Product Data Tips for a Successful Holiday Shopping Season on Google PLAs

As the 2017 holiday season draws near, it is imperative for advertisers to make sure their product data is in the best shape possible to capitalize on the anticipated lift in Google Shopping Campaign traffic. We’ve seen an uptick in Google auditing of Merchant Centers in the last two months or so which can lead to product disapprovals and possible account suspension if issues are not addressed.

Here are four things for advertisers to address to set themselves up for success during the coming months.

Localize Your PLAs to Prevent Unwarranted Disapproval

Several Merkle clients have encountered an issue with how Google checks ads for correct currency from countries outside the U.S.

An example illustrates this problem best: Big Box Clothing has set up their website to dynamically change the currency depending on where a user is searching from (ex: a shopper in France would see prices in Euros while a shopper in Canada would see prices in Canadian dollars). This is generally a best practice for site design because it creates a positive user experience for shoppers in different countries.

However, when a Google employee in another country like India clicks through on a PLA to check the landing page, they expect to see the price in USD because that is what is passed in the feed. Instead, they are served a price in INR, and perceive this as a violation and issue a suspension warning even though the advertiser hasn’t really done anything wrong. This suspension warning can occur even if the advertiser is only running PLAs targeting the US.

To counteract this issue, you will most likely need to have your technical team localize all product listing ads by appending country and currency information to the URL of each item. This may be the most immediately critical step on this list as most companies go into a code freeze leading up to the holiday season. If this suspension warning is handed down after that occurs, you may be stuck on the outside looking in when it comes to Google Shopping.

Check and Update Sales Tax Information

Google’s bots crawl your site for tax information on items and compare what they find to the information stored in the Google Merchant Center (GMC). If a bot finds the two values don’t match, then Google will issue a suspension warning to the account. You can set and update this information at the state level in the Tax tab of the GMC.

Here’s a helpful table to help you decide which setup is best for you:

Tax Information Table

Source: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/7052209

According to Google, if accurate tax information cannot be submitted, the best course of action would be to overestimate the tax amount; this will, at the very least, prevent products from being disapproved.

Match GMC Shipping Information to What Is On-Site

Incorrect shipping information is another suspension-worthy offense that can easily be avoided. Rates are set at the account level with plenty of options to make sure your GMC reflects how you charge for shipping on-site.

If your site is using something more complex than or in addition to a simple tiered cost structure (ex: orders < $50 = $3.99 shipping, orders > $50 = free shipping) you will want to populate the shipping label attribute column in the feed. This will allow you to set shipping using item weight, carrier rates, customer location, etc.

The key here is to pay attention to the small details, like setting accurate pricing thresholds and making sure products are tagged correctly in the 'shipping label' column. If you have recently made changes to shipping rates on site in preparation for the holiday shopping season, it is especially pertinent that you double-check this section of your GMC. Google offers a very detailed help page to assist advertisers with shipping settings.

Perform a Merchant Center “Check-Up”

Now is also the perfect time to address any errors or warnings that are showing up in the product tab of your GMC, which can occur more frequently than the suspension warning issues outlined above. Important issues to remedy include:

  1. Missing or Invalid Product Identifiers – Taking time to make sure your products have the right combination of identifiers will prevent disapprovals down the line and lessen the stress of this busy season. If the product has a GTIN (UPC, ISBN, EAN, or JAN) you will need to make sure that is correctly submitted along with brand and MPN. If your product does not have a GTIN, then you will still need to submit brand and MPN information for the product.
  2. Having Valid/Non-Generic Images – Work with your product teams to check and update images for your products. If you are considering a few different options, now is also a great time to work with your agency team to conduct an image test and select the best performing option to move forward with.
  3. Incorrect Pricing and Availability Information – With the higher volume of search traffic and expected increase in sales, Merkle recommends creating a system to regularly update pricing and availability that works best for you. One option is to send a delta feed containing updated prices and inventory levels to Google multiple times a day to minimize the chance of product disapprovals. Another is to opt in to Google’s automatic item updates program, which would require your technical team to implement schema.org structure annotations on your site. If this is done correctly, Google is then able to crawl your pages and update essential information automatically.
  4. Missing Product Data – Google takes much of the information in your data feed into account when determining relevancy in relation to a search query. Fleshing out titles and product descriptions, adding any missing information like color or size, and clearing out HTML and misspellings are all easy and effective ways of potentially improving product relevancy from Google’s perspective while also adding to a better customer shopping experience.

Summary

Take some time in the coming weeks to review your product data and give your Merchant Center a wellness check-up. Check sales tax and shipping information, localize PLAs so that currency matches the country of sale, and address errors and warnings from Google.

These actions will set your business up for success during what is sure to be a crazy and hectic holiday season. Taking care of little things like this now will make for a better customer experience and maximize your company’s reach to potential buyers. Happy Shopping!

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