Google Merchant Center Got a Brand New Look

In August 2016, the Google Merchant Center got a brand new look, and we like it. The forgotten kid finally had a new responsive interface built with Google’s Material Design to align with most of Google’s other products. Here’s what’s new…

The hot new interface

The new homepage features a full overview of your products (expired, pending and disapproved), new announcements, and highlighted information about your active product feeds and campaigns.

Google Merchant Center Dashboard

Nestled under the Products Tab on the left navigation is the Diagnostics Tab, which allows you to download a report on all feed errors. It is now updated far more frequently (previously twice a day) – in fact, updates are close to real-time. The Shopping Ads tab at the bottom of the Products Tab now features a Currency Conversion feature too. Handy for international sellers, it allows you to show products in the local currency without making changes to the original product page.

Google Merchant Center Diagnostics

Feed rules updates

Probably the greatest update of the Merchant Center, you are now able to make changes to the feed without editing it directly – you can edit specific values, combine values and pull data from one attribute to populate another. For example, pulling the product colour from a product description to populate the colour attribute of the product in the feed made easy.

Merchant Center Programs

By clicking on “Merchant Center Programs” in the “Shopping ads” section of the left navigation, you’re now able to access and use Dynamic remarketing reporting, Product ratings in Shopping campaigns and Merchant promotion. Once you’ve enabled Dynamic remarketing reporting, a products overview chart will be featured on the Merchant center home page.

Google Merchant Center Programs

Great user interface and a few new handy features. What’s next, Google?

Why GTINs are important

Hold on, for starters, what is a GTIN? GTIN stands for “Global Trade Item Number”, which is a broad term used to describe the various product identifier systems used internationally e.g. UPC (Universal Product Code) and ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

A GTIN is a ‘thumbprint’ assigned to Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) and, traditionally, these numbers have allowed businesses to optimize processes and create a streamlined supply chain for a product. Google’s primary products are, in reality, clicks – and they are always looking for ways to improve the quality of these clicks. Requiring advertisers on Google Shopping to submit GTIN numbers is a strategy to ensure that products are accurately listed, improving the consumer’s user experience and ultimately the quality of the clicks to your online shop.

The GTIN journey

Google started requiring its retailers to use GTINs in mid-2015, but only across 50 specific brands. If the GTIN was not included in the product feed, the ad would not be served. In February 2016, Google then expanded this requirement to all products that have a GTIN from their manufacturers. Retailers had by May 2016 to ensure that their product feeds reflected the required GTIN.

Why the change?

Remember, Google sells clicks. So, how will these tedious requirements for retailers improve the quality of the clicks? For starters, it allowed Google access to richer accurate information about products which it trusts. This then opened the door for Shopping to be able to displays ads in more places, including on other Google partners.

Reason number 1: More product data, better user experience, more engagement

The more quality product information available to Google, the more likely they will serve your ads to the right customers. When Google can precisely identify the product via a GTIN number, it has more confidence that is matches a consumer’s search terms. GTIN numbers also allow advertisers a level of control on the targeting (who are often left floundering without the control of keyword use). And it works… feeds containing GTINs realize more engagement and higher conversions.

Reason number 2: Increase the number of impressions and conversions

Adding GTINs results in significantly more impressions. In the initial case study by Google, it quotes up to 40% more impressions after adding GTIN numbers (also validated by results for a group of Search Engine Land’s clients). But, better yet, Google claims that adding GTIN numbers resulted in up to 20% higher conversion rates.

While sourcing GTINs can be time-consuming, they are readily available online and directly from manufacturers, and it is well worth ensuring that your feed is up to date with all of these numbers to fully leverage Google Shopping – arguably the most effective sales tool for online retailers.

Google Shopping – Tips for Beginners

Google Shopping is a great platform for online retailers to reach customers, but is often fairly misunderstood and underutilised. It works differently to Google Ads and organic search. You won’t be able to leverage the latest SEO hacks. And you won’t spend ages writing and optimizing text ads. You are targeting people who are specifically looking for your products and, when used correctly, Google Shopping can produce very high quality site traffic, higher click-through rates than search, and higher conversions due to the relevancy of ads to consumers.

Right, so here are some tips for when you get started:

Get your product feed ready

Once your AdWords and Google Merchant Centre accounts are set up and you’ve created a new campaign, you’ll need to upload your product feed. If you’re using a feed management tool such as Shopping Feeder, you’ll be able to integrate your accounts and your feed will automatically be adjusted for Google Shopping feed requirements. You can then easily make further adjustments to the feed via the tool. If not, you’ll have to ensure that your feed contains the required product attributes. Remember, if your product feed doesn’t match your website, Google will not show your product ads so, unless you have the time to upload your feed manually often, it is best to use a tool which will update every few hours.

