for all products in your feed, or you can filter the products by shipping label.
In the shipping cost section you can use the table provided to define rules based on the price, destination, weight or the number of products.
Once your tax and shipping settings are all set up and your feed is uploaded, your products are ready to be advertised through Google Adwords.
Linking your Merchant Center to Your Google Adwords Account
So now that your product feed is all good and ready and all of the settings are set up correctly, the only thing left to do is to link your Merchant Center to your Google Adwords account.
Start by clicking on the three dots icon in the top right corner of your Merchant center and select “Account linking”.
Under “AdWords” you need to add your Google AdWords account ID. If you don’t know what your AdWords ID is, it’s a ten digit account number that you can find in your AdWords account in the top right corner of your screen. Once you got that, you just click the “Add” button and your accounts are linked.
At this point you are good to go into AdWords and create your first Shopping campaings, however that is a bit beyond the scope of this article and we’ll cover that in a later article.