I’ve set up more than my fair share of Google Shopping campaigns in my time, some might say I’ve set up too many. I don’t agree with that assessment, but I can see how they have come to that conclusion, considering the sheer volume. It is with this experience that I can safely say that the information out there for implementation of a Google Shopping campaign is terrible, and most website platforms struggle to keep up with the ever changing requirements of Google Policy.
Back to basics: Google Merchant Center is the “translator” between a Website and Google AdWords. It should be simple, but somehow Google manages to make the process seem and sound difficult. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t need another Merchant account because they were already using their bank, or PayPal. While this may be an Australian affliction (that we call our payment processing systems a Merchant Account), it shows that Google’s explanation of their products is somewhat lacking and often over-complicated for the majority of the population.
A few years ago Product Listing Ads (PLA), the predecessor to Google Shopping worked largely the same as now. First, pull the Data Feed from your website, whack it in to a Google Merchant Center, link the GMC to your AdWords and create a Product Listing Campaign. The hardest part in the process was ensuring the Data Feed had all the required Data fields.
Google then decided to throw a spanner in the works, updating the requirements of the Data Feed, as well as requiring several mandatory features on the website in order for the Data Feed to be approved. These included a Security Certificate on any page that collected information, a Shipping Information page, and a Returns/ Refunds policy, among a myriad of changes to the actual data in the Data Feed. These were understandable, Google was putting their reputation on the line every click they sent through to a dodgy website. Didn’t change the fact that, pretty much over night (if you hadn’t been keeping up with the changes) many campaigns halted, which in turn meant many businesses ran aground. Some never recovered.
Since the upgrade from PLA to Google Shopping, it was a common occurrence for Website Data Feeds to not have the appropriate information required by Google. This caused mountainous speed bumps in the setting up of Google Shopping campaigns, as Data Feeds would have to be re-configured with the right information. Time consuming is an understatement and without a background in your website platform, often paralysing.
So when a recent client approached me with a product that would be perfect for Google Shopping, I steeled myself for the inevitable uphill battle ahead of me. I set up their Google Merchant Center, linked it to their AdWords account, then verified and claimed the domain using their Google Analytics account. Knowing I had completed all the fun stuff, I prepared provisions for the next three days (Pringles, Cheetos and Coke Zero) and logged in to their Neto Control Panel.
I procrastinated with a quick Google search for “Google Data Feed Neto”, resulting in this: https://www.neto.com.au/article/how-do-i-turn-on-the-google-shopping-data-feed
I instantly became suspicious. Neto had provided a pretty decent step by step method, one that was clear as to what and how it was to be integrated into the Google Merchant Center. I followed the three steps it advocated and found myself on a page that clearly and distinctly showed me a Google Shopping Data Feed button, and with instruction on how to make it active.
I sensed a trap. Cautiously I clicked the link. It processed in front of me and provided me a link with direction to put it in the Google Merchant Center. I was flabbergasted. Stunned. The whole process had taken about 5 minutes. And I had all these Cheetos left!
I added the link to the Google Merchant Center and left it to process the Data Feed. This can sometimes take a few minutes, so I threw away the empty Pringles cans and returned to my computer. Aha! I knew it was too good to be true. None of the Items had processed. I felt oddly triumphant, the kind of triumph one feels riding a bike, poking a broomstick handle into the spokes and, while flying through the air, yelling, “I knew this would happen!”
Quick as a flash, I jumped into Diagnostics, expecting to see hundreds of errors. There wasn’t. There was just one error. One glaring, massive error that ensured that the Data Feed wouldn’t be approved. One error that was not only easily fixed, but it was one error that I could only blame on myself. I hadn’t put in the Shipping Fees. Kinda the 101 of setting up a Google Merchant Center.
I’m aware that you would very much like me to continue this riveting story to its conclusion, particularly where I describe finishing the Cheetos. The point of this story is not the Cheetos, but the ease of using the NETO eCommerce platform for Google Shopping. I’d recommend exploring it as part of your Digital Strategy if you haven’t done so already.