Get The Most Out Of Google Shopping With Merchant Center Programs

You may have set up your Google Merchant Center (GMC) account to get your Google Shopping campaign running, but did you know that there's a little-known, oft-underused little goldmine in your GMC called Google Merchant Center Programs?

If you have only used GMC to set up your Shopping campaign and you have not checked out GMC Programs, you are missing a trick! Merchant Center Programs is a collection of additional tools and resources that help you do more with your product feed and squeeze more value out of your Shopping and Search campaigns. What's more is that most advertisers don't even bother to check them out, so if you stay on top of these you will be 1 step ahead of your competition!

What are Merchant Center Programs?

Well let's start by showing you where you can find them. First you need to log in to Google Merchant Center, then head over here:

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When you click on the above you will be taken the the Merchant Center Programs home screen, showing you the available programs with links to where you can learn more and/or enable them.

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These "programs" as Google likes to call them are additional ways you can use your Google Merchant Center account and product feed to extract more value out of your Adwords campaign.

Most of you are probably already familiar with Google Shopping and Dynamic Remarketing, as those are usually the main reasons why people set up GMC in the first place. But you may be unfamiliar with some of the other programs in here. So, let's go through each of the programs and discuss what it is, what it's useful for, and how to set it up.

Shopping Ads

What is is?

If you set up your GMC account already and connected your product feed, I'm betting I don't need me to tell you what Shopping ads are. For the uninitiated though, here they are:

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Shopping ads are feed-driven ads for Ecommerce stores. They feature a product image, price and headline, among other things. By "feed-driven" I mean that they run off of a product feed, which is sort of like a big spreadsheet of product details that you upload to your GMC account.

What's it useful for?

Erm... making money? Ha, no seriously, Shopping Ads are huge for Ecommerce campaigns, as you probably already knew. Google shows them a high percentage of the times that it knows someone is searching for a physical product to buy, and when it does show them they get high click through rates. So, by setting up your Shopping ads you are taking advantage of Google's tendency to show Shopping ads, and users' tendency to click those ads.

How to set it up

This is a subject I could write many articles on, and I have. Broadly speaking to set up Shopping you:

  1. Create a product data feed. You can use a gsheet template if you don't have many products and they aren't often updated, or you can use one of many free or cheap apps that plug in to your shopping cart software and do it for you.
  2. Set up Google Merchant Center.
  3. Connect the feed to GMC.
  4. Connect GMC to Adwords.
  5. Set up your Shopping campaigns in Adwords.

That's a very quick overview, I won't get into it more as you search on this blog for more detailed Shopping guides and this is not really the purpose of this article!

Dynamic Remarketing

What is is?

Dynamic Remarketing. That's two words, let's break them down:

  1. Remarketing. This is a form of banner or Display advertising where you can show ads to people who have been to your website before.
  2. Dynamic. This refers to the fact that the ads you show will adapt based on what people browsed on your site before. Whatever products they browsed are the products that will be in the ads.

So, with Dynamic Remarketing we have banner ads that "know" what a user was viewing on your website and shows them those exact products.

What's it useful for?

It's a great way to get people who didn't convert back to your site. Even the highest-converting websites do not convert most of their visitors. Dynamic Remarketing gives you another chance to convert those users by showing them targeted and relevant ads for the exact things they had demonstrated interest in.

How to set it up

Similarly to what I said above about Shopping, the purpose of this article is not to go too in-depth here, as it's really the other lesser-known programs in GMC I wanted to talk to you about today. But the setup for Dynamic Remarketing is essentially the same: create your product feed, connect it to GMC, connect GMC to Adwords, create a campaign in Adwords, and off you go!

Customer Reviews

What is is?

You may have heard of third-party reviews aggregators like Yotpo or Trustpilot. You may have even checked out their service, considered using them, then baulked at the price of it. If that's you, Google Customer Reviews (GCR) might be the thing for you.

GCR is essentially a little piece of code you install in your site that randomly surveys users after they have purchased something. The reviews and ratings will contribute to your Seller Ratings, the little stars that can appear beneath your ads.

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What's it useful for?

The great thing about GCR is it's a free alternative to services like Yotpo to help you collect reviews and get star ratings on your PPC ads. For no cost at all, you can install the GCR code, start collecting reviews, and get those star ratings next to your ads.

GCR does not provide all the bells and whistles that third party suppliers will give you, but you can't argue with the price!

How to set it up

From the Merchant Center Programs page, click to enable Google Customer Reviews. You'll be shown an agreement which you have to click to confirm you have read and agree to it. After you've done this you'll get a new menu option in GMC:

google customer reviews integration screen.png

From here you can see the code that you will need to install on your site, along with a link to a help article from Google giving you the installation instructions. You'll need to customise the parts show in red to show the correct data.

Once the code is installed you should be good to go. It'll take a while for reviews to start showing up but when they do, you'll be able to see some stats on them from the Customer Reviews Overview screen in GMC.

Local Inventory Ads

What is is?

This one is useful for ecommerce stores that have physical retail outlets. For those stores, local inventory ads can show information alongside the normal Google Shopping ads that shows users if the item is in stock in a nearby outlet, and how far that outlet is from them.

example local inventory ads.png

What's it useful for?

Not every potential customer is going to want to buy online. Sometimes they will want to see the product first, maybe they were only researching prices online and fully intended from the outset to be buying the product in a store. If you have local outlets, then, it makes sense to provide those users with additional information that will help drive the purchase in-store. 

How to set it up

It's not exactly an easy set up. You'll need four different feeds, and you'll need to make sure these feeds match:

  1. Product Feed. This is the normal product feed that you've probably already created to run your Google Shopping campaign from.
  2. Business Information Feed. You'll need to make sure you have a Google My Business account setup first. And then for the business information feed you will have to provide to Google information about your local stores such as their location, opening hours, etc.
  3. Local Products Feed. This feed will detail what products are available in your local stores.
  4. Local Products Inventory Feed. This one links to the above feed and provides further information such as stock level, price, etc.

You'll also need to schedule a store visit with a Google rep who will actually come round and check the store and it's products. When all your feeds are connected and the local Google rep has given the all clear, you'll get a new option to enable "Local" under your campaign settings in Adwords. It'll appear in the campaign settings screen, under the section called "Shopping settings (advanced)".

Merchant Promotions

What is is?

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Merchant Promotions allow you to advertise your sales, discounts, special offers and promotions right alongside your Google Shopping ads.

What's it useful for?

It's great for getting the word out about your promotions. What's also great here is that a lot of other advertisers do not think to set these up, meaning that often times if you are diligent about setting up Merchant Promos and entering in details of your offers, you'll be one of the few merchants doing this and will thus stand out on the Shopping results pages. This is one of those ways you can make your Shopping ads stand out a bit more, enticing more clicks than your competitors.

How to set it up

Head over to the Merchant Center programs page and click "Get Started" on Merchant Center Promotions. You'll have to fill out an interest form, telling Google you want to have access to this feature. Google has a manual review process for these interest forms and it can sometimes can weeks for them to get back to you. If you have an account manager at Google, it'll be a good idea to ask them to fast track the application for you. This can get the review process done in a matter of days instead of weeks. If you are not lucky enough to have a Google AM, then you can try reaching out to Adwords' generic support line, which you can access from within your Adwords account.

Product Ratings

What is is?

OK there is some overlap and confusion sometimes between Product Ratings, Seller Ratings, and the aforementioned Google Customer Reviews program.

Google Customer Reviews is the free little widget from Google that helps you collect reviews from customers. Those reviews can then be used to fuel your Product Ratings and your Seller Ratings, which are two different things and show in different scenarios.

Seller Ratings, as shown further above, usually appear on your Search ads. They can also appear in Google Shopping, if you click over to the Shopping tab on the search results. Seller ratings show how well people reviewed your store itself, not the product.

Product Ratings, on the other hand, show how well the individual product from you was reviewed. These ratings are the ones that actually appear on your Shopping ads on the main search results page.

example product ratings.png

If you click over to the Shopping tab, you can see both the Product Ratings and the Seller Ratings.

product ratings vs seller ratings.png

What's it useful for?

Having favourable ratings appearing next to your Shopping ads is going to increase your click through rates and traffic. Sometimes it's hard to standout from the crowd on Google Shopping. Getting your product ratings to show up on the results pages is one of the few ways you can make your ads unique.

How to set it up

You can customise the above Google Customer Reviews code so that it collects product reviews, as well as seller reviews. You'll need to make sure to customise the section of the code where it collects your GTIN, and you'll need to make sure to pass accurate GTIN data back to Google that matches the GTIN data in your product feed. This is the main way that Google matches reviews on your site to products in your feed, so be sure to get it right!


If you go through each of these programs and set up all the ones that are available to you, you will be 1 step ahead of most of the competition on Google Shopping. In my observations of Google Shopping results, and in my auditing of hundreds of Google Shopping campaigns, I have seen time and time again that most merchants do not have all the available programs set up. Google Shopping is super competitive and it's hard to stand sometimes, so making sure to set up all these programs will give you a decent edge.