Product Listing Ads (PLA): Feed optimization | Publications

Feed-based advertising is already commonly used by e-marketers. Either through Product Listing Ads (PLA) campaigns or Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) campaigns Google has always been offering this kind of online advertising solutions. They have been increasingly pushing those feed-based products during the last few months (Dynamic Remarketing, Shoppable TrueView i.a.).

Actually Shopping campaigns (synonym of PLA) have always been a hot topic at Semetis: my colleague Doriane wrote an introduction article back in 2013 while my colleague Julien went further in detail just one year ago in an article focusing on the Evolution of Google Shopping. As this type of advertising products is automatically linked to your feed, optimization of your feed quality is becoming more and more crucial. Our objective today is then to share some feed optimization best practices allowing you to reach better and higher results.

How can I optimize my Google Shopping feed quality?

A. Product attributes: Unique Identifiers, Titles, Descriptions and Images

As Google officially says on its Google Merchant Center Help Center “providing unique product identifiers, especially GTINs, can make your ads richer and easier for users to find”. Indeed GTINs increase relevance between shopping products and users’ searches. And more relevant results mean more qualitative clicks. Moreover we’ve been hearing around that GTINs - which stands for Global Trade Item Numbers - will be increasingly important to success on Google Shopping. As evidence of this increasing importance Google announced that from May 16th they will progressively make GTINs compulsory. After this date Google will start disapproving relevant products that don’t meet the GTIN requirements. You will hopefully be able to “see item-level disapprovals in the Diagnostics tab for products that don't meet the requirements” (more details on Diagnostics below in “B. Google Merchant Center: Diagnostics, Feed rules”).

Product title is the name of your product and is requested information. Besides the common sense advice like “be descriptive” or “use 70 characters instead of 150 (allowed limit of characters)” we would advise you to make each title unique by adding variant attributes such as size and color. Regarding structure a common best practice is to use the following order: Brand + Gender + Product type + Attributes (Color, Size, Style, etc.). However this has to be of course adapted to your type of products. You can find here Google’s editorial and professional requirements for product titles.

Product descriptions are really important as well. They have to be used to put a focus on your Unique Selling Propositions (USPs). While your title will include the most important content, you can put everything else in your description (character limit is 5,000). You can basically use the same content as the one used on your website. Our main advice here would be to avoid the “keyword stuffing”: short and to-the-point descriptions are more efficient than longer descriptions including irrelevant content.

Finally product images are as much important as titles and descriptions. PLA’s visual impact is indeed crucial since it’s the first element (next to product title) web users are going to see when you ad is displayed. Image quality is therefore crucial: you should try to provide Google with the largest and highest resolution. Besides this you should really avoid to display multiple products in the same image and to use cluttered backgrounds. To sum-up: try to exactly match the advertised product (including colour) and use qualitative images.

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B. Google Merchant Center: Diagnostics, Feed rules

As you all know Google Merchant Center is the platform where you can manage your feeds and product data and make them available to Google Shopping. When you manage shopping feed with thousands of different products handling with them and optimizing their data quality can become challenging. To help you with that we will cover in this paragraph 2 interesting solutions: Diagnostics and Feed rules.

When logging in your Google Merchant Center you will directly have access to a very useful section called “Diagnostics”. First screen will allow you to have a general overview on your feed health. When clicking on “Items” you will enter a second screen which is much more interesting. Indeed here you will be able to see which of your products are causing issues (and therefore potential feed suspension). As best practice we would recommend you to download the whole CSV file (see download button on the upper right side) and to filter it based on the issue title. This will allow you to put priorities by seeing all products that are causing errors (warnings and notifications can be treated secondly). Issue types are multiple and couldn’t be exhaustively covered in this article (we strongly recommend you to spend some time to closely read Google policies and requirements). Nevertheless it is more than likely that you will encounter item issues such as “Product pages cannot be accessed”. This means that your ‘link’ attribute (basically your landing page) can’t be accessed by Google. There is a big chance that your product is in fact leading to a 404 page. Don’t forget that your ‘link’ attribute has to start by “http(s)://” and that any symbols used must be replaced by URL encoded entities (e.g. comma = %2C). When you have checked all your URL and fixed the issue we recommend you to increase Google’s crawl rate in order to speed up the reapproval process. Here is the link to do so.

As you probably know Google Shopping Feed Rules are finally globally launched (at least where Google Shopping is available). To make a long story short: Feed rules allow you to correct problems in your feed without IT help. Basically those rules work as “If this, then that”-functions. As best practice you could always set the value for an attribute to a specific value when the feed is missing the attribute data and the values across the feed will all be the same. Let’s take a concrete example: if you are selling shoes for men only you could create a feed rule saying “If ‘gender’ is ‘male’, ‘men’ or ‘missing’ (regex works), then define ‘gender’ as ‘male’”. Final objective is of course to use feed rules to transform the data from your feed to meet Google’s feed spec requirements. It’s important to mention that feed rules can also be used for labels. Example: “If ‘price’ > 100€, then labelize it as ‘high price’”.

As a matter of conclusion we would like to tell you that this article gives you a few ideas and good practices on how to optimize your feed. However you have to keep on learning by yourself and especially on staying tuned to Google latest news since Google Shopping guidelines are constantly evolving.

Author: Mathieu Van Wylick

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