How to Make the Most of Google Shopping while it’s free
You may or may not have already heard that Google Shopping will soon become a paid service. Already being rolled out in the US, fortunately we have a few more months (apparently until 2013) in the UK to enjoy the product listings for free. However, some of you may not be making the most of the free listings which provide the opportunity to gain some high-converting traffic to your e-commerce website.
Having played with Google product feeds since the days of Google Base when advertisers didn’t even have to have a website(!) and spamming seemed to work a treat, I’m now seeing some fantastic results being gained for Google Shopping, where the channel is contributing 6% of all online revenue for one particular site. Not bad considering that revenue doesn’t have any click costs, or link building budget to achieve it. Here are 5 key tips on how to improve performance in Google Shopping (while it’s still free!)…
Get familiar with attributes
Google provide some detailed guides on their requirements for a product feed, make sure you read through them thoroughly when creating your feed. At first it may sound complicated, but the feed is basically a txt or xml file that’s easily created in Excel, the main thing to get right is the columns you use in your spread sheet – the column headings are your product attributes.
Some attributes are required in the feed so it’s essential to make yourself familiar with these – failure to include the required attributes can lead to your feed being suspended in the Google Merchant Centre so you want to avoid this no matter what.
Key attributes to note are the Google Product Category and Unique Product Identifiers (UPI’s) – you should make sure you use Google’s own categories from this list, and ensure you meet the guidelines to provide Google with at least two UPI’s.
Create an automatic feed & scheduled upload
Simply creating a product feed and uploading it to the Merchant Centre is not enough – there’s a lot of competition in the product listings now and there are certain ways to optimise your feed to ensure you have a better chance in appearing in the search results. One way to do this is by keeping your product feed up-to-date as Google wants to provide users with the most relevant data, so not sending them to an out-of-stock product for example.
The best way to ensure your data is up-to-date is by creating a feed that is published live on your server that will automatically update every 24 hours or weekly, depending on how often your products are added/go out of stock. You can then create a scheduled upload within the Merchant Centre, specifying the URL of your live feed. If you’ve set your feed to update every day then set your schedule to daily and so on. It has been suggested that fresher feeds are more likely to appear in shopping results and that this approach will enhance your chances.
Optimise product pages
Again, I’ll reiterate – simply creating a feed and uploading it to the Merchant Centre is not enough – you need to optimise your products for Google to understand what they are and be able to rank them for relevant search terms. I saw an example the other day where all of the product names on an e-commerce site were simply the product codes. Not ideal for someone who is shopping around using generic search terms like ‘wooden bench’ rather than ‘WB395EX’. No wonder they weren’t getting much traffic through Google Shopping.
So the hint here is to ensure you optimise your products in the same way you’d optimise a landing page for particular keyword phrases. Think about generic words that can be used to describe your products and use them in your product titles and descriptions. A product with the title ‘2 Seater White Oak Wood Bench – WB395EX’ is more likely to appear in the results than one titled ‘WB395EX’ for example.
Fix site errors
Google aims to promote quality websites, so make sure you provide them with quality. In the same way that you should keep your data fresh to reflect accurate stock levels, you should also make sure that you don’t provide Google with broken URLs or image links. 404 errors will likely stop Google displaying your products in the search results so make sure all of your URLs are correct.
If you’ve missed any, the Google Merchant Centre does show you any errors it comes across in the ‘data quality’ section, so keep an eye on this regularly.
Track Google Shopping traffic in Google Analytics
If at the beginning of this blog post you were wondering how I know that my client has gained 6% of their revenue through Google Shopping then you should definitely read on for this tip. First of all, if you haven’t already – set up Google Analytics on your website. It’s free and easy to install. Secondly, make sure you have e-commerce tracking set up correctly within Google Analytics (ensure you have the correct code installed on your receipt or thank you page, and that the e-commerce setting is on in the admin panel of Analytics).
Once you’re confident you’re tracking transactions and revenue etc in Google Analytics, you just need to add a simple bit of coding to the end of your product URLs to be able to see the traffic, transactions and revenue you’re gaining from Google Shopping.
Basically all you need to do is add the following parameter to all of your product URLs within the feed:
Use the URL Builder Tool to create your own tracking codes here, you can put anything into the source, medium and campaign fields to identify your Google Shopping traffic. Using the example above, my Google Analytics shows this in the traffic report:
When you’ve got your product feed up and running, you should keep checking the Merchant Centre every now and then to keep an eye out for any errors and make sure your products are eligible to appear in the listings.
As for Google Shopping becoming a paid model – if you’re tracking the results it’s getting you in Analytics then you’ll have a better idea of how your products can perform in the listings and whether it will be worth starting a campaign with the paid version when it arrives.
Whether you’re looking to improve your performance in the shopping results at the moment or want to know more about the paid model (which is currently available in the UK through AdWords) – feel free to contact Creare to help you find the best solution.