Google have announced the latest round of Google Shopping Feed Specification updates for 2016. As we know, Google make changes each year to their feed specifications (see 2015’s updates here) and they give you real insight into what it is looking to do with the ad format for the year. We will be dissecting the update to tell you what Google really mean. As always, we will be ending with some actionable insight that you can use for your Google Shopping campaigns.
Overview – 2016 Google Shopping Feed Updates
As we know, the data that we submit through the Google Merchant Centre if vital for our Google Shopping campaigns; they are the foundations of Shopping Ads after all! Google tell us that users are screaming out for more accurate and up to date product information – but they can only work with the product feeds that Merchants supply to them. The more information that Merchants can give to Google, the more appealing the ad format that they can present to a user (e.g. Jackpot Ads), the more accurate they can answer a user’s query, and therefore the higher the value we should receive as advertisers.
Google say that this is why they update the Google Shopping Products Feed Specification every year; to further improve the experience for shoppers and deliver better value for us (and them of course!).
But what are they updating?
- Increasing the minimum size for images to 100 x 100 pixels for all non-apparel items – this has increased from 32 x 32 (more info here). For Apparel this remains the same at 250 x 250 pixels. However, Google recommends that you upload an even higher resolution (if possible but not mandatory) of around 800 x 800 pixels.
- Deadline for getting this implemented is September 1st 2016. Warnings will display in the Merchant Centre from 18th May 2016.
- GTIN requirements will now be expanded to all countries (more info here) that run Google Shopping.
- This means expanding to Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, India, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Turkey. Google say that this will improve product matching and overall ad performances.
- Enforcement will start on February 14th 2017 – Isn’t that a wonderful Valentine’s gift!
- Expanding Google Product Category Requirements (more info here) to products in the ‘Apparel & Accessories’, ‘Media’, and ‘Software’ categories for all countries running Google Shopping.
- Warnings will display from May 18th 2016. Enforcement will also start on February 14th 2017 – Wow, Google you are sharing the love!
- ‘Unit Pricing’ will be made available for everyone (more info here). Previously, this was only available in the US, EU and CH in selected categories. Ultimately, this is to ensure that there are consistencies in the way that prices are displayed for users. This can be useful for clients who have a per-unit pricing model for products such as bricks, business cards, tiles etc.
- There isn’t a strict enforcement date for this as yet, but we highly recommend getting this set up as soon as you can.
- ‘Colour’ (more info here) and ‘Size’ (more info here) attributes in the feed for Apparel products will be more strictly enforced in Germany, France, UK and Japan. These are mandatory.
- Deadline for getting this implemented is September 1st 2016.
Any products in the feed that do not contain the above after the enforcement date has passed will be disapproved.
- Ensure you have correct Schema.org microdata (more info here) on your product landing pages – Even though this isn’t enforced, Google have recommended that we ensure this has been properly applied to product landing pages. We’ll explain why below…
Why the updates?
Increasing the size of product images
Google have always pushed Merchants to provide them with the highest resolution photo’s possible for their products. As the size of Product Listing Ads increase, the bigger the image resolution needs to be. Google say that ads with high-quality images have proven to be more effective and get higher click through rates, and looking at the above you can see how frustrating having a low resolution image on mobile may be for a user.
This is particularly frustrating for the ‘Zoom’ feature on Google Shopping Product Images. There have often been times where I have tried to zoom in on a product e.g. a Sofa, to look at the detail of the product and I have not been able to do so because of the product image resolution. It can cause frustration and friction for the user, something that we know Google are really looking to combat this year (read our blog here on how Google are focusing on reducing friction and frustration for users this year on Google Shopping).
Google have recently hinted that in the future, they may introduce ad formats that only work with larger images. With the increase in consumers interacting with Mobile ads via high resolution images, it makes sense that we give users the option to do this. We believe that this update is key for some new ad formats Google are looking to utilise this year, such as Google Shopping on Image Search (see our Blog here), Shopping Ads on YouTube and more.
GTIN and Google Product Category Requirements
As we know, GTINs are an important part of Google plans for Shopping Ads this year (you can find our blog on GTINs here). It seems as though Google are seeing some great results from these ‘Jackpot’ Shopping Ad formats, as well as other ad formats that they are using the GTIN for e.g. YouTube, and possibly this could be to prepare for Google Shopping in Image Search. This is why they have decided to roll out the GTIN requirements even further so that other countries can receive the benefits of such ad formats.
The Google Product Category update means that Google will better understand the product data that we are sending to them to help them test other ad formats such as the below. By providing Google Product Categories in the Google Shopping feed, you are speaking to Google in a language that they understand. This will help them to group product inventory better, as well as ensure that your products are being displayed for the most relevant search queries. We expect that we will see such ad formats across Apparel & Accessories, Media and Software categories in particular.
Enforcing ‘Colour’ and ‘Size’ Attributes
This is applicable to Apparel retailers and this will now be more strictly enforced. Why? In our 2016 Google Shopping Roadmap Blog, we predicted that advanced filtering would become more prominent – particularly with the introduction of the mandatory GTIN’s. This level of data can help Google better understand your product feed, therefore they can ensure that your products are appearing for the most relevant search queries. As well as this, providing this information can help users filter products via Google Shopping, this then makes the Google Shopping interface more useful on Mobile as they are able to navigate to their particular size and chosen colour easier.
This will also have an impact for Google Shopping Ads via Image Search. As we mentioned in our previous blog on this update, there is advanced filtering available via Image Search – could we expect similar types of filtering tests via the Google SERP for Sizes perhaps?
Updating microdata on product landing pages
For me, this is a hint of what Google are potentially looking to plan in the future. There are rumblings of Google potentially being able to create feeds using only the site’s microdata in the future, more specifically they may be able to use scheme.org to help create Google Shopping feeds. This is a great idea in theory, but i’m sure this will be a long way away. Perhaps this is why Google recommending that we get this correct as soon as we can. Of course, in the short term there are more realistic uses for having this information correct, mostly so that we can utilise the Automatic Item Updates feature in the Google Merchant Centre.
What do you need to do?
Increase the minimum size for images
- Even though this might seem like quite an annoying update initially, the benefits of doing this can be great for your brand. Overall, you want to give users the best experience possible with your product inventory. By providing better quality images, you increase the chances of a conversion. Google are also hinting that there are some ad formats that may only use larger image sizes – you risk being left behind your competition if you miss the enforcement deadline.
Assign GTIN’s to your products
- We have previously written a blog (find it here) explaining everything that you need to know about GTINs in your Google Shopping Feed. This should be one of your priorities over the next few months. It may take you time to collect all of this information from manufacturers if you don’t already have access to them. Starting early will mean that you don’t have to panic. Your products will be disapproved in your Google Shopping Feed if you do not provide these.
Assign the most granular Google Product Categories
- As we mentioned, providing the most accurate Google Product Categories to your Google Shopping Feed will ensure that Google can then read your information better. Speak to Google in their own language, and trust me you will see the benefits in terms of performance.
Update schema.org microdata on product landing pages
- This is so that they can retrieve up-to-date information about products and offers directly from the website. Ensure your schema.org microdata is correct. You should then test using Automatic Item Updates which will be able to correct any inconsistencies in your Google Shopping Feeds with your Site. More information about this can be found here. Remember, having this correct will also impact on your organic listings.
Assign normalised Colour and accurate Size product attributes
- You should already have this information on your site, so this should be in your Google Shopping Feed. For Colour in particular, ensure that you normalise any colours in your product feed too. For example, if a product is currently labelled up as the Colour ‘Lemon’, change this to ‘Yellow’ etc.
It’s an exciting year for Google Shopping. As you can see, these Google Shopping Feed specification updates give you a good clue as to what Google are looking to do this year with the ad format. Remember, if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail! Ensure that you give yourself enough time to meet the enforcement deadlines. The sooner that you implement the requirements, the better placed you are to beat the competition.