start-seling-on-google-merchant-center

Implementing Google Merchant Center – Step by Step Guide

This blog post is recently updated on May-07 2019.

Assuming that you already know what a Google Merchant Center does, I’ll dive straight into the steps you need to follow to set up your e-commerce store with the Merchant Center.

But for the complete greenhorn, the Google Merchant Center is a tool that allows you to upload your e-commerce store and its items to Google to make it available to Product Listing ads or Shopping Ads and other services run by Google. Click To Tweet Google Shopping Ads or Product Listing ads are created after you set up your Google Merchant Center account and create a Google Adwords (Pay-Per-Click Ad) campaign.

These ads are displayed on the Google platform and other places across the web targeted at your potential customers. These ads offer a great deal of information to your target customers right off the bat (even before they click the ad) such as the product photo, title, price and a whole lot of other information, instantly making them better-qualified leads even before they land on your e-commerce store. On the other hand, if you fail to effectively use Google Merchant Center, the most optimized product listing ads may struggle even.

Also Read: How to Configure Must Have Ecommerce Metrics on Google Analytics

Steps to follow to set up your e-commerce store with the Google Merchant Center Account

Step 1 – Creating a Google Merchant Account

You must have a Google account (such as Gmail) to use the Merchant Center tool. If you don’t have a Google account yet, visit accounts.google.com and follow the steps to create one.

If you already have a Google account, go to merchant.google.com and sign in to configure your Merchant Center account.

Configuring your Merchant Center Account

To start using the Google Merchant Center tool, you must provide your e-commerce store details and claim the ownership of your online store.

The configuration process is split into three steps. In the first step, you need to enter the details about your e-commerce store such as its location, name, URL or site address, and customer service contact info if any. Check the following screenshots to have a better understanding.

gmc-business-info-2

Click on ‘Continue’ after you have filled up the information, which takes you to the Terms and Conditions screen.

GMC-terms-and-condition-agreed

Read it carefully, and tick the “Yes, I agree to the above Terms & Conditions” checkbox and click on “Continue” (click the “Go back” button in case you need to revisit the previous screen and make any changes), which will take you to the final screen (as shown below).

GMC-Website-verification

Google Merchant Center also offers three more ways to verify and claim your website.

  • By adding an HTML tag on your site (involves messing with the code, it’s recommended to stay away if you don’t have any clear idea of it)
  • Using Google Analytics account or
  • Via Google Tag Manager

Once you are ready to verify your e-commerce site, click on the ‘Verify URL’ button on the screen. If the verification is successful, the “Verified” and “Claimed” texts under the Website URL section will turn green and appear with a green tick in the front. See the screenshot given below.

Google Merchant Center home screen

Image resource: https://www.disruptiveadvertising.com/ppc/ecommerce/google-merchant-center/

Click the “Finish” button, and you will be taken to the Google Merchant Center home screen.

Step 2 – Exploring the Tool in Detail

Here is how the Google Merchant Center home screen looks like.

GMC-home

The “Home” screen offers an easy way to view the tool announcements and your Dashboard information. The Dashboard uses cards to give a general overview of your product data, feed information (will be soon talking about it in detail), and Shopping ad clicks.

Opportunities

GMC-opportunities

The “Opportunities” screen displays tailor-made performance suggestions based on your present product data and Google Adwords Shopping campaigns. These recommendations can greatly improve the traffic to your ads.

Business information

The “Business information” section in the Google Merchant account allows you to edit/enter your basic business details. You may have already entered these details while configuring your account. These details are utilized in various Merchant Center programs like “Shopping ads”.GMC-Business-information-dashboard

The “Business information” tab opens a section that is divided into three sub-sections: About your business, Website, and Logo.

Let’s have a look at these sub-sections in detail.

About your business

Business display name: This is the name of your e-commerce store that you entered while setting up the account. This will be shown in your ads, and it must abide by the Merchant Center store name guidelines.

Website: It is the domain name of your e-commerce store where your products are hosted. If you want to include items from more than one e-commerce site to your Merchant account, you must configure a multi-client account, which is explained in detail in this tutorial.

Business Address: This field allows you to enter the registered address of your business or where the headquarters of your business is located.

Customer service contact: This is an optional field. You can enter the contact details of your customer service department (its website, email, and phone) if you have one.

To edit these fields, click on the down arrow located towards the right end of each field.

For instance, if you need to edit your store name, click on the down arrow on the Business display name field and the following screen opens up.

Business display name

Image source: https://feedarmy.com/kb/how-to-change-google-shopping-display-store-name/

Make the changes, if any, and click on the ‘Save’ button to save the changes.

If you haven’t entered the Address and Customer service contact informationduring the initial setup process of your Google Merchant Center account, you can do it here.

Website

To use the Google Merchant Center tool, you must have a website that is verified and claimed. The Website sub-section shows whether your website has been verified and claimed. If it is verified and claimed, you will see it as Verified and Claimed in green as discussed earlier. You can claim the ownership of your website using four different methods. The steps for the HTML upload method have been explained in Step #1 of this article.

Make sure your domain URL begins with http:// or https:// and includes your full website (domain) name. The URL cannot be an IP Address (e.g. 12.178.10.67), it cannot have a port in it (e.g. http://www.yourwebsite.com:5050),and nor can it contain any fragments (e.g. http://www.yourwebsite.com#bottom).

Logo

The logo section allows you to upload two store logos of different sizes that you can use while promoting your items on Google. If you don’t require a logo, just leave the section as it is. The products that you promote on Google will use these logos that you upload in Merchant Center.

For square logos, the brand name of your store need not be included, and it must be small enough to be viewed on mobile devices. Whereas, the wider rectangular logos must contain your brand title or name that effectively conveys the name of your e-commerce store to the users.

Step 3 – Adding products to your Merchant Center

Now we have come to the most exciting part of this tool – adding “Products” to your Merchant Center. This is accomplished using “