Introduction to Google Merchant Center Audit
There’s no doubt that auditing is a key factor in correctly assessing the performance of ads, ad spend and tools. At the center of these audits is often always Google Ads or Google Analytics. However, many a time Google Merchant Center gets overlooked, despite it being extremely crucial for an eCommerce business to work.
Before jumping into how to perform a Google Merchant Center audit, understanding the feature is key. It’s a tool that allows businesses to upload product listings that they can then use for Google products such as Google Ads, Google Shopping, even Google Product Search. In effect, it’s a single dashboard that centralizes products listed across all Google eCommerce platforms.
This Google for Retail tool allows the upload of products, product data, listings and their information which is then made into ads and positioned before millions of shoppers. It’s ideal not just for online retail businesses but also for brick-and-mortar entities as it displays our in-store inventory as well.
Google Shopping campaigns are the key factor in this business-to-consumer equation. Powered by Merchant Center and Google Ads, Google Shopping is the feature that allows customers on Google products to search, find and compare products that relate to their entered search terms.
The main draw of Google Merchant Center is that it allows businesses to maintain product information to display against relevant searches. This also includes pictures and pricing, which means users will be showed a complete rundown of your product and similar ones in just a small square box that is the final shopping ad.
Why you need the Google Merchant Center for your eCommerce Business
While the setup process can be a bit tricky, Google Merchant Center is a boon for eCommerce businesses looking to leverage new technologies and promote their products on the world’s most widely used search engine. Here are the benefits of the tool and all its accompanying benefits:
Benefit #1: Bite-sized listings.
With the human attention span decreasing by the day, users are especially reluctant to go to too many links or browse through an extensive catalog to find what they’re looking for. Instead, using Google Merchant Center allows for bite-sized accurate listings that give users all the information they need- product type, image, and price- without having to even leave the Google platform they’re on.
Benefit #2: Google Ads and Analytics integration.
Products listed on Google Merchant Center can be easily integrated on Google Ads, to generate ads for campaigns. Another benefit of linking the two is remarketing, by which businesses can trigger the display of certain products to remind users of their existence and push them to convert into customers. On Google Analytics, users can also create a Custom Segment that tracks hits from Google Merchant Center alone. This helps to identify and track ad spend as well as account for ad budget in the coming months.
Benefit #3: Funnels to website.
If a user is keen on one of your Google Shopping Ads and clicks through, they’re taken directly to the storefront page on your website. This way, there aren’t too many redirects, the leads land directly on your site to improve traffic and the user is guaranteed service at the speed of light.
Benefit #4: Integrate with Local Search.
Local Search is used to target people looking for stores or businesses around them and Google Merchant Center integrates well with it. Users can get a brief glimpse of your catalog through shopping ads and then go to the actual store to try on or purchase products. Listings can include geographical tags, addresses, and landmarks to increase store footfall and reach while also promoting your online store.
Benefit #5: Automated listing updates.
A salient benefit of Google Merchant Center is its ability to provide Automatic Item Updates. This means your Google Shopping Ads will be optimized for any product changes or markups that happen on your website through Merchant Center. This keeps your listings up to date without requiring manual intervention, although it is always advised to submit regular product updates to Google to be on the safe side.
How to audit your Google Merchant Center account
Since a lot of revenue and returns on investments bank on Google Merchant Center and it's functioning, it’s crucial for businesses to regularly make sure their ad spend is being diverted to the right places and at the right time. To audit, you can use the Diagnostics function.
Method #1: The default way
Step 1. Sign in to your Merchant Center account and navigate to ‘Products’.
Step 2. Open the ‘Diagnostics’ section.
Step 3. Check the historic overview of any traffic changes.
Step 4. Navigate individually to ‘Account issues’, ‘Feed issues’, and ‘item issues’ looking for individual errors or warnings.
Step 5. For offline use, download a list of items in the ‘item issues’ area.
Method #2: The AdNabu way
If your business does not have the capability or resources to perform regular audits and fix issues, then it is recommended to outsource the project to an expert like AdNabu, because using Merchant Center without regular checks could lead to a lot of unnecessary ad spend and low returns on investments.
At AdNabu, the team conducts periodic audits and formulates comprehensive reports on issues, warnings, and critical problems. AdNabu can also help to solve these issues on a timely basis to ensure there are no losses. By checking both Diagnostics and Feed, the team can accurately point out what is taxing the program or what is sustaining this, then assessing the best solution to run shopping ads successfully.
