Google Shopping PLAs continue to provide companies with one of the best opportunities to position products in front of the largest possible audience.
Unfortunately, far too many sellers don’t take full advantage of this opportunity. Mostly because they don’t know how easy it is to get Google to showcase your products in SERPs by simply feeding Merchant Center fully optimized product data. We’re here to fix that.
But before, we jump into the "How to Optimize" part, let's briefly go over the "Why to Optimize". Optimized product feeds are more effective for two reasons:
- Optimized product feeds perform better.
- Optimized product feeds save you money on ad spend.
What does better performance really mean, though? To put it in the most basic terms, better PLA performance means more impressions and more clicks. The science is simple: If you grow your audience (more impressions) and you grow your engagement (more clicks) you grow your chances to sell.
Optimized products feeds pump better data into Google Merchant Center, which helps the platform index, categorize and distribute your PLAs more effectively. The same algorithm cues that get your ads in front of more shoppers, also trigger better targeting, which means your ads get delivered to higher-quality prospects. Better targeting means less wasted ad spend.
An optimized Google Shopping feed has three characteristics:
- Good use of key attributes
- Complete data
- Fresh, accurate information
Let’s look at how to optimize your Google Shopping product feed for each of these characteristics.
Make Good Use of Required Fields
An optimized Google Shopping feed yields multiple benefits. It can get you more impressions, boost click-through rates, reduce wasted spend and even improve your Quality Score. The bulk of these results comes just a few key feed attributes:
- Image link
- Product Category
An optimized title can drastically increase your product’s search performance. You should always include details such as brand name, product type, and attributes specific to that product. The order you write them in matters, and it differs from category to category.
Here are a few examples:
- Apparel: Brand + Gender + Product Type + Attributes (e.g., color, material, size)
- Books: Title + Type + Format (e.g., paperback, eBook) + Author
- Electronics: Brand + Attributes + Product Type + Model
- Hard Goods: Brand + Product Type + Attributes (e.g., size, quantity, weight)
- Seasonal: Occasion + Product Type + Attributes
For example, in the apparel category, you might write “Nike Men’s Sleeveless Athletic Shirt Red Size XL.” For seasonal, you drop the brand in favor of the occasion, like so: “Mother’s Day Birthstone Necklace 5-Stone Customized.”
Google Shopping campaigns don’t use keywords. However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid keywords in your written copy. Quite the opposite. Rather than using campaign keywords to bring up relevant products, Google searches the product details themselves. If the details seem to match the search, that product will be in the results. That means you need to write your descriptions with your targeted keywords in mind.
Not sure which keywords to target? Use the Google Ads Keyword Planner, take a look at search query reports from Google Webmaster Tools, and look at the historical search queries from your own campaign.
Don’t just include these words, either. Think about synonyms. Colloquialisms. Similar phrases. It is valuable to include any terms that people might search for when looking for your product.
Always use high-resolution photos, and provide multiple angles as well as images of the product in use when applicable. Do not scale up smaller images, or use thumbnails.
Don’t submit illustrations or generic images. There are only three exceptions to this rule. Illustrations are allowed for the Hardware and Vehicles & Parts categories, and you can submit single color images for any paint category.
It is important that the images you provide accurately reflect the product you are selling, especially because online buyers cannot see or touch the item like they would at a brick-and-mortar store.
Manufacturer images of products are fine, but they are unlikely to help you stand out. One way to do that is to hire a professional photographer to take your own pictures.
Product Identifiers: GTIN/MPN/Brand
If you resell products from another manufacturer, you should use Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs). When your products have this number and someone does a high funnel specific search, only one PLA will appear. And when people click on it, it takes them to a product landing page showing only what’s available for your online store.
Just as valuable, it helps your products show up when people use words like “Top” or “Best” in their queries. If you maintain high customer review scores, you should end up near the top.
MPNs are required for products that don’t have a manufacturer-assigned GTIN, although some exceptions are made for custom and handmade products. The same principles as GTIN apply here. An expert tip here is to include MPNs when you have them -- even if you have a GTIN already included in your feed. Why? Because there’s always a chance shoppers will be looking for it.
A product's brand attribute is simply the brand name. Pretty straightforward. Though there are some important quirks to take into account:
- For generic products, don’t use “generic” as the brand. Leave the field empty.
- For custom or handmade products, don’t use “custom”. Leave the field empty.
- For brand name products, use the common brand. For example, “Nike” not “Nike Sportswear”.
Product categories can be a powerful tool to help shoppers find your products. Fine-tuning your product categorization can drastically improve your products' chances of being shown for relevant search results. If your product categorization is meh, you'll be losing ad impressions and potential opportunities for sales.
For some products, a category is quickly apparent. But for many, you’ll actually have multiple options that are relevant.
Consider this example of an adapter for a hunting-specific dog lead. In Google Shopping’s taxonomy, you have two possible options:
- Animals & Pet Supplies > Pet Supplies > Dog Supplies
- Sporting Goods > Outdoor Recreation > Hunting & Shooting > Hunting > Hunting Dog Equipment
So which is best? Is it the category that will yield the highest search volume? (Option 1.) Or the more specific category? (Option 2.)
It’s not always easy to determine this up front. Here are some tips to help you find the right categories for each and every one of your products and get in front of exponentially more (and more relevant) shoppers.
First and foremost, you need to know what categories are available for you products. But don't stop at the obvious. There may be several more options that are not just suitable, but better-suited for your product.
You won’t know that if you stop looking after you find the first match.
Don’t Mislead Shoppers
Make sure the category you select is accurate. Many marketplaces will penalize you for miscategorizing items, either rejecting the feed entirely or even cancelling your account.
Plus, you are more likely to get the shoppers you want if you are providing accurate information.
Weigh Your Options: Popular vs. Niche
Should you opt for the most general category in the hopes of getting your product in front of more eyeballs? Or a niche category where a more targeted audience will be searching?
The urge to go after big numbers can be powerful, but don’t overlook the advantage of having less competition in a more specific product category.
Test Your Categories
The best way to determine the right categories for your products is to A/B test. Try one category for a period of time, and then try another. Analyze the results.
Sometimes the winner is fairly obvious, but if they are very close, don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions. Do another test to confirm what you think.
This may not be something you have the time or resources to do for every product, so consider selecting entire product types or focusing on bestsellers.
This one is simple. Use standard colors for this field. If your internal color nomenclature is “nightfall”, use the standardized color version as the value for this field; in this case “black”.
That’s not to take away from your product’s unique color qualities. It’s to maximize your potential reach. You can still include your product’s unique color in the description and title, but because the Color field determines Google Shopping’s color filter function, it’s best use a standard color value. This will ensure your product is included when shoppers filter for color.
* Note: Some required fields were not mentioned because the values are not optimizable, i.e., price, link, condition, gender, material, pattern, size, shipping, etc.
More Is Better -- When It Comes to Product Data
Simply put, Google offers every company 45 non-required fields that they can complete to better market their products on top of the required categories.
If you’re not currently optimizing your listings by using as many of these fields as possible, it’s time to change that right away.
There literally isn’t a single downside to providing Google with more information about your products by completing all of the 45 non-required fields that are relevant to your market.
The more data you provide Google for your PLAs, the better it will “understand” and market your product.
This will greatly improve your marketing funnel’s ROI as your Google Shopping efforts zero-in on shoppers with much better chances of converting. As you’re providing them with helpful information, you have a much lower risk of losing customers who go off to do their own research and never come back.
There's always the chance that, if you don’t provide Google with as much information as possible, you run the risk of providing competitors with a powerful advantage.
For example, a shopper may be very interested in purchasing a product that falls under a certain energy-efficiency class – something you’re not required to provide Google if your local laws don’t demand it. However, if you ignore this field, you’ll have made it very easy for shoppers to choose any competitor that didn’t. Instead of doing the extra work to investigate the energy-efficiency class of your product, why wouldn’t they just buy from a company that has provided this information?
Complete Your Feed
To give you a better understanding of just how many opportunities are available for strengthening your ads, let’s look at the entire list of all 45 of the fields you can complete in Google PLA.
Some of these are requirements depending on the product you’re selling, the demographic your targeting, and your country’s specific laws.
- Additional Image – Add the URL of another image of your product. This is an opportunity to actually show your product in use or from another angle. Up to 10 images can be included.
- Mobile – Add a mobile-friendly landing page if you have one that differs from a desktop version. This ensures maximum exposure to mobile users.
- Availability Date – If your product is available for preorder, you can use this field to show customers when it will be ready for delivery.
- Expiration Date – Use this field if your product will only be available for a limited time so you don’t receive orders pass the expiration date.
- Sale Price – This field is available if you want to offer your product at a discount.
- Sale Price Effective Data – Schedule when the sale price goes into effect and when it expires.
- Unit Pricing Measure – This may be a required field depending on the laws and regulations in your country. Otherwise, it’s an optional field that you can use to tell customers about the dimensions of your product.
- Unit Pricing Base Measure – Again this may be required by law, but it’s also a helpful field if you’re selling your product by unit size (e.g. $1.00/100ml).
- Installment – This is only available for companies in Brazil and Mexico that want to offer payment plans.
- Loyalty Points – For companies with a loyalty program, you can display how many points they’ll earn for their purchase.
- Google Product Category – This is required for Apparel & Accessories, Media, and Software. However, you can use this field to tell Google under which category your product falls.
- Product Type – This is a similar field to the last one, except you define which category pertains to your product.
- Brand – This category is required for all new products, except Books, Movies, and Musical Recordings, but any company can use it to provide their brand’s name.
- GTIN – This field is required for all new products with a GTIN assigned by the manufacturer. You can also supply one if you have your own.
- MPM – You must complete this field if your new product does not have a manufacturer assigned GTIN. It’s an option for any company with their own MPN, though.
- Identifier Exists – This is an option if your new product has no GTIN or MPN and brand.
- Multipack – This field is required in Australia, Brazil, Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US if you’re selling a multipack item. It’s optional for any other country.
- IS Bundle – This field is required in Australia, Brazil, Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US if you’re selling a multipack of different items. It’s optional for all other countries.
- Energy Efficiency Class – This is only an option for companies in the EU and CH that want to provide their product’s energy class label. It may be required by local laws and regulations, though.
- Min Energy Efficiency Class – Again, this field is only available in the EU and CH for companies that want to include their product’s minimum energy value. It may be required by local laws and regulations.
- Max Energy Efficiency Class – This is another field that is only an option for companies in the EU and CH that want to include their product’s maximum energy value. It could be required by local laws and regulations.
- Age Group – This field is required for all Apparel items targeting customers in Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US and any products with assigned age groups. Otherwise, it’s an option for any company that wants to specify their product’s intended demographic.
- Color – This field is required for all Apparel items targeted at customers in Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US and any all products available in different colors. Any company can use it, though, to include the color of their products.
- Gender – This field is also required for all Apparel items in feeds targeting Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US and all gender-specific products. However, any company can utilize it to specify the intended gender of their product.
- Material –You are only required to complete this field if the material of one product is necessary to distinguish it from different products in a set of variants. You don’t need variants, though, to use this field to specify your materials.
- Pattern – Similarly, this field is only required if necessary for distinguishing different products in a set of variants, but any company can complete it to explain your product’s graphic print or pattern.
- Size – You need to complete this field for all Apparel items in the Apparel & Accessories > Clothing and Apparel & Accessories > Shoes product categories if you’re targeting Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US. The same goes for all products available in different sizes. It’s optional for any other companies that want to include their product’s different sizes.
- Size Type – Use this field to include size characteristics like plus-size, regular, petite, maternity, etc. This is only an option for Apparel.
- Size System – This field is also only available for Apparel. You can use it to specify the country of the size system you used for your product.
- Item Group ID –You must complete this field for Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the US if your products have variants. It’s an option for any company that has an ID for a set of products that come in different variants.
- Ads Redirect – Use this field to include the tracking parameters for your Google Ads account and better understand the traffic to your company’s landing page.
- Excluded Destination – This setting allows you to exclude products from specific types of advertising campaigns you’re using.
- Included Destination – Use this field to specify which products you want included in a specific advertising campaign.
- Custom Label – You can use this field to assign labels to any products to better organize your reporting and bidding in Shopping Campaigns.
- Promotion ID – This field is a requirement for Merchant Promotions in Australia, France, Germany, India, the UK, and the US.
- Shipping –This field must be filled out for all companies in Australia, Czechia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. It’s an option for any other company that wants to include the shipping cost for their products.
- Shipping Label – You can utilize this field to assign labels to products to help specify the shipping costs in your Merchant Center account settings.
- Shipping Weight – This field must be filled out in your account shipping settings for any table based on weight, carrier-calculated rates, or any rules based on weight. Otherwise, it’s an option for informing customers how much shipping will cost based on the weight or weight class of their order.
- Shipping Length – This field is require in your account shipping settings for carrier-calculated rates, but any company can utilize it if the length of the product will affect the cost of shipping.
- Shipping Width – This field is also a requirement in your account shipping settings for all carrier-calculated shipping rates. However, it’s always an option if the width of your product will affect your shipping costs.
- Shipping Height – Again, this field is a requirement for carrier-calculated rates. Otherwise, it’s optional if you want to specify how much a product costs by height.
- Max Handling Time – This field is only an option in the U.S. It’s an opportunity to describe the longest amount of time that will pass between when an order is placed and when it is shipped.
- Minimum Handling Time – This field is also only an option in the U.S. You can use it to specify the shortest amount of time that will elapse between an order being placed and the product being shipped.
- Tax – This field is also only available in the U.S. You can use it to include your product’s sales tax in the form of a percentage.
- Tax Category – Use this field to categorize your product by the tax rules that apply to it. This is a good option for any product where custom tax rates apply at the account level.
Optimize Every Data Point
Now that you have a better understanding of how much more information you can provide through nonrequired Google PLA fields, it’s important that you know how to make the most out of each.
Here are three incredibly simple -- yet very powerful -- ways to supercharge the data you include for every one of your PLAs.
1. Use the Same Language as Your Audience
Each of the 45 categories outlined above gives you the option to use whatever language you want to describe your product.
This is a fantastic opportunity if you know how to describe your products using the same language your audience does. If you don’t do this, then those fields probably won’t improve your company’s marketing much.
For example, if the “size type” category applies to one of your products, be sure you know how your audience refers to their different sizes. “Maternity” will gain a lot more traction for expecting mothers than listing your clothes as L, XL, etc.
It’s not a bad idea to take a look at the wording your competitors use for some of these fields. With any luck, they haven’t optimized their Google PLAs by completing nonrequired options, but if they have, their word-choice may prove extremely helpful.
2. Don’t Neglect SEO
These extra categories also give you a lot of added room to use your relevant keywords. Again, if you have competitors who seem to be enjoying a lot more traffic, it might be because they’ve optimized each of their products’ PLAs.
This should not be misinterpreted as an endorsement of keyword stuffing, though. It’s still not a good idea to use any keywords that aren’t relevant or overuse the ones that are.
3. Be Careful About Spelling Errors in Your Fields
Get in the habit of running Spellcheck again and again when you’re filling out these fields. You now have dozens of new opportunities to include spelling errors for each product you’re listing.
Obviously, that won’t look very professional to your market, but it could also hurt your rankings, too.
Keep Your Product Information Fresh and Accurate
One of the worst things you can do on Google Shopping is submit outdated product info. Not only will it cost you sales -- like, if a shopper click on your ad expecting one thing but gets another -- but it can actually get you kicked off Google Ads.
Wrong price. Out of stock. Old titles and descriptions for new models. Outdated image links. These can all wreak havoc on the health of your product feed.
The solution here is submit a fresh feed at least once a day. Include in the new feed all changes to your product catalog. Doing this manually will take some doing. That’s why so many sellers opt for an automated data feed solution.
How you do it is up to you. What is non-negotiable is this: Data freshness is an absolute must-have if you want optimized Google Shopping feeds.
Automate to Dominate
Ensuring your Google Shopping feed is fully optimized sounds like a lot of work. After all, you have to make sure data is fresh, fields are complete and that key attributes are customized specifically for Google Shopping.
Depending on the number products you have, doing this manually could be unrealistic. That’s why so many sellers rely on GoDataFeed to automate these steps for maximum advantage with minimal effort.
Contact us today to request a demo -- and to see for yourself why over 2,000 sellers opt to automate their Google Shopping feed optimization with us.