When Google announced that they were transitioning Google Product Search to the fully paid PLA-powered Google Shopping platform, they made a point to emphasize that it would improve the quality of the listings by encouraging advertisers "to keep their product information fresh and up to date."
Still, many vendors were not happy with the new model because they felt sellers with bigger budgets would dominate the space. But Google maintained that the quality of the feed was still going to be extremely important for an ad to be eligible for a PLA auction. This has been evident since the change with many of the feeds that we optimize.
It is critical for PLA advertisers to keep their feed up-to-date with the latest Google specs and to submit values that pertain to their products in all required columns and in as many recommended columns as possible.
Last week, Google announced a number of updates to their feed specifications. In case you have not seen them, here is a summary of the most important changes.
- Unique Product Identifier: In the past, vendors who sold products without a UPC, MPN, EAN, JAN or ISBN had to send an exemption request to Google that allowed them to submit a feed without including unique product identifier values. This exemption was usually used for custom or antique products. Google has replaced the exemption form with an “identifier exists” column. Now sellers will need to add a value of FALSE for a product that does not have a unique identifier value. This column should not be used for products that do have a unique identifier, but the value is hard to find.
- Description: Google is requesting that the descriptions provide more details about the product. The details they would like to see in the description include: “size, material, intended age range, special features or other technical specs. “ In addition to those attributes, they would like sellers to provide “the item’s most visual attributes, such as shape, pattern, texture and design.” These new descriptions will be used in matching the products to searches, so the more information you can provide the better. Google is still recommending the description be 500 to 1000 characters long while allowing up to 10,000 characters.
- Image Specs: As Google strives to provide better results to searchers, they will now be accepting higher quality images. Images for each product can be up to 4MB in size and it is recommended that the images be at least 800 pixels in height and width.
- Color: The changes to the color specifications are trying to clean up the values sent in feeds. Google has clarified how multiple colored products should be presented. The value for these products should now have the dominant color listed first and any secondary colors listed after. Each of the colors should be separated by a '/' (i.e. Black/Green/Orange). If you are using XML, / should be used for the '/'. Google recommends that you limit the color to three values and do not use “multicolor” as a value. Also, jewelry or wood products that have a finish or material name can use the color column to submit those values. Google is still not accepting numbers or non-alphanumeric characters for color values.
- Merchant-Defined Multipacks: Google has added a column for merchants to create and define multipack products. By their definition, “Merchant-defined multipacks are custom groups of identical products submitted as a single unit of sale.” The new multipack column requires the value be an integer that defines the quantity of the products in the pack. The price has to also match the total price of the multipack.
The unique product identifier exemptions will be honored until July 15, 2013. If you are a seller that has this exemption, you should add the “identifier exists” column as soon as you can to make sure it is set up correctly before the deadline. All of the other changes are now in effect, so you should make any updates necessary to conform to the specs as soon as possible.
For more information, check out the links below to see the official Google announcement and the updated Google Shopping Feed Specification page: