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According to the latest Online Consumer Report, organic search engine results are responsible for 18% of the traffic to online retailers, with Google accounting for 80% of these searches.

If you are an e-commerce merchant it is crucial you learn how to work with Google and comply with their rules and regulations.

From September 22 Google started to enforce its new data feed compliance rules (you can download a guide to these here), and merchants will need to ensure product information is accurate. We’ve put together the following tips to help online merchants get the best results from Google Shopping.

Get to know the Google Dashboard 

One of the best things to do is spend some time in the Merchant Center itself, learning where to find the issues and building a bank of knowledge.

The graphs on the dashboard are sometimes not a clear indicator of your performance as they are only a seven day snap shot. Always refer to the performance report for an extended time line.

Be aware that the clicks graph on the dashboard is two days in arrears whereas the product search is up-to-date. With a better understanding of the dashboard you will be able to spot new features quickly.

Follow Google's advice

This may sound obvious but it pays to do exactly what Google advises as soon as possible, if only to get the jump on your competitors. Google delivers feedback on data quality so you should aim to achieve a 100% positive response.

Remember with a continuous poor data quality score, your items can be removed from product search entirely. Google gives plenty of warning over changes and it pays to start adapting early as data for some new fields could be hard to come by, such as EANs and MPNs.

If you are worried about the data quality in your data feed you can test it in the Merchant Center.

Prioritise between data feed errors and data quality errors

There are two types of errors that occur in the Merchant Centre, data quality errors and the less damaging data feed errors.

The feed errors are warnings on the file you have uploaded and often hint to forthcoming required fields that will become data quality issues, such as shipping weight. The quality errors need to be addressed as soon as they are spotted and prioritised over feed errors.

If you are experiencing more errors than normal it may be due to changes in Google’s specifications. It is our belief that the data quality score affects the rankings on Product Search more than any other variable you can control.

Optimise*

It is possible to optimise the feed you upload. The first step is to address the data feed errors mentioned earlier but there are several other small changes you can make to enhance your feed.

Firstly, evaluate your titles and descriptions and see if you can include extra product attributes available in your feed. Be careful however, as you only have a set number of characters to play with.

Google specifically requests that you provide as many attributes as you can in the feed specification, so make sure you do so. Ensure that you have a named contact and correct email address in the general settings so Google can contact you in case of any problems or changes.

Robots.txt

One of the most frequent error messages received by new customers in the Merchant Center is “Product Crawl Issues”. These are sometimes caused by the robots.txt file on your website stopping Google bots from checking your products. Ensure that you robots.txt file is not blocking anything including “User-agent: googlebot > >> Disallow”.

According to RichRelevance, the company behind the report, the merchants that succeed will be "those who effectively wrap the e-commerce experience around each shopper". By following these top tips your data feed will appeal not just to Google but to customers themselves.

Good luck in implementing them all!

Lee Cash

Published 27 September, 2011 by Lee Cash

Lee Cash is Co-Founder at FusePump Limited and a contributor to Econsultancy.

4 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Chad B

Great tips! Thanks for sharing this

almost 5 years ago

Daniel Clutterbuck

Daniel Clutterbuck, Director/ Co-Founder at Webtise Ltd

Hi Lee, great post . Have you had any experience with rich snippets or pulling in reviews? Cheers

almost 5 years ago

Lee Cash

Lee Cash, Senior Business Development Manager at Qubit

Hi Daniel

We haven't included rich snippets in any of our customer feeds to date, although it's something that we could do if they have taken the effort to mark up their page and the snippets contain data that we can use in marketing or cCommerce applications.

We absolutely do pull in reviews content into data feeds as well as attributes associated with them such as customer reviews. We then use these in a range of commercial applications, particularly around prioritisation or selection and filtering of products.

However, I should clarify that we cannot use reviews data in feeds to influence the "seller ratings" in Google Shopping as this data is something that Google sources from third-party review sites rather than via Google Merchant Center feed uploads.

almost 5 years ago

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