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Google Shopping Feed Optimization - 2023 Updates

Jun 1, 2023

The importance of Google Shopping

In 2023, Google continues to dominate in the search engine market, with about 85% market share in the desktop search engine market according to Statista. To maintain that share, Google continues to invest heavily in their Google Shopping comparison shopping site, as evidenced by the large number of updates in the Merchant Center announcements change log and expansion to over 90 countries.

To help you keep your product feeds optimized in top shape and take advantage of the latest features, here is a summary of the most relevant changes over the past couple of years.

Leave google_product_category blank

One of the biggest changes is that Google now automatically chooses a google_product_category for your products, presumably using AI trained on the massive trove of product data provided to them by merchants. The AI-based automatic categorization, like spam filtering and ChatGPT, is quite good, but makes mistakes in a small number of cases. One real example is an automotive part with title "hose tee" that was mistakenly classified as Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Shirts & Tops, and then penalized for missing color, size, gender, and age_group.

For most merchants, leaving google_product_category blank is the preferred and recommended option. To avoid misclassification, enter brand, GTIN (UPC), and a high quality title and description for each product in your product catalog.

For niche products (like industrial storage tanks) and other situations where the automatic categorization is unsuitable, google_product_category can continue to be specified in the product feed. Furthermore, specifying a valid google_product_category continues to be recommended/required by other comparison shopping search engines like Pinterest, Bing, and Facebook Product Ads. Merchant's may avail themselves to our Product Categorization Service, where we set and maintain the categorization for your products.

Use a single feed to list in all countries

2022 and Earlier

Language Currency Country Restrictions
English USD USA Supported
English USD Canada Currency conversion to CAD required
English CAD Canada Price must appear in CAD on website
English USD France Not supported
French EUR France Price must appear in EUR on website
French CAD Canada Price must appear in CAD on website

As of 2023

Language Currency Country Status
English Any Any Supported!
French Any Any Supported

Previously, merchant's selling in multiple countries typically required a separate feed for each country. A small number of additional countries could be assigned. Today, a single feed can be used to show products in all countries simply by selecting the set of target countries. There is no longer any restriction on language, which means that a feed in any one of the 30+ supported languages can target any one of the 90+ supported countries. However, practically speaking, targetting an English-language feed to a country with few English speakers would not result in much, if any, traffic, since Google will not automatically translate your titles and descriptions.

Similarly, there are no restrictions on currency. You no longer have to display the prices on your website in the local currency, and Google does currency conversion automatically. For exact pricing, our feeds can submit the prices in local currency using the exchange rates from your e-commerce platform, and submit the feed multiple times per day to keep the pricing fresh.

Separate feeds are still required for feeds in multiple languages, because the product titles and descriptions will be different. You must also provide tax and/or shipping rates depending on the country, but ultimately, if you can ship it there, you can advertise there!

Availability date is required for 'preorder' and 'backorder' items

In the 2021 Merchant Center product data specification update, Google added backorder as an availability option, in addition to existing in stock, out of stock, and preorder values. For both backorder and preorder, you must provide an availability_date to avoid the 'missing availability_date' item error. Furthermore, the availability date should be visible on the product landing page.

If your store contains preorder or backorder items, you may have some item errors due to this change. If you record the availability date in your e-commerce platform's product catalog, then we can configure your feed to populate this field.

Submit feeds by SFTP; FTP no longer supported

Google recently announced the End of support for FTP in Merchant Center, which is slated to take effect on Sep. 15, 2023. Product data feeds generally contain only data that is publicly available on your website. So there is little reason to keep the feeds secure. But some fields such as custom_label_0-4 and cost_of_goods_sold could contain non-public information if populated. It could be of value to competitors. For this reason, the move to SFTP (secure FTP) is prudent.

Our system fully supports SFTP, and existing feeds can now be migrated by simply going to the Manage Feed > Modify Settings page for each Google feed, and following the detailed instructions there. An announcement with additional details regarding this will be forthcoming.

Next Steps

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