2020 Merchant Center product listing updates
We all know that Google pretty much runs the internet. We all know that playing by Google’s rules is important for the success of your site on Google. Even more so if you are an E-commerce provider. Every year, Google makes changes to the Merchant Center product data specification in an attempt to create a better experience for users who are searching for products online.
This year, the updates are centered around improving data quality and being able to provide more impactful information to end-users, and buyers, of your products.
What’s changing this year – And how you are impacted.
Changes beginning immediately
Installment and subscription cost attributes: Values for the installment and subscription_cost attributes will be accepted for wireless products and services in approved countries for Shopping ads only. Submitting values for these attributes for other product categories may lead to having your offerings disapproved. This means that while you can offer subscriptions, it is limited to wireless products and services. We don’t see this affecting a lot of the smaller players since most Telecomms are run by large conglomerates.
Product detail attribute: To help improve product data quality, Google is introducing a product_detail attribute, which can be used to provide technical specs that aren’t covered by other attributes. This optional attribute lets you provide readable, structured data and enhances Google’s ability to surface individual products based on user queries. This means that you will have more options to assign attributes such as spec details. This will be especially useful if you are posting items for sale that are based on electronics.
Product highlight attribute: google is introducing the optional product_highlight attribute to let you add short sentences to showcase your product’s most important features. While this is not required, this feature is excellent for you to be able to make a quick statement about what you are selling, and how it can improve your customer’s lives.
Sale price annotations: Google will (finally) be relaxing the requirements for displaying sale price annotations in Shopping ads. In order to show this annotation, the base price, or a higher price, must have been charged for a period of at least 30 days in the past 180 days. (Note: days do not need to be consecutive.) This means that you are able to set a price, and then have a sale! And end-users love sales. Sales can be one of the best ways to attract customers.
Changes beginning September 1, 2020
Category-specific requirements for Google product categories: Products that fall within certain Google product categories, including some sub-categories of Media and Apparel & Accessories, require additional attributes and/or a combination of unique product identifiers. If these required attributes, such as gender, age_group, size, and color are not provided, your products will remain eligible to serve but their performance may be limited. Similar products that do include the required attributes will be prioritized above those that are missing these attributes. This means that if you are using an aggregation service for your site that submits your products to Google, you need to make sure that these attributes are covered in the stream. While you won’t be disqualified from advertising your products, you will see a significant decrease in visibility. We have a feeling that this is more of testing the waters to see how things go and then will more than likely become a requirement if Google sees some positive results from it.
You can use the optional google_product_category attribute to override Google’s automatic categorization of your products if the category assigned is incorrect.
Description attribute: The description attribute is required for all products. Products that do not include a product description will still be eligible to serve, however, their performance will more than likely be limited by Google. Similar products that do include a description will be prioritized above those missing a value for the description attribute. This means that gone are the days of being able to slap something up, throw money at it, and reap rewards. You have to put your description in. We assume that just like SEO, the more description, the better the results. Don’t skimp out on yourself in this step.
Material, pattern, and image link attributes: Products with more than one value submitted for the material, pattern, or image_link attributes will receive warnings, and warnings are only a first step for so long before removal. If your product contains multiple materials or patterns, you will still be able to specify more than one material or pattern value using slashes and hyphens, but you may not separate values with commas. The additional_image_link attribute can be used to submit additional images. Commas are no longer a go-to. Use your hyphens. Use your slashes.
While these changes may be a bit cumbersome if you have 1000’s of products, it will be worth the time it takes to complete it. If not, your visibility will drop, sales will drop, and eventually, you will lose all of the traction your previous efforts have made.