Google Merchant Centre: data feed overview

  • Google Shopping doesn’t use keywords to determine ad relevancy – so make sure your feed copy is keyword rich but, more importantly, appealing and easily readable for your shoppers.
  • Images are key! No edited or watermarked images are allowed, they need to simply and beautifully display the product to meet Google’s criteria and attract customer’s attention.

Spend time creating your Ad Groups

Once your product feed is uploaded, you’ll choose Ad Groups to organize your ads. It is worth spending some time doing this initially. If your feed is small (200 products or less), you may choose to have just one Ad Group. Segmenting your product feed into different ad groups allows you to bid differently on each group (remember you aren’t bidding on keywords). Initially, your campaign will have 1 group containing “all products”, which you can then segment into smaller product groups – with a different bid per group. For example, you may want to segment all of your products into 2 “clothes” and “shoes” groups, and then segment those further into brand and style. i.e. Nike Running Shoes may have a different bid to Levis Mens Jeans.

  • Google will automatically place products that are not categorized into an “Everything Else” group, which is often included by default when adjusting campaigns – watch out for this!
  • While you can’t necessarily leverage keywords in Shopping, you can add negative keywords to Ad Groups– which excludes that group from searches with that term.
  • If you have a small data feed, it’s best to have groups based on item ID so you can set bids per product.
  • Once your campaign has been running for a while, segment your best sellers into their own group so you can keep a special eye on them.
  • You should bid lower that you would usually on a search network. It is recommended to start at $.50 – $1. Changing a bid is easy and should immediately affect product performance.
  • Give mobile ads a go, but do keep an eye on them. Many retailers find that mobile is not profitable for more expensive products ($100 or more).
  • Although Google Shopping gives some metric benchmarks as guidance, use these only as a guide and ensure you are continuously reviewing your own benchmarks, based on industry feedback and your own ad performance. Cost per conversion is the best metric to use but might take you a while to get your head around.

Remember, Shopping is different

Google Shopping is not like your other campaigns, and many retailers get frustrated at the lack of control they feel they have over campaigns. You cannot use the complex tricks and tools you’ve learnt for search, and you might need to unlearn some of your habits and relearn a strategy for Google Shopping. But don’t be afraid to experiment with Shopping. Products that didn’t stand a chance on search may surprise you, and making small segmentation and bidding adjustments may reap immediate, great results.

We’ll be creating a guide to explore Google Shopping in much more detail shortly. In the meantime, please get in touch with us if you’d like any further information on Shopping Feeder’s integration with Google Shopping and how it can benefit your online store.

Comparison Channels – a top strategy for increasing sales

Whether you’re starting out or have been in the game for a while, you have probably heard that price or product comparison platforms (or “comparison channels” as we refer to them) can help you increase sales when used strategically. These sites receive large volumes of visitors who are searching for specific products, so they’re a good place to get your products in front of a large and engaged audience… But, how do they work? And, will they work for your online shop?

What are they?

Product comparison channels compare the features, specifications and price of multiple products, and are a useful tool for online shoppers to differentiate between the sometimes overwhelming choice of products available online. PriceCheck, Shopmania, Google Shopping and Shopping.com are some examples of these services. These websites are also extremely useful for small to medium-sized online retailers facing increasing competition, who struggle to optimize for search and allocate large budgets for paid advertising. When used correctly, these channels can be well worth the spend, driving good conversions for your online shop, with little hassle.

How they work

Before you start engaging with these sites, you need to ensure your website is up-to-date with product images, descriptions and item numbers. To get your products listed on these sites, you’ll need to provide a feed (typically in XML format) of all your products. Each platform may have slightly different data requirements, so it is highly recommended that you use a feed management tool such as ShoppingFeeder to streamline the process. Data feed management plugins connect to your e-commerce platform, and enable you to generate the required feed in a single click. Your product and pricing information will also automatically be kept up-to-date.

Once the required data has been processed by the site, the comparison channel will then display your product information to their visitors, alongside competitor’s products. Most operate on a Cost Per Click (CPC) model, so you pay a fee every time someone clicks on one of your products and is directed to your website. However, unlike other CPC marketing tools, people who click through to your site have been actively looking for this product and you can therefore expect a higher conversion rate than some of your other lead generation activities. There are a few free product comparison sites out there, so it is worth testing your top-selling products on both. Some sites also have a paid “featured product” service which may be worth testing too.

