Google Merchant Center is a platform for retail brands to create and manage product ads in Google Ads. Instead of relying on text ads to promote your items, Google Merchant Center allows you to create visual product ads that entice consumers to browse and click.
Google Shopping ads generate significantly higher
click-through rates than regular text ads, generating 85.3% of all retail clicks via Google as of
2018. In other words, if you’re selling consumer products, you want
to be promoting them with shopping ads but, first, you need to get familiar
with Google Merchant Center.
On Google Merchant Center you can store and manage information about the products you sell by uploading a product feed with all the relevant information such as images, descriptions, prices, etc.
More importantly, this product feed allows you to start
creating shopping campaigns and other wonderful stuff in Google Ads. This is
where you can start leveraging Google Shopping ads and enjoying those
impressive click-through rates.
The first thing Merchant Center allows you to do in Google
Ads is create Shopping campaigns. So, when someone searches for the kind of
products you’re selling, you can bid to appear in the Google Shopping feed.
Retailers using Google Shopping campaigns report increased
visibility, higher CTRs and improved KPIs where it matters most: sales, revenue
Your Merchant Center data can also be used to promote
products you sell offline and increase in-store visits. By using local inventory ads, you can reach people
searching in your local area and show them you have the product they’re looking
for, in stock and ready to buy.
This is a big deal for bricks-and-mortar stores selling products people want to try on or see before they buy (clothes, furniture, TVs, etc.). Local inventory ads are also a powerful tool when people need to buy something in a hurry – like before the shops close for Christmas or a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift on the way back from work.
First, head over to the Google Merchant Center website and create your account. Simply sign up and follow the prompts to enter your business information (website, business location, etc.).
Finally, you will be asked to verify your website and you’ll be given four options for this. You can upload an HTML file to your website, verify through Google Analytics, add an HTML tag to your site or verify using Google Tag Manager. You’ll be guided through whichever option you choose.
Once you’re set up and verified, the real work can begin: creating your data feed.
With your Merchant Center account set up, you’ll be prompted to upload your product data, which the platform calls a “data feed”. Before you do this, you’ll need to actually create a product feed.
There are numerous ways you can do this, however, we recommend using the Google Sheet template provides in Merchant Center.
This gives you full control over your data feed and makes it
easier to manually fix any errors.
In the Google Sheets doc, each row represents a different
product and you’ll need to enter attributes in the relevant columns. Make sure
you don’t delete or change any of the column headers. Just delete the example
product info and place your own data in the relevant cells.
Some eCommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce have dedicated features for creating and exporting data feeds to Merchant Center. These are generally good alternatives to manually creating your own product feed and regularly updated.
Likewise, open-source platforms like WooCommerce and
OpenCart have plugins available that can do this for you but the quality of these
can vary greatly and there’s no guarantee they’ll continue to be updated or
supported as Merchant Center evolves.
For each product in your data feed, you’ll need to define the following attributes in the correct format. You can find details on the official Google documentation, but here’s a quick summary of what you’ll need to include:
In cases where there are no GTIN or MTN available for your
products (eg: handcrafted items from natural materials), skip the GTIN and MPN
columns and simply type “no” into the indentifier_exists
With your data feed complete, you’re now ready to upload it
to Merchant Center. Log in to GMC, click on the Products tab in the left-side menu and then click on the Feeds link in the following drop-down
Then, click on the blue +
button to upload a new feed and follow the instructions that pop up on-screen.
You’ll be asked to define your country of sale and language on the first
prompt. In Google Merchant Center, a target country defines which country
people will be able to see your product listings in search.
If you want to sell in multiple locations, you have to
upload a separate feed for each location and language setting.
On the next screen, you’ll be asked to name your feed and choose
which format to submit it. By default, the Google Sheets option is selected
(recommended) so you can click Continue
and, on the next screen upload your spreadsheet.
Once your data feed is uploaded to Merchant Center, the first
thing you’ll need to do is check the status of your products in the Diagnostics
This is where you’ll see any issues with your feed, which
will show as warnings and disapprovals. The dashboard will help you identify
the cause of any problems, which could include anything from missing data and
policy violations to missing mobile landing pages.
Next, you’ll want to link Merchant Center to Google Ads by
following the instructions on this page.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you update your feed regularly to ensure all of your data remains up to date. Products in GMC expire after 30 days, so this is the minimum requirement or updating your feed. However, many retailers update their feeds on a daily basis or even more frequently if stock statuses and prices change rapidly.
Getting your Google Merchant Center account up and running correctly can take a bit of work and the same could be said for managing your feeds. However, the performance of Google Shopping campaigns and the ability of local inventory ads to generate in-store visits makes the workload more than worth it.
If you don’t have the capacity to manage a Merchant Center account yourself or are experiencing problems, you can speak to our Google Ads experts by contacting us 02392 830281.
Kerry is Head of SMB SEO. Kerry started her digital marketing career with a web design company back in 1996, then moved in-house as a digital marketing manager before moving back to the agency fold with Vertical Leap as an SEO specialist in 2006, moving to the department head role in 2011. She currently lives in Bishop's Waltham with her husband and daughter.
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