Since March 2013 Google Merchant has become a paid service, in a way it’s the same as Adwords but then with images which is nicely displayed in the shopping area of Google’s Shopping website and as a commercial unit along side organic ranking.
I have previously written how to generate a xml data feed using PHP and MySQL for Google Merchant and how to set up custom products. Today I will teach you several Tips and Tricks on how to optimize your ranking in Google Shopping and beat your competition.
There are two other articles I have written that are complementary to this subject, which are SEO Content Quality and SEO Title Research. These two subjects cover the title of your products and writing good descriptions.
All my studies are statistically correct and are never based on my personal preferences. Statistics beat time over time personal opinions, throughout my career as a Web Developer. Now back on topic and I will explain my experience with Google Shopping and how to beat the competition.
Percentage Difference Between Adwords and Google Shopping
Previously I have mentioned that Google Shopping has a higher conversion rate that that of Adwords, after lots of tweaking on the Adwords campaigns I have now found that the Adwords rank higher by half a percent. I have had some seminars and coaching from the Google Team which helped me refocus the campaigns.
This does not mean that Google Shopping is bad, it only shows how much time you have to spend to get better results. I consider myself an advanced user with a monthly budget of $13950. All my campaigns have a high return with an average of 2.76% where the highest conversion rate is 8.94% and the lowest 0.93%.
These figures change constantly, as I use allot of my time tweaking the ads, from keywords, landing page, to ad text etc…
Even thought that the percentage for Google Shopping is slightly lower than I have previously mentioned it does have an incredible impact in the total sales. In total the Google Shopping contributes to 33% of total sales in paid advertising.
1 Google Merchant XML Optimisation
Anybody wanting to take part needs to have access to ether a XML data file or Text file. If you only have a couple of products and on a fixed price then a Text file will do just fine. If you have lots of products that need a dynamic input then you need a XML data feed. Everywhere where I read about Google Shopping they say it’s a difficult task. Let me tell you it’s not, I have already written how to set up an XML data feed using Google Base XML for you, which you can freely use. If you need any help just leave a comment or contact me at the bottom of the page and I will aid you in your query.
2 Customer Reviews
Reviews are a very important element in ranking, there are several ways on how to integrating reviews with Google Merchant, you can use paid or free services such as TrustPilot, ReviewCentre, Yahoo, BizRate, PrizeGrabber, Epinions, ViewPoints, ResellerRating, RateItAll, eKomi US, eKomi Europe and many more trusted websites. Or you can integrate your own reviews with schema data fields. The minimum required reviews are 30 with an average of 3.5 or above out of 5 stars, for your product reviews to be displayed in Google Shopping.
If for example you only retail within the UK, than it is important that you use review sites that are UK and not US.
3 Product Images
Google has become more aggressive in approving images. For over a half year I have successfully used words and borders around my images. Unfortunately as of late these have been disapproved. Below you can find an image example that uses words or styling.
When creating your images the minimum image size must be 250 * 250 pixels, for optimum visualisation I would recommend the maximum size which is 800 * 800 pixels.
4 Product URL
Landing pages are relevant to the product that are clicked on, when a customer wants to order something the process has to be logical. Don’t overwhelm the customer with images, text and other buttons. The customer has searched for a specific item in Google Shopping and is coming on your site with the intention to buy the product. So make it obvious and clear.
If you have a product that needs a specific input for example a size or color, than make that step very obvious. Another problem is if you have a product which requires them to enter rather complicated data. For example a product like a snow chain, a snow chain requires the input of a tyre size. To avoid problems, you simple notify the customer in an obvious text that the item they have selected might be incorrect and requires them to use your guide or inputting some data before they order it to adjust the correct items.
5 Product Titles
I have seen some competitors adding promotions in the title, I would suggest against this as in Google’s policy it mentions you are not allowed to add promotions in your title or description.