Why and who should use them

Product comparison websites are highly targeted advertising tools, and can reach a wide and engaged audience. They are relatively easy to manage and measure (compared to Google AdWords), and are great for brand visibility for retailers of all sizes, as products from smaller retailers are featured alongside products from large retailers. But, these sites don’t work well for all retailers. If you’re not keen to continuously compete on price, then perhaps stay away from these platforms. However, comparison channels are a great option if your strategy is to lead on the lowest price; if your products are completely unique; or if you are happy to play around with your product prices on a monthly basis.

Optimizing product comparison channels

Some comparison websites will yield a better ROI for your business than others so it is a good idea to try many, but you will not see results overnight so best to try a few at a time to ensure you have the time to optimize. Limiting the list of products that you upload to your top-sellers and lowering the price of certain products for a period are two common optimization strategies. Also, the more data you can give on each product, the better. It is important to measure the performance of channels closely initially, to figure out which channels are converting.

Getting started

In short, product or price comparison channels are fantastic marketing tools for your online shop. They put your products in front of a large audience, generate strong leads and high conversions, and are far simpler to manage than other lead generation channels such as Google AdWords. They do, however, require some time invested to ensure that your listings are optimized to compete, and that you’re featured on a site that works for your product range. Channel feeder tools such as Shopping Feeder make getting started on these channels very easy, and allow you to monitor performance. And, once you’ve hit the sweet spot, comparison channels can become your primary marketing strategy, significantly increasing website traffic, sales and brand recognition in a highly competitive global marketplace.

If you would like some help optimizing your site and selecting the right price or product comparison channels, register on ShoppingFeeder and our team will help you to leverage comparison channels strategically.

Why you need to optimize your data feed now

Your product feed can be daunting, and is therefore often ignored by retailers. Is optimizing the product feed sitting at the bottom of one of your retail manager or marketer’s to-do lists? Yet, optimizing your feed is a crucial step for successfully advertising your products online. Whatever your approach to date, it’s time to make it a priority.

Why it’s a big deal

Your product feed is your direct communication channel with product advertising and comparison channels. These channels use the data you’ve submitted to match an engaged online shopper to your product. If there is missing, irrelevant or outdated data, you’re losing out on the opportunity to be linked with someone who is actively looking for a product you’re selling: a hot lead.

As a retailer, you want to provide comparison channels with as much information as possible via your product feed because – the more information in your feed, the higher you’ll rank. And, the more accurate and comprehensive the information that a consumer receives about your product via online advertising or a comparison search, the higher the likelihood that they will convert when they do click through to your website. And therefore, a lower CPC and a higher ROI.

In essence, high quantity and quality data in your product feed = greater connection with high quality searches = greater conversions. Therefore, investing in optimizing your product feed can yield an immediate impact on your sales. Here’s how we suggest you approach it…

Decision: Use a tool or DIY

To start using online advertising or comparison channels, such as Google Shopping or PriceCheck, you’ll need to upload your product feed. At this stage, you have 2 options. You can directly upload your product feed onto the Google Merchant Centre, for example. This might be a good option if you have a very small range of products and have the time to monitor performance and play around a bit. Alternatively, you can choose to use a product feed tool, such as ShoppingFeeder.

The benefits of using a tool are huge, especially if you’re strapped for time and resources:

  • A feed management tool will extract product information straight from your website, and format it to create a feed for the multiple channels you’re using (different channels have different requirements). Price and stock changes will be automatically updated every few hours.
  • A tool allows you to make quick data edits on your different feeds, without affecting your site data.
  • Tools also continuously monitor each of your channels for feed errors, picking them up quickly and reducing the time your account is suspended for when they do arise.

Optimizing for Google Shopping

Optimizing your feed is especially important when you first start using a new advertising or comparison channel, but it is important to keep your eye out for areas to optimize on an ongoing basis too, taking into account channel performance and search trends. Before you start tweaking your feed for Google Shopping, do an audit of all the keywords that have worked well in your search campaigns and look to incorporate in your feed.

Spend time on product titles. Arguably the most important information in your whole feed, you should ensure that your titles include the relevant details, including brand name; size, color, or material product specifics; and any related promotions or discounts. Also, add in any successful keywords from search campaigns. Search Engine Land found that including a successful keyword “party dress” in the title for a specific dress increased interest by 3600 clicks, in comparison to the original title. There are 2 goals with the product title: for Google to rank your product, and for customers to click. So, all the relevant information should be there, but it must be attractive to read.
Ensure you have attractive images. Google is fussy about images – white background, no logos, and only the product in the photo. Alongside price and titles, images are the most influential factor on clicks.
Product descriptions are not so important. They need to be there, but the product title is far more important and should be where all relevant information is featured.
Don’t keyword stuff. Google doesn’t take kindly old school SEO tactics.
Check your Google Product categories. There are many product categories, so ensure each of yours is in one that is the most relevant.

Ensuring information in your feed is accurate and comprehensive is essential for maximizing your ranking, click-through-rates and conversions from product comparison channels. Yet, the process need not be daunting.

Find out more about Shopping Feeder now.

Why you should be remarketing

If you haven’t already dabbled in remarketing, now is the time to do so. Remember the pair of shoes you browsed online, that you then saw an ad for later on another site or Facebook? That was no coincidence, that was some great remarketing.

Using a mix of general remarketing and dynamic retargeting, you’ll be able to significantly increase your online advertising ROI. Here’s why:

What is remarketing

Remarketing is a strategy for addressing a retailer’s big question, “how do we bring them back?” Remarketing tools allow you to reach out to people who have visited your website as they browse on other websites, and prompt them back to your site for another look – to convert to buyers. With general remarketing, you’re able to reach out to broad lists of people – site visitors, previous buyers or people in your email database. With dynamic remarketing, you can take it a step further and leverage your product feed to create ads for a specific product or range, to people who have already shown direct interest, and serve them different messages based on the action they took. It is personal, targeted and highly effective.

3 quick benefits of remarketing

1. Bring them back and convert

Remarketing allows you to directly reach out to engaged potential customers (prospects) once they’ve left your site, prompting them back to your site. The calls to actions on dynamic remarketing ads can be related to the action they’ve already taken on your site – leading them back into your sales funnel right where they left off, leading to significantly higher conversions.

2. Strengthen your brand

Remarketing allows you to place your brand in front of prospects on an ongoing basis, strengthening brand recognition. Whether using dynamic retargeting for specific products, or more general targeting for a range of products or your site in general, a good remarketing strategy keeps your shop top of mind for online browsers.

3. Targeted and relevant

People are bombarded with so many marketing messages these days. Remarketing enables you to talk to a specific audience with a specific message, making your ads more personal and noticeable. With dynamic retargeting, you can serve a different message and call to action to a potential customer, based on their previous action i.e. those who had put a product in their cart, versus someone who just visited the product page. Your ads can appeal to the specific interests and actions of a visitor. Powerful!

Dynamic Remarketing – Facebook and Google

Pulling from your product feed (most feed management tools integrate with Facebook and Google), dynamic remarketing allows you to target even more specifically. Google and Facebook are the two most powerful platforms for dynamic retargeting and most retailers will choose to run general, as well as dynamic, remarketing campaigns on both, as they have equally massive daily user bases. The Google Display Network reaches 90% of global internet users, and 65% on a daily basis. Google serves more than one trillion impressions to 1 billion internet users on a daily basis. Facebook has around 1.4 billion users, with around 900 million visiting daily.

Facebook remarketing works especially well for lifestyle or fashion products that align with the browsing intentions of someone on social media. Facebook’s dynamic templates save you time in configuring the design for each ad, and allow you to scale your remarketing. These templates are well optimized for Newsfeed and Sidebar ads, as well as mobile.

Google dynamic retargeting is of course the perfect complement to Google Shopping. You will be able to remarket to people as they browse all kinds of other sites online, and works well for a wider scope of products than Facebook. With Google remarketing, you’ll have complete control over your budget and can easily measure performance. You’ll also be able to see which sites in the Display Network are top performers, therefore optimizing your ads and spend to fit.

The results say it all

Research by PPC Strategies on a selection of their client’s Google remarketing results over time showed that dynamic remarketing converts more effectively and at a lower cost, run alongside general remarketing for best results.

PPC Hero quotes a 400% increase in click-through-rates, a 10-20% increase in conversion rates and a 30-40% decrease in average cost per acquisition when incorporating dynamic Facebook dynamic retargeting into a selection of a Perfect Audience client’s Facebook remarketing strategies.

A recent case study by Fialkov Digital on Isreal’s largest online pharmacy, Medilink, showed a 70% lower cost per lead, 12% higher click through rate and 12X higher ROI from executing a dynamic remarketing campaign on Facebook, targeting customers who had shown interest in products on the site but hadn’t completed purchases.

Online Ad Agency, Wordstream, has found that adopting a remarketing strategy (over 18 months) increased their repeat visitors by 50%, boosted conversion by 51%, and increased the time spent on their website by 300%. Interestingly, they also found that while click-through-rates decreased over time, conversion rates actually increased, due to a higher quality, engaged click-through.

Remarketing is a highly effective strategy for increasing brand recognition, optimizing your ad spend, and supplying potential customers with a personal shopping experience. And of course, using a feed management tool such as Shopping Feeder makes leveraging remarketing tools much simpler and quicker. What are you waiting for? It’s time to start bringing those potential customers back.