Product Data Feed: What are they and How to create one for your eCommerce store?
If you are an eCommerce retailer who is looking to maximize your online exposure there are a few ways to get your product higher visibility and one of them is a clear-cut product data feed that goes to your shopping channel.
In a nutshell, product feeds are essential to submit your product data to your shopping channel so it contains the entire information about your product in its listing.
What is Product Data Feed?
Fundamentally a product data feed is a file such as TXT, CSV, or XML which holds a list of attributes and other data about the products in your eCommerce store.
What makes it important is that it contains details about your product that is uniquely advertised, displayed, or compared online by product marketing channels such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.
Typically the fields of a product data field include the product title, price, image, description, product identifier, size, and other attributes that gain the attention of shoppers.
A more detailed feed can include currency, language, marketing copy, product ratings, Google custom labels, best seller information, social recommendations, and search engine marketing (SEM). Generally, your feed’s destination determines what type of data needs to be included.
Every time you enter a search query on Google for a product, the shopping ads immediately pop up at the top of the search. Upon closer inspection, you see all the essential attributes of a product that helps you with your purchase decision.
When you search for a shoe, for example, the shopping ads show you a number of pictures along with a long list of product attributes such as the brand, color, type of shoe and size, and a brief description. All of the attributes for the shoe have been entered by the merchant in the product feed for the Google Shopping Ad.
Three ways how you can manage your product feed
1. Manual product feeds
The manual product feed works exactly like how it sounds; you have to upload the information manually to a spreadsheet program such as Google sheets in the Merchant Center.
Every time there is a change in your product, its price, or availability it has to be updated immediately. This option is a perfect choice for those who have a small catalog and not too many products in their small store.
2. Content API product feeds
This option is great for merchants who have a bigger store and frequent updates everyday which cannot be done manually. Therefore content API product feeds have apps with a direct connection to the merchant center platform where they can automatically take more data. The content API directly delivers data as you upload it for your products in the Merchant Center.
3. Product feed automation
Product feed automation is a wonderful tool for merchants who have hundreds of products on their site or catalogs that change too often. Automated feeds by Google uses a feature called ‘website crawl’, which scans your site to pick up structured data and sitemap information.
This provides Google with up-to-date information about the products and their changes on the website. For the automated feeds to work efficiently you will have to add structured data markup to your website so Google can crawl the site comprehensively.
While it’s a great feature for bigger merchants, smaller businesses and sites can also make use of it provided they are optimized for it.
Why do you need to create one for your eCommerce store?
Your product data feed contains all the information the product marketing channels need to advertise it when a prospective customer searches for it. The data that is offered through a product feed has a huge impact on the way the free listings and the ads perform on the Google platform.
High-quality data that is optimized for search queries makes all the difference to your shopping campaigns, ads, and listings. To understand how your Product Data Feed matters, think from the perspective of your customers. These are the key areas for how your data matters:
1. To show up in the right product search query
Google shopping ads are part of a highly dynamic and competitive auctioning environment, therefore to stand out among the background noise of thousands of other merchants you will have to meet Google’s criterion.
Your product data feed needs to have all data submitted in accordance with the existing rules and policies while the title, description, and recommended attributes are all in the right place for the search engine to display out your listing. Like all channels, the heart of Google’s algorithms have only one thing going on in them- the best listings to show for their shoppers.
2. To make that prospective buyer click your shopping ads
On Google Shopping, you are not the only merchant who has their listing most optimized. To get as many leads as possible there are a number of strategies available to get your prospect to click your link over somebody else’s.
Your product data feed allows you to just that by creating the most compelling title or writing a meaty description that draws their attention. Also, when you are bidding for the top spot on Google for visibility and clicks, you get a further edge by sticking to the best practices which ensure most conversions. The product feed is the tool that allows you to manipulate your impression further and capitalize on it.
3. To Optimize your google shopping ads easily
Like all other merchants, you have data on every aspect of your product and your store, but not all data is relevant for the shopping ads. The trick to prioritize your listing is to optimize your data feed according to what Google wants.
The easier it is for the search engine to capture relevant information about your product, the greater are your chances of being shown to the right customers.
