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Google Changes Shopping Campaign Feed Specs - What You Need to Know

Yesterday, Google announced a number of changes to their feed specifications for Shopping Campaigns. Some of these changes will only affect certain markets, while others will affect advertisers globally. The bulk of these changes will go into effect on September 15th, 2015, but advertisers can see if their feeds will comply with the new specifications prior to deadline by using the Diagnostics tab within Google Merchant Center or the “Item Errors” and “Item Warnings” section of the Data Feeds tab.

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For some of these changes, Google will offer merchants a temporary reprieve from disapproval by showing violations as “warnings” (which will still show in user search results) in the Diagnostic tab and not “errors;” this will allow ads for a product to show until the necessary changes are made. However, all violations shown here will eventually be treated as errors and lead to disapproval. Here’s a rundown of the changes Google is making:
  • Google is making a Help Center clarification for when a Global Trade Item Number, or GTIN (UPC for North America, EAN for Europe, JAN for Japan, and ISBN for media products) is required in a merchant’s feed.  As a refresher, a merchant must submit an accurate value for the GTIN when targeting the US market for products that designate a brand through the feed and have a value of “new” in the Condition field.  No new action is needed by the merchant for this change; it is simply a clarification on Google’s end for how to use the GTIN column.
  • Only printable characters will be accepted in the Product ID field of a product feed.  The purpose of this change is to clean up leading or trailing spaces that might exist in the field, as well as any encoding characters that exist in the feed by accident.  Beginning June 1st, any violations of this specification will be viewable as “warnings,” and will be considered “errors” beginning September 15th. Merchants that need to adjust for this specification change should be aware that Google considers product data to exist at the ID level for Shopping Campaigns; changing the product ID will cause Google to think that a product is “new” and will lead to a reset of the product’s historical click-through rate and other metrics that Google’s algorithms use to calculate ad position and quality score.
  • A merchant is now able to submit measurements in US units (oz, in, etc.) when previously it had only been possible to submit metric units for products.  In addition, Google has added a means of indicating that a product is priced on a per-unit basis.  These changes are useful to Google to know the true value/size of a product listing, as well as to provide a better user experience and reduce possible confusion for sizing and pricing.  They also eliminate the need for merchants to make manual calculations that may produce inaccurate sizing, particularly important for items like flooring where the size of the product is relevant to user purchase.  This feature is optional for merchants to use, but will cause errors if used incorrectly.
  • Google released a numeric ID corresponding to each accepted value among Google Product Categories which can be used in lieu of the breadcrumb as a text.  Changing existing values is optional; a merchant can either continue to submit the full category path as text, or may choose to use the numeric value instead.  Using the numeric value may be easier for a merchant to automate.
  • Shipping values are now required for merchants targeting China, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Japan, and the Netherlands.  Also, merchants targeting Brazil are now required to supply variant information such as color, size, and gender for apparel products, similar to the way currently required for the US/UK markets.

These are small changes, but they are ones that will result in more information being provided to Google and they will ultimately provide a better experience for the user and the merchant. Anyone selling with Google Shopping Campaigns should look to account for any applicable changes as soon as possible, as some of them will have tight deadlines before leading to disapprovals.

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