Regardless of you title sometimes your product will become part of a compare prices section, in a compare price section your titles are not visible and Google Shopping will use the most relevant title for all products. So whatever you have used, will be irrelevant. This to me is a disadvantage, I would rather be in a separate line then in a compare section.
I’m still researching what or when this happens. Read step 20 on how to separate yourself from a compare section. I have noticed that it does not matter what your title is, meaning that if it’s the same or not it will sometimes happen that you end up in a compare section. In the compare section, the consumer will most likely click on the cheapest price regardless of your title or if you’re a known company or has ordered from you before, the consumer will click on yours instead.
There is a statistical fact that if a customer has ordered from you before and you are not the cheapest the likely hood will be that he or she will click on your ad and not the competitors. But are your customers returning customers? Or are they mostly a one-off type? Regardless of the answer you need to make sure the customer clicks on yours!
As mentioned before I have already written a great article on how to optimize SEO your titles using the best techniques.
To rank you should use keywords phrases that your consumers will be searching for, one way to find out is to use keywords that are working well for you in the organic ranking and Adwords.
A recommended length would be between 500 and 1000 characters but could be as long as 10.000 characters. Keep your description grammatically correct, you will be penalized in ranking if your grammar is poor. I know I’m pretty bad in grammar but you need to hire somebody who is excellent at it. Keep your description on topic, don’t drift off. Keep it short and constructive. You will only see around 140 characters on the Google Shopping result so make sure that the first paragraph is worth the read.
When writing your descriptions, the descriptions found on your website can be different than that of Google Shopping. There is no requirements for them to be exact match.
I recommend that you use key words in your description that are ranking high in your online advertising and organic search results. As these key words will work great in your product listings.
7 Trusted Stores Program
This is more for larger companies that have more than 500 sales a month with 90 percent of deliveries that are on time. Integration of Trusted Stores can easily be done if you are using Magento, 3dcart, Evolusion, aspdotnetstorefront. If you are successful in completing all Google’s criteria then you will receive a trusted badge which the customer can hover over to see a full report, if you also use Adwords then your trusted badge will sometimes appear in your ads. If you can do this, you will get an overall performance upgrade of 8.6%
If you are running a custom eCommerce program then you need to contact Google to enlist in the Trusted Program.
Currently as of September 2013 the Trusted Stores program is only for US merchants.
8 Psychical Location
Any business with a psychical address will perform better, your customers will need the ability to freely contact you. This ensures that you are a real company. Add your company to all online places directory and have a page on your site with your physical address.
9 Brand Weight
If you take as an example two brands one being PC World and another being John Doe’s Backpacks, PC World will outperform John on ranking as PC Worlds by itself has a great customer review / feedback according to Google’s already collected data. So you need to encourage your customers to leave reviews about your products and services.
10 Selling Well Known Brands
Selling well-known brands will outperform non well-known brands by a milestone. Google assumes that if you have access to a well-known brand that you’re a quality merchant. For example if you would sell a TV from the brand Sony versus a brand named Dynex.
11 Guideline for Quality Merchants
A quality merchant is based on the following elements, please note that all of these features do not define a True Merchant.
- Having a constant shopping basket throughout your site
- Automated updating of the shopping basket
- A page where your psychical address and returns policy is
- Registration and login
- The ability to track orders on-line and by phone
- Customers wish list
- A gift registry
- A Forum
- Shipping charges, if your prices are dynamic add a shipping calculator
12 Connect To Adwords
If you already have an Adwords account you can easily connect your Google Merchant Account to your Adwords account. The only thing that at this current time the reports are very poor. It takes up to 2 working days for you to see what the conversion keywords are. And they are not in the normal keywords section.
First go to your Google Merchant Campaign within your Adwords Account > Then click on Dimensions tab > In sub tabs click on view and select search terms.
Now you can see all the keywords that are entered and which ones have triggered a conversion.
13 Google Analytics
I read a post over at ignition search that the easiest way to track what is going on in your Google Merchant products is to add a query string at the end of your data feed url’s, which you then use segmants to find out all your data in Google Analytics. Let me tell you that its a bad idea as it will generate a new page. Any query string that you add to an existing url will be considered as a new page, dividing your page rank. Plus it’s unnecessary. Simply connect your Adwords account to your Analytics account and all data will be available in Google Analytics. Then within your menu under audience click on Campaigns and then select your relevant campaign.
There are several elements that you need to keep in mind before you submit your data feed.
- Make sure your images are uploaded
- Do not duplicate products
- Invalid or 404 url’s
- Missing GTIN
- Missing Brand
- Missing MPN
- Missing Title
- Missing Description
- Missing Shopping Charge
- Missing Availability
- Missing Price
- Adding promotional text
- Adding text to images
Here is a scenario, lets assume you have one product that is an accessory for a car, but this accessory can be fitted to over 50 different makes and models. You are not allowed to submit this product 50 times and adding a different title and description, even if you change the product id. In theory if it is the same product do not submit them under a different id.
15 Getting Band From Google Merchant
Ok so nobody wants to get kicked out of Google Shopping here are some factors that will influence a ban. You do get a warning before you are effectively being banned.
- Over optimisation (I know, where do you stop???)
- Adding promotions in Titles
- Faked Reviews
16 Multiple URL’s
You can have one account controlling multiple different sites. Lets say you have two websites one selling shoes and one selling hats. You can not have one account with products from two sites. So you need to set up a Multi-Client account. This means that you can have one main login account or controlling account to manage two sites.
Simply fill out your details in the multi-account request form, takes up to 48 hours to be processed.
17 Other Ranking Factors
There are several other ranking factors, such as how fresh is your content, are you a longtime Google merchant, do you update your data feed regularly? When you set up an automated data crawl, it will increase the freshness of your data.
Do not remove products from your data feed if they are out of stock. If you remove the product from the listings it will remove all the ranking you have had received for that particular product. Instead simple set your availability status to out of stock or available for order.
Here are the different statuses you can use for availability
- ‘in stock’
- ‘available for order’
- ‘out of stock’
Using as many data fields as possible will increase your overall ranking.
18 Use keywords that rank well organically
A fast way to improve your Google Shopping ranking is to improve on your keywords inside the title and description, one simple step is to use the keywords that rank well in your organic or advertising search results.
19 Add Rich Snippets (Google OneBox Results)
You can add rich snippets straight from your site to the Google Shopping section using the schema.org format. You can find out how to set this up on Google’s Webmaster Help Section
A secondary option is to add rich snippets within Google Merchant, the two added snippets are product reviews and product status.
What if my reviews are not showing?
- You need a minimum of 5 reviews to be considered to be added to the OneBox results.
20 Split Yourself From The Compare Section
As mentioned before sometimes it can happen that you end up within a compare section, this can be an advantage or a disadvantage to you. My reason why its a disadvantage is if you are not the cheapest you will not gain much from it, your titles will be irrelevant and your product image will be replaced by what Google assumes is the most relevant one.
The product image will be chosen at random, or maybe even based on popularity, as of yet I do not know. The reason why you are being combined into the same compare section is due to the product_type value aka MPN (Manufacturers Product Number) and or UPC (Universal Product Code). One way of getting a distinct placement is by opting in a prefix to MPN number and you will not be joined within the same section. Be warned this might have a negative effect to your rank, but I have no proof of this, so I would use it for testing only.
21 Google Adwords Labels
You can now add an extra modifier to your Adwords CPC and CPA, as standard most people would set it to $0.50. But sometimes you would like to increase that for a specific product, or for a range of products.
Reasons why you would like to increase the CPC or CPA on certain products and not all.
- Old Stock
- Holiday Promotion
- Limited stock (you can also reduce the CPC or CPA for stocks that are low, like having a negative value)
Label identifiers can be set to
- Product ID (Identifier within Google Merchant)
- Product Type (Product category)
- Brand (Product Brand)
- Condition (Product Condition such as New, Used)
- Adwords Grouping (Using an extra tag within your data feed which groups products together under a new custom group, CPA only)
- Adwords Label (Same as grouping only using the label tag, CPA and CPC)
Setting up a group identifier can be done by adding an extra line inside your product data feed
The same can be done when using labels as the identifier but is only used for modifying
When creating labels be warned that now you can not delete any extra added labels, you can pause them but not delete them in the current Adwords Account.
22 How to list multiple products that are the same
Currently there is a way you can list one product multiple times within the same account. I must warn you as I don’t do this myself I would highly discourage you from ever attempting this. The reason is that according to Google Merchant’s Policy you are not allowed to re-list an item and will result in a ban.
So now that I have giving you enough warning.
- Sign up to eBay
- List all your products and duplicates with a different product number
- Connect eBay with Google Merchant
- And that’s it.
Be warned again, if I find merchants violating the Policy rules I simply submit a removal request. And the Google team is actively removing unwanted accounts. But,… there is a grey area with eBay accounts.
Ok great, so I can list one product more than once, but why. Simply said, you will have more market share and have the opportunity to be visible more than once.
23 How to add multiple product listings with the same products
In the above step 22 I explain how to list multiple products within one merchant account, which in theory violates Google’s Policy. Meaning that at some point Google will do something about it to limit eBay from doing such a thing. But in this addition I’m actually explaining how to sell products within Google Merchant that is 100% within the policy, by simply having two accounts.
Can you have two accounts? No, you can’t have two accounts for one company inside Google Merchant, you can have one account with merchant and have the second account with eBay. Hang on a second, so actually you are having two accounts. Basically yes you are, so why would I want two accounts?
First of all, and I can only speak for the UK, eBay lists your products for free on Google Shopping, second you will gain more equity.
By having two accounts, you will increase your total real estate. Lets explain this by using widgets as an example, there are 10 merchants each selling 10 widgets which are pretty much the same products but are different in sizes. That means that in total there are 100 products listed inside Google Shopping, when you are searching for widgets. If we don’t take the price, the title, description etc into consideration when we calculate the ranking factor and only use the equity as a percentage. That means that each merchant has 10% chance in being listed on the first page. To increase this number you could add more products that are similar, if you can’t do that, you would do that via your legal second account using eBay.
Listing the same products on eBay will increase your product listing by 100%, which means that you now have 20 products listed. Resulting in an increase in first page listing to 18.18%
As of late there are a large amount of products that have Wikipedia rich snippets associated to the products. Most of them are well established companies such as Samsung, Sony etc.. The content is far down the page and I don’t see how effective the content would be, but for the visitors that do read through the Google Shopping content, I can see that a Wikipedia page will enhance the product. Everybody knows Wikipedia and knows that if there is content from this site that it can be trust worthy. And that is what Google is trying to do, convince the customer that this product is great.
Here is an example of a product listing with a Wikipedia snippet.
25 Hosted eCommerce sites
I have only found one hosted e-commerce store which you can not connect to Google Merchant. Most likely they received an account suspension. You are able to the self hosted version of bigcommerce to connect to Google Merchant.
26 Negative keywords
As with you normal Adwords account, keywords that hold no or less relevance to your product should be removed to avoid paying for clicks that are wasted. In step 12 I explain how to view keywords, which you can use to find negative words. All you have to do is go inside your keyword tab and click on add negative keywords.
articles related to Google Shopping
- How to improve your Google shopping product images (more detailed than this article)
- Google Shopping setting up seller / product reviews (more detailed than this article)
- Google Merchant Custom Products
- Google Merchant How To Setup A Live XML Data Feed With MySql and PHP
Please note that you take responsibility of your own merchant account, and that my article is merely written to express my opinion.
I need someone to help me with Google Merchant
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