While all the data is in your file, there are tweaks that can be made to simplify it for Google. You can do this by optimizing the images of your product, coming up with catchy product titles, updating pricing, and so on.
How to create a Product data Feed For Google Shopping?
Here's an example of How to create a product data feed for an inventory of products in the merchant center.
To begin with, you have to be logged into your merchant center.
On the left-hand side of the page in the navigation center, you will find the ‘products’ icon. Click on it.
Click on ‘feeds’ on the drop-down menu and you will land on the Primary feeds page.
When you click on the plus icon under the primary feeds, it opens a new primary feed page where you have to enter the language and the country where you intend to sell.
In the next step, you enter your Primary Feed Name.
The feeds are divided into primary and supplemental feeds. The primary feed is the source of the bulk of your product’s data while the supplemental feeds are meant to provide additional information as required by the merchant center.
The supplemental feeds can only be used to update product data that already exists; it cannot be used as a standalone feed. Supplemental feeds can also provide data to more than one primary feed.
Choose from a number of optional input methods such as Google Sheets, Scheduled fetch, upload, and Content API.
Google Sheets is a good option to choose for small merchants with a simple catalog. It offers a simple spreadsheet template with various product attributes and add-ons to list your products. You are offered two options here:
Generate a new Google Spreadsheet from a template: This link will take you to your Google Sheets with an existing template for a product feed.
Select an existing Google spreadsheet: This Will enable you to upload your existing spreadsheet that contains your pre-organized product feed that Google can understand. The edits you make to either of the sheets get updated automatically in the Merchant Center.
Scheduled fetch is an option that lets you upload a file hosted on your website by you to the Merchant Center. The file contains all the product data which can be scheduled to be automatically fetched by the Merchant Center. Enter the feed name and set fetching times daily, weekly, or monthly.
Upload is another feature where your product information is taken through a file saved on your computer which needs to be uploaded regularly to your Merchant Center through Google Cloud, SFTP, or FTP. You can also manually upload the file.
Content API makes it easier to upload information by allowing apps to interact and upload directly to Google Shopping. As it is also used as a product data input source for the Merchant Center, it directly delivers data from your website.
Once you have selected the input method, click CREATE FEED to complete the setup.
Product Data Feed FAQ
a. What is a product 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.
In simpler terms, the product data feed organizes the information about your product and describes it such that it can be understood by the search engine.
The product feed is the tool used by all eCommerce campaigns to get product information from their end to the marketing channels. On the surface, it looks like ordinary product attributes, but when they are unoptimized for the channels, they are regarded by the algorithms to have a poorer quality.
This data then becomes a parameter that determines whether or not the product gets displayed in a search query. The high-quality product data feed can significantly alter rankings in searches.
b. How do you create a Product data feed?
While there are multiple ways to create a product data feed, three of those fit the eCommerce strategy of a majority of the merchants.
Manual data feed: If you are just starting out with your eCommerce store and don’t have a lot of products in your catalog, you could start with a manual data feed. It uses a data feed file from Excel or other spreadsheet programs that are updated on a daily basis and uploaded manually to the merchant center of the channel. This method is not suitable if your pricing or inventory has everyday fluctuations. It is also rather consuming as you will have to create a different feed file for different channels although most product attributes remain the same.
Direct integration with shopping cart: Some of the popular shopping cart platforms integrate directly with the major channels such as Amazon and Google Shopping. The feed takes information directly from your platform to the channel. This works well when you have a huge product catalog and no time for cumbersome manual uploads. However, it has a downside; the information flow is unrestricted with very little customization options so your data can’t be optimized to make the best use of the platform.
Data feed automation: Using automation software that integrates your site with multiple channels works well to give you the flexibility to control the product data that goes from your site. Customization features in the software allow you to tweak product information for specific channels for maximum visibility and higher rankings. Channel platform automation features can also crawl your website for relevant information if your site is optimized for the data acquisition.
c. How do product feeds work?
In general, a product feed is an efficient way for an eCommerce website to upload its product information/catalog to various marketing channels, marketplaces, affiliate platforms, etc.
It is done by entering the essential product information in the form of an XML file that maintains the structure of the information which e-retailers or comparison shopping engines use. The product information includes categories such as titles, images, product descriptions, prices, and information on availability.
The product feeds are synced with the merchant center of the marketing channels or marketplaces and merchants can regularly export product information to increase their sales and even boost their website’s performance.
While the listing is one function of the feed, it can be a powerful tool in the hands of the merchants to highlight their desired products, optimize their search ranking, publish information on discounts, or other promotions.
Product feeds also make it easier for marketing channels to adapt the information from the merchant’s catalog to their presentation style. Since the merchant can regularly update the feed when prices or availability change, it is reflected automatically on the channel. The ultimate goal of the product feed is to transfer accurate and high-quality information from the merchant’s end to facilitate purchasing.
d. What is product feed management?
Product feed management involves the administration and optimization of your product data feed in order to gain higher visibility in the shopping ads and improve the result of your online sales efforts.
The focus of effective product feed management is always on improving the quality of the feed by acquiring better data from the source, keeping the feed constantly updated, and adhering to the best practices.
Quality Source: Quality source feed refers to the most fundamental attributes of the product such as the title, prices, images, description, and other data which gives the most accurate information about the product to the buyer. Accurate information prompts Google to present your ad to the right shopper.
Best practices: Meeting the requirements of best practices of Google is critical for optimizing your product feed. This means having categories accurately filled and adhering to the rules so it can better match your products to the search queries.
Optimizing product feed quality: While you have covered all the individual requirements in the previous steps, there are always more ways to improve your feed. The title for example is a great example. Creating catchy titles that go with the trends backed up by a compelling description is a powerful combination to have your ads shown to the right searches.
e. How do I set up a Google Shopping feed?
Start by Login to your Google Merchant Center.
Navigate to the left-hand menu section and select “Products”.
Select “Create Product Feed”.
Select the country of sale.
Select your preferred language and click continue.
Set the Primary Feed Name
Choose your method of data feed from Google Sheets, Scheduled fetch, Upload, Content API.
Select the Google Sheets option and choose an upload schedule to preferably “Daily” and continue.
Click Create your feed to complete the setup.
f. How do I create a data feed in Google Merchant Center?
The simplest way to create a data feed is to use the 'Manual' method that uses Excel sheets or other spreadsheet programs. If you're already a Google account holder, sign in to the Google Merchant Center and go to the data feed’s Bulk Uploads page. Click on ‘New Data Feed’.
The data needs to go to the merchant center as a spreadsheet. Create an Excel or Google Docs and add the recommended columns by Google each with the necessary attributes. It is not needed to add all the attributes if it doesn’t apply to your product, however, the order and the essentials must be present to display your product.
Once your product data is correctly entered in, the spreadsheet has to be saved as a tab-delimited text file on your computer. Login to the Merchant Center and go to the bulk upload page in the data feeds and click on Manual Upload. Select your product feed file and click on upload. The first time it was about 24 hours for it to be processed. Subsequent uploads will take under an hour to get processed and show the updated results in the search.
g. What is the data feed file?
A data feed file is a spreadsheet file that you can use to upload data about your products in bulk and update the items in your catalog. Data feed files contain required fields for your product such as title, description, product category, product type, price, availability, etc. The fields can vary depending on your inventory type.
The data feed file can be created in two ways; you can either download an existing template from your channel with the required fields already present in it or create your own using a spreadsheet program. Google, for example, offers data feed templates for its merchants with all the required fields in order. When filling up the data feed file template it is essential not to alter the titles or the fields or the file will be rejected.
When creating your own file you can follow Google’s data feed instructions on how to create one with required and recommended attributes. Products with missed attributes will have lesser chances of being included in the relevant results. The file will also have to meet Google’s format requirements before being submitted.
Now that you are aware of the significance of the product data feed it’s time to hustle and tweak it to make the best out of the tool or to create one if you are just starting out. Numbers show that Google shopping now gobbles up 65% of ad clicks and has been more profitable for the merchants over the last year.
With growing competition, the thoroughness of your data feed can significantly alter the visibility of your products. Whether you are managing your feeds manually or through your store’s content API, optimization of the feed is possible by meticulously adhering to the best practices of Google product data feed.
Further readings on Google Feed