2017 has been a year of big updates in the Google advertising ecosystem. The new AdWords interface and the Data-Driven attribution model became available to all advertisers, Data Studio was massively improved and Google Analytics has been changing towards a more user-centric reporting system. Who works on Google Shopping campaigns on a daily basis will have noticed that Google Merchant Center was also massively changed with the introduction of the new Supplemental Feeds feature and new feed rules.
The change was implemented between Septemeber and October, but I can say that only recently it started working as expected, although there are still many “coming soon“.
This new feature finally allows marketers to be in (almost) full control over the product feeds and their Shopping campaigns, No need for a developer anymore! (kind of 🙂 )
What can you use the new Supplemental Feeds feature for?
- Fix item disapprovals and errors
- Improve data quality
- Segment your Google Shopping campaigns
1. Fix Item Disapprovals and Errors
The first time you submit a feed to Google you have to pray for it to go through and even if it does, chances are many products will be disapproved. This causes an endless back-and-forth between us marketers and the developers who generate the feed. But finally this will come to an end as many product disapprovals and warnings can be solved directly from the Merchant Center interface.
Go to the Diagnostic tab in your Google Merchant Center account and click on Items where you can see the list of product disapprovals. You won’t be able to fix all of them, but probably a good few. Click on the small arrow at the top right corner of the table and download the full report in a spreadsheet.
Now that you have your products sorted into a spreadsheet you can manually work on every product attribute. Sort your data in order to group together products disapproved for the same issue and start working on each disapproval.
Errors like “Value too long in attribute: title” can be easily solved changing the product title in the spreadsheet. Google shows a max of 70 characters for the product title in shopping ads. Although by policy it allows for up to 150 in the feed, my suggestion is to stick to 70. You can use a simple =LEN(A1) formula in Excel to count the characters of the titles and apply a conditional formatting rule to highlight titles longer than 70 characters.
In the same way, you can solve all the other warnings regarding short or missing descriptions, capitalised titles and so on.
The images errors are a bit trickier, but still possible to be solved. You would need to manually change the images in a way they comply with Google policies and upload them to a new URL. Then, enter the new URL in the sheet under a column headed image_link.
Unfortunately, there is nothing really you can do to solve crawl and automatic item disapproval issues. In order to solve the first ones, you would need to liaise with your IT team in order to find out why Google can’t crawl some URLs. The latter issues are generally caused by some small words in the title or description of the products. For example, if you are selling books and one is titled “New developments in drug abuse, trade and policies”, you will have very hard times trying to get that approved. That’s likely just because of the word “drug”. Although, we all know you are not selling drugs. It’s not fair, but the world is cruel 🙁
IMPORTANT. Do not edit the product id column as Google will use the product IDs to match the new attributes you edited with the original ones in the primary feed. The IDs in your supplemental and primary feeds must perfectly match. Give an extra eye for the ID column formatting in your spreadsheet as sometimes numeric IDs are read as text and vice versa. This can cause Google not being able to match the products.
Once you are done with the spreadsheet, I suggest you copy and paste the data into a Google Sheet stored in your Google Drive account (the same Google account you use to access Merchant Center, that’s very important!)
At this point, go to Products > Feeds in your Merchant Center account and click on Add Supplemental Feed. You can upload as many feeds as you want. I recommend you create separate supplemental feeds per each purpose. In this case, 3.
Follow the guided procedure and select the right sheet. If you think you are going to edit the sheet often you can possibly create an upload schedule. Otherwise, you can manually fetch it every time you make a change.
Now it’s when the magic starts.
Go back to the feed tab and click on your primary feed. You will see something like that:
Click on Rules and let’s start playing!
There are many options, but for the moment I will focus on the ones you need to accomplish this specific task.
