Google Merchant Center (GMC) was introduced back in 2010 (as an evolution of Google Base) to help online retailers organise and supply their product inventory to Google in order to market these products through platforms such as Google Shopping (originally going by the name ‘Froogle’ back in those days…). Since then the Google Shopping platform has evolved significantly – with the move to a paid CPC model in 2012 and inclusion in the Google AdWords online marketing program. Moreover, it has also seen huge adoption by advertisers looking to capitalise on the positive return on ad spend that it offers to ecommerce retailers.

Yesterday, Google announced one of the biggest updates to the Google Merchant Center interface in quite some time. Google has not only improved the navigation but also provided updates to existing and new features such as Feed Rules, Diagnostics, and Currency Conversions.

If you’re first logging into the merchant center today, you’ll see a welcome message announcing the upgrade and some interesting tips:

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New Merchant Center Interface

One of the first things you will  notice is  that Google has made some changes to the look and feel of the interface and the navigation panel:

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The Home Tab is now a dashboard displaying now an overview of the account, which includes:

  • A graph with active/disapproved/expiring/pending products
  • A chart showing trends for paid clicks over the past 30 days,
  • Google announcements
  • And a summary of the current status of the feeds

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The content of the Product Tab has not changed a great deal in the update. The main difference is that it is now structured in 3 tabs:

  1. Diagnostics – where you can browse current and historical issues regarding the products data
  2. Feeds – list of the feeds and their current status, the settings, schedules and rules can be modified from this tab
  3. List – a list of all the products submitted in the feed

The name conventions for disapproved ads, errors & warnings remains the same.

The Promotions Tab/Tax & Delivery remains the same in terms of functionality.

Merchant Center Programmes

Clicking on the 3 dot icon, takes you to the Merchant Center Programmes page. This page shows you some great new ways to apply your data to promote and sell your products which inclides:

  • Dynamic Remarketing – utilising the GMC product inventory feed to market products to previous website visitors through the Google Display Network; showing products related to those previously browsed on the website
  • Product ratings – enabling user reviews to translate to star ratings which appear alongside Shopping Ads
  • Merchant Promotions – displaying online promotions such as discounts and offers alongside Shopping Ads

Experienced users of Google Merchant Centre are likely to be familiar with these features already. However, Google has tried to make these more accessible to a broader user base with a more user-friendly interface. This page gives advertisers the opportunity to enable the new features or get more information from Google Support.

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Updates To Existing Features

Feed Rules

Product feed optimisation is one of the most important activities when looking to deliver success from Google Shopping Ads. However, the process can be very labour intensive and difficult to carry out at scale without specific product feed editing tools. In the past, advertisers had been using many different methods to automate the process. This year, Google has finally started to develop its own tools to help with the process.

In April of this year, Google launched the Feed Rules Editor which allows advertisers to transform product data into attributes and values that follow the Google feed specification. With this most recent update, Google has improved the tool again which is perhaps the biggest development within the new version of the Merchant Center interface.

Advertisers can now set rules to make changes to the feed without having to edit it directly. The updated tool now allows you to set rule to:

  • Update a specific set of values – e.g. change a specific colour attribute without changing other existing colour values
  • Combine values – e.g. add sizes from the size attribute to your product titles
  • Extract values from other attributes – e.g. populate the colour value by searching in the description or the title

Diagnostics Tab

The Diagnostics tab will refresh now in a near-real time instead of twice a day.

Currency Conversions 

For advertisers that want to market their products abroad, the new Google Merchant Centre now allows you to convert pricing in your product data into local currency for a number of markets around the world. Advertisers will be able to display ads with the local currency without modifying the website or landing pages.

Conclusion

On average, AdWords Shopping Campaigns deliver higher conversion rates, lower CPCs, and a better return on as spend for online retailers when compared to Search Ads. As a result, the growth of Google Shopping has been meteoric in recent years and – as such – advertisers have been demanding better tools to manage what is becoming an increasingly important channel for online retailers.

This latest update to Google Merchant Center makes it much easier to use, which should encourage smaller advertisers to start using Google Shopping Ads. Reducing barriers to entry is obviously in Google’s interest as it helps to increase advertiser usage and maximise revenue from this platform. However, this is also likely to mean more competition in the Google Shopping space – increasing CPCs and reducing share of voice for individual  advertisers. This places even greater importance on high quality feed optimisation in order get ahead in an increasingly competitive channel. As such, one of the most exciting updates of the new release are the new feed rules. Using these new rules in the right way for your business will help give your Shopping Ads greater visibility and relevancy to consumers.

No updates have been made to Local Inventory Ads in the latest Google Merchant Center release. This is something we hope to see in the next developments of the interface.

At Reprise we believe it’s essential to get the most of the tools that Google provides to manage AdWords campaigns and ads. It’s always good to see Google listening to the feedback from advertisers with regards to new potential features and the improvement of the existing ones. If you’re looking to get more out of Google Shopping and have any questions or concerns that you’d like to discuss please reach don’t hesitate to get in contact.

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Gonzalo Alboreca

Digital Solutions Associate Director at Reprise Media
I work for Reprise as a Digital Solutions Associate Director mainly focused in paid search for some of the biggest brands in Australia. With more than 6 years of marketing experience, I've held different positions in 3 different countries (Spain, UK and Australia) . I love everything related to digital marketing especially for retail & E-commerce businesses.