To get a Google Merchant Center audit done by AdNabu, all any business has to do is sign up for free on their website. AdNabu’s clients have seen conversions of more than 30% after using their services, which combine technical know-how with client experience and expertise.
Best practices while conducting a Google Merchant Center audit
Like any tool, it takes time to finesse the workings of Google Merchant Center to the tune of your own business goals and targets. There are a few practices that speed up optimization and keep things running smoothly:
Best practice #1: Maintain feeds.
Ensure that products are up to date and in stock at the time of updating a product listing or feed. This is to avoid broken links or bad re-routes, which could prove costly in terms of garnering leads and customers and ranking well on Google. Ensure that your images, titles, and descriptions are apt and that every product in the current listing is available for customers to purchase immediately.
Best practice #2: Attend to critical issues first.
Google Merchant Center helpfully categorizes issues and warnings into categories based on how critical they are for a campaign to function. The red icon means ‘error/ disapproved’ while the yellow icon signifies ‘warning’. It is crucial that a business fix the red icon issues first before moving on to yellow icons, depending on the deadline given by Google to solve errors. Not paying attention to these within the given deadline could lead to item disapprovals and account suspensions in the future.
Best practice #3: Prioritize account-level issues.
Within each category of severity, issues are further ranked depending on how critical each is to the functioning of a campaign. Account-level issues need to be fixed first because of an error in your account or account details brings all your campaigns to a screeching halt.
Best practice #4: Adjust filters for specific data.
In the Diagnostics section, users can filter issues between destination, country or product feed. These contexts have been set to identify programs targeted at a country or uploaded from a particular feed. This gives you a worm’s eye view of the issues within each segment and a better chance of tackling all issues to ensure the overall health of your campaign.
Best practice #5: Use historical information.
The graph in the overview section can be played with to identify corresponding data for a set time or day. The historical view displays all the issues that existed at that point in the graph. This was businesses can track how long it took to resolve errors and zone in on what may have caused those errors in the first place.
Best practice #6: Optimize landing pages.
Landing pages are where Google takes your images and extra information from, so it’s crucial to make sure those images are of the highest quality. Consider either using high-resolution stock photos or, even better, using commissioned photographs from your campaigns.
Best practice #7: Run experiments.
While auditing Google Merchant Center, consider running a few experiments with the displayed information to discover whether the changes affect traffic. For example, adding a new piece of information to your title, or trying a new form of description writing may lead to changes in performance metrics- good or bad, these experiments are always useful in setting rules and guidelines for future campaigns.
Best practice #8: Monitor Google Ads and Analytics.
To identify how well or poorly your shopping ads are performing, it is always advised to check on more statistics-heavy tools like Google Ads and Google Analytics. These allow you to narrow down on traffic generated exclusively by shopping ads, so it’s easy to find out what is doing well and what isn’t.
Things to consider while auditing Google Merchant Center
Consideration #1: Product ratings affect search rankings.
Shopping ads on Google Web Search display star ratings for products. This is an aggregate of ratings and reviews about the products collected from different sources including other merchants and third-party websites. Google favors products with high product ratings, so ensure that your description, titles, and images match the product to the T so that users get what they were going for.
Consideration #2: Meeting landing page requirements.
Google’s landing page rules require that the same product title and description be used in a product listing and data feed as on your landing page. No synonyms or similar search queries are to be used because this may create a “poor shopping experience” for the user. Similarly, Google advises using the same product variant and color in your landing page as in your Shopping ad, to avoid account disapproval.
Consideration #3: Use high-ranking keywords.
Keywords are equally important in putting together a compelling product title and ad copy. Use keywords that your business already ranks well for, organically, in the text areas of your listing. Since the number of characters is limited, make sure your keyword is entirely related to the product you’re advertising and is not just a space-filler.
Consideration #4: Prepare for both browser and mobile listings.
Your shopping ads may show up on browser or mobile, depending on what the user has used to search, so consider optimizing your listings for both platforms. This usually means succinct product descriptions, accurate titles, and brief listings that convey what needs to be said and nothing more. This invites users to navigate to your landing page by clicking the ad; poorly-executed product listing ads may well redirect users, even potential customers, from your product catalog.
Auditing your Google Merchant Center account and optimized product listings may be time-consuming and full of efforts, but getting started with Google is a rewarding process that leaves every business highly aware of how their ad spend is being delegated and how they can optimize it.