Click on Create Rule and select the attribute you want to target with this rule, for example, Title. If you don’t find it, look under More Attributes
Click on the big + button and then on Set To. The logic behind the new Merchant Center update is that you can pull data from your supplemental feeds, which you have manually uploaded, and use it to substitute the original values in the primary feed. Clicking on Set To, you do exactly that. Fill the Set To field selecting your Supplemental Feed first and then writing the attribute name you want to pull data from. Google will read something like that. “Take the Title attribute in the primary feed and SET its value TO the Product Title attribute found in the supplemental feed”
In my supplemental feed the product title attribute column is headed “Product Title”. So I will literally write “Product Title”. Google will match the IDs in your supplemental feed with the ones in the primary and substitute the attribute “Title” with the new value. You can create as many rules as you want targeting the very same attribute. In this example, Google will read something like that: “Take the Title attribute in the primary feed and SET its value TO the Product Title attribute found in the supplemental feed”
In my account, I have uploaded several supplemental feeds. That’s how my screen looks like:
IMPORTANT: The order of the rules matters.
Google will “crawl” the first feed first, then the second and so on. That is very important when you have multiple supplemental feeds for backup reasons. My spreadsheets, for example, are full of formulas and sometimes they don’t properly load. Therefore, it might happen that the upload onto Merchant Center fails. In that case, the system will automatically skip to the second feed, which hopefully will have loaded correctly.
As you can see from my screenshot, I have 4 supplemental feeds, with just one addressed to solve item disapprovals.
Continue to read to find out what I use the other feeds for.
2. Improve Data Quality
Has it ever happened to you that your competitor is showing on Google Shopping with the same products as you but his titles and descriptions kill it, while yours suck? I know what you are thinking “It’s not my fault, that’s how the product data is stored in the system and the Google feed is generated by the same evil system, there’s nothing a poor man like me can’t do”
You can’t be more wrong!
What you can do is creating a new Google Sheet with the list of the product IDs you want to edit. Maybe your top 100 bestsellers? As long as the IDs match with the original feed you can change all the attributes you want. You can create new titles, descriptions, possibly adjust the price and even add other attributes. Once you’re done all you have to do is to upload the sheet as a Supplemental Feed in Google Merchant Center and set some feed rules on your primary feed as I showed in the previous paragraph.
If your system is slow in updating the products price with the current promotion, causing product disapprovals for price mismatch, supplemental feeds are the way to go. You can enter the new price in the supplemental feed and then match your sale_price attribute in your primary feed with it. You might also have a look at the Merchant Promotion feature, which unfortunately is available just in a few selected countries.
3. Segment Your Google Shopping Campaigns
At the end of the day, all you want as a PPC marketer is to have as much control as possible on your AdWords campaigns in order to achieve the best ROAS as possible and impress your boss.
First of all, make sure that your developer added the 5 custom labels attributes to the primary feed. Then you can simply add a new column to your supplemental feed and call it, for example, product_segment. Populate the column with the values you prefer, matched with the products you want to segment. You might want to segment depending on the product popularity, or simply the ones you were able to edit and so you want to prioritise. You can also segment based on the product category if your primary feed doesn’t do so already. There are endless possibilities, but always keep in mind that your final goal is to achieve a greater granularity when it comes to bidding on AdWords. Don’t segment your feed just for the sake of it. Put some commercial strategy in it.
Another popular way of segmenting the feed is by price range. In order to do so you don’t need a supplemental feed and, in fairness, it is something you were able to do even before the new feature was launched. However, for some reason, Google removed the price-based feed rules for a couple of month between October and November. Then, although re-instated, it had a bug. So, we’ve been able to use this type of segmentation again just since a few weeks ago.
Go to your primary feed and add a new rule targeting a custom label attribute. The first option you will see is Conditions: None.
Click on that and set your conditions. In the example below I wanted to segment products in the price range between €10 and €20
After that, click on Set To and enter the value which will become the name of this segment. A good way to name it would simply be “€10 – €20”
Now, all you need to do is going to AdWords and segment you product groups by custom label. In this way, you will be able to set different bids, exclude or pause or set different bid adjustments per each segment.
Now that you know what you can do with supplemental feeds, start playing around with it and be creative. Let me know in the comments if you find better ways to make use of them!