What You Need to Know About Google Merchant Center

If you’re an eCommerce store owner, Google Merchant Center should be on your radar. Google Merchant Center lets you manage how your product inventory appears on Google. So, if you’re selling anything online and utilizing Google Shopping, Merchant Center is what allows you to pull all of your products in, display photos, prices, descriptions and more. So, in other words, Merchant Center is kind of a big deal! 

After working with many eCommerce clients for The Media Captain and starting our own in-house eCommerce brand, DermWarehouse, we’ve become extremely well versed in Google Merchant Center. This is an extremely important tool to submit the most relevant and accurate product information for your shopping ads and ensure your visibility on Google. 

Getting familiar with Google Merchant Center is vital as you start running Google shopping ads so today I’m going to walk you through what you need to know.

Need help setting up Google shopping ads or your merchant center account? Contact The Media Captain!

Setting Up Google Merchant Center

Setting up your Google Merchant Center account is pretty straightforward and Google has great step-by-step instructions to walk you through it. I won’t spend any time going through the setup process and instead will let Google handle that for you! 

Google’s setup process will also include information about how to set up and submit your data feed. “A product data feed is fundamentally a TXT, Google Sheets, XML file, or content API that contains your product information. The information contained in the data feed is essential for Google to understand what your products are all about and to help it with the listing of your products on search.” [source]

The feed is super important because it contains all the information about your products, such as title, description, price, and images. Google has requirements about what you show and how you show it to ensure they can use your product information for your Google shopping ads. More on this later.

Learn More: How to Optimize Google Shopping Ads for a Better ROAS

Product Approval

Once you submit your feed to Google, your products will require approval before they’ll show in any ads. To get approval, products must contain all required attributes and follow Shopping ads policies. 

Products may not get approval if they’re missing a GTIN (UPC), don’t have the correct price, if they’re missing an image, or for a variety of other reasons. If a product isn’t approved, it means that your Google shopping ads won’t be able to run for that specific product. 

We recently ran into a situation for DermWarehouse where one of our top selling products suddenly became disapproved of by Google because it violated one of their policies. Google will crawl your site every so often and they may find an issue with a product, even if it had been approved in the past. 

Our product was disapproved because of the following reason:  “forbidden pharmaceuticals or products making misleading claims, Health in personalized advertising.” We sell skincare products, so this happens sometimes, even though our products are perfectly fine to be sold online. 

I knew that our product should be approved and that the disapproval was a mistake. I was able to request a manual review of the product and within a few days, it was back up and running. For the few days that our product wasn’t approved though, we missed out on a lot of sales from our Google shopping ads. The lesson here is to make sure you’re always checking your product diagnostics within Merchant Center to ensure nothing out of the ordinary has happened. 

As you can see in the image below, we have 31 items that are disapproved for one reason or another. I frequently come into Merchant Center to check on this and see if there any that I can update. For many of these, I haven’t been able to get them approved, but missing only 31 out of over 2,500 isn’t terrible.

If your product is not approved in Merchant Center, keep in mind that you can still run Google text ads for the product, even though you won’t be able to run shopping ads. 

Removal Delay Feature

Here’s a great tip for you. You’ll want to add the removal delay feature into your Merchant Center account settings. This ensures that if there’s a big drop in your products from your feed, they won’t be removed from Merchant Center and will remain active for 30 days, which will give you time to fix the problem.

For DermWarehouse, have a feed upload scheduled every morning so that any new products or changes can be reflected within Merchant Center. It’s typical to have a scheduled upload daily. There have been a couple of times where our feed got stuck or ran into some sort of issue and didn’t finish uploading, leading to a huge drop in products. One day we’ll have 2,000 products, and the next, because of the issue with our feed, we’ll have 200. This is a big problem! When you have the removal delay feature enabled, when there is a large drop in the number of products from one day to the next, Google recognizes that something is going on and your products will remain active until you can fix the issue.

Check out these instructions on how to set this up.

Feed information

I’ve already spoken about uploading your feed to Google Merchant Center and the information that needs to be included within the feed. There are two types of Merchant Center feeds, the primary feed and the supplemental feed. According to Google, “Primary feeds are the main data sources for your Merchant Center inventory. If every product you add to your primary feed meets Merchant Center’s data and eligibility requirements, you won’t need to create any more feeds. Google recommends that you upload all of your inventory to one primary feed.

Supplemental feeds add data that’s missing from your primary feed. They are used only to update product data that already exists in one or more primary feeds. You can have multiple supplementary feeds, and each one can supplement data in any number of primary feeds.”

HERE are some instructions on how to create your primary and supplemental feeds.

The supplemental feed may sound a bit confusing, but don’t worry about it too much. Generally you will only need your primary feed to be uploaded in Merchant Center and as you’re getting started you shouldn’t worry about the supplemental feed too much. 

You’ll want to make sure you optimize your feed so you have the best and most accurate information pulling into your Google shopping ads. This means making sure your titles, descriptions, prices, etc. are all correct. You can also optimize your feed to include more pertinent information for Google. 

Make sure your titles and descriptions are relevant but don’t include too much fluff. For example, if we have a product called “SkinMedica Instant Bright Eye Cream” I would definitely want to make sure to include the entire product name in the feed title. I may also want to add some more description to this and call this product the “”SkinMedica Instant Bright Eye Cream for Dark Under-Eye Circles.” Adding in this information about what the product is for will be helpful for Google to pull in the most relevant search terms.

You can also add product type and Google Taxonomy to your feed. For the product type, I would use “Eye Cream” and for the taxonomy (which you can select from Google’s taxonomy list), I would use “Health & Beauty > Personal Care > Cosmetics > Skin Care.” They don’t have an option more specifically for eye cream (surprisingly!), so I would leave it at skin care. Any additional information you can give Google will help make your search terms as relevant as possible.

Learn More: Google Shopping Product Type – The Rundown

Discounts and Promotions

If you want to run any discounts or promotions in your Google shopping ads, Merchant Center is the place to set these up. Just head over to Marketing → Promotions within your Merchant Center account and this will guide you through the setup. 

When you run a promotion in Merchant Center, these will show up in your shopping ads. You can offer a discount of some kind (percentage off, buy one get one, etc.), a free gift with purchase, or free shipping. 

Google Shopping Actions/Buy on Google

Retailers of all sizes can sell their products directly on Google, with zero Google commission fees, through the Buy on Google checkout experience. Basically, your product listings will show up on Google but instead of a customer being directed to your website, they can purchase with just one click directly from Google.

When utilizing Buy on Google, you work with your own payment processor, you handle the shipping and returns, but people never have to leave the Google interface to place an order with you. There are strict standards when it comes to shipping times and returns, however, as long as you have a good handle on your inventory and are able to get products out in a timely manner, you shouldn’t have an issue. Google walks you through the setup process for Buy on Google HERE.

We got this set up for DermWarehouse and we were extremely excited about this. The setup took a while, as we needed to collect Google reviews prior to being accepted to the program. Once we got set up we thought the sales would start rolling in, however, that never really happened. We get an order once in a while, but it has definitely not been as successful as we envisioned it being. 

In Closing

  • If you have an eCommerce store and are selling products online, you want to make sure you’re well versed in Google Merchant Center
  • Merchant Center allows you to upload your product data via a product feed so you can run Google shopping ads.
  • Once your products are approved in Merchant Center, you’ll be able to start running Google shopping ads.
  • It’s important to make sure your feed contains the correct information and is optimized & accurate.
  • You can run promotions within Merchant Center that are reflected in your Google shopping ads
  • Merchant Center is where you’ll manage Google Shopping Actions/Buy on Google as well.

Stefanie Parks

Stefanie is the Co-Founder of The Media Captain. She's currently the CEO of DermWarehouse, The Media Captain's in-house eCommerce brand. Stefanie is an expert on all things eCommerce. She's grown DermWarehouse to beyond $5 million in annual revenue and has a customer base beyond 250,000. Stefanie provides helps with eCommerce strategy development for The Media Captain. She's a frequent contributor onto the TMC blog.

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