A lot goes into creating successful Google Shopping campaigns.

It's easy to get caught up with campaign details that have high optimization caps, only to overlook important campaign elements that bottleneck performance if left ignored.

Even the most ambitious marketers often gloss over important campaign elements. One area vital to campaign success that is also prone to negligence is product categorization.

Google Product Categories are strongly recommended even when they're not required.

But what are they and why do they matter so much?

We've got you covered.

Why Are Product Categories Important to Google Shopping Campaigns?

In order to better understand what you're selling, Google requires that you assign categories from their product taxonomy to your products.

google product categories google shopping

For example, let's say you're selling tuxedos.

You can do plenty with your titles and descriptions to help Google understand your products, but those alone won't fully define what you're selling.

To do so, you'll also want to choose the most accurate Product Category (google_product_category). This will make sure that Google knows exactly what you’re selling.

The specific ID for tuxedos looks like this:

“Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Suits > Tuxedos”

As you can see, “tuxedos” aren’t a standalone category but the fourth in a string of categories, each of which provide context and add to Google’s understanding.

Despite the importance of this attribute, it’s sometimes optional. You only have to select a Google Product Category when you’re selling one of the following:

  • Apparel & Accessories > Clothing
  • Apparel & Accessories > Shoes
  • Apparel & Accessories > Clothing Accessories > Sunglasses
  • Apparel & Accessories > Handbags, Wallets & Cases > Handbags
  • Apparel & Accessories > Jewelry > Watches
  • Media > Books
  • Media > DVDs & Videos
  • Media > Music & Sound Recordings
  • Software > Video Game Software

Still, it is highly recommended that you apply a google_product_category to each and every one of your items. Otherwise, your products could be disapproved by Google Merchant Center, a frustrating problem to fix.

Google Product Categories. Vs. Product Type Categories

Confusing Google Product Categories and Product Type (product_type) categories can be easy to do depending on how you organize your products.

It’s best not to make this mistake.

Product type categories are for your own categorizing, so you can choose whichever values you want for all of your different products. These categories makes it easy to immediately compare campaigns just by looking at the reporting in Google Ads.

While that makes them an extremely important part of your marketing strategy, Google Product Categories play a much bigger role in how campaigns actually perform.

google product categories google shopping

An easy way to go about avoiding confusing the two is to use Google's product taxonomy as your product_type nomenclature system. You can use Google Product Categories as your product_type categories, but not the other way around.

If you decide to reference a different system for your product types, be sure to stay organized and categorize responsibly.

3 Best Practices for Google Shopping Product Categories

Given how important Google Product Categories are, it’s important you get them right the first time. Otherwise, you may find out that you’ve been losing out on sales because Google was showing your ads to the wrong people.

Worse, some of those people may have actually clicked on your ad without buying. Now, you’ve wasted money and given Google a reason to think that your ad might not be very good.

To keep this from happening, here are some best practices to consider:

1. Review All of Your Options

Going through every single item your company offers can be a time-consuming activity.

It usually is... but it has to be done.

Fortunately, once completed, you won't have to manually go through the entire list again. You'll only need to check back to make sure new, better-fitting categories haven’t been added.

Now, you probably don’t need to go through all 6,000+ options.

google product categories google shopping

If you start with the right primary category, you should be able to save time and make the correct selections.

As an example of what could happen if you don’t consider all your options, say you sell dog treats. If you’re scrolling down Google’s list of categories, you might stop at:

“3530 - Animals & Pet Supplies > Pet Supplies > Dog Supplies > Dog Food”

After all, your product is for dogs and it is food.

Yet, if you had kept scrolling just a little further, you would have found:

“5011 - Animals & Pet Supplies > Pet Supplies > Dog Supplies > Dog Treats”

Would shoppers searching for “dog food” be interested in “dog treats"?

Some probably would. However, you’ll see much better engagement and conversions if each of your Categories is as precise as possible.

2. Keep an Eye on Your “Best Fit” Categories

What happens if your product doesn’t seem to really fit any category?

Even with well over 6,000 options, it’s possible.

Some marketers worry about making the wrong decision so, if their particular product type doesn’t require a category, they just leave it blank.

That’s a big mistake. Remember, at that point, you’re just letting Google guess.

Instead, pick the “best fit.”

So, if you’re selling a product that helps dogs get their strength up after a surgery, you’re not going to find a specific category that reflects this.

You might have to pick a “best fit” like “Dog Toys,” but you'll have to keep a close eye on how it performs. You may want to go with another option if the product ends up not performing as you'd expect.

3. Get Everything Else Right

If you have to go with a “best fit” category, that’s all the more reason to make sure that you optimize every last detail of the rest of your Google Shopping Campaign. Otherwise, you may continue to switch your categories, thinking that’s to blame for your poor conversions.

Even if you find a perfect match, don’t stop there. Categories help, but they’re not enough to produce the best possible results on their own.

Check back on your campaigns regularly to look for further opportunities to keep improving their performance.


Closing Thoughts

Are Google Product Categories the most exciting part of a Shopping campaign?

Not by a long shot, but they're definitely a fundamental element.

If you get it wrong, everything else you try–from better descriptions to negative keywords–will have very little impact.

For optimal results, get them right the first time and keep an eye out for any new better-fitting additions. That’s all it takes to ensure your categories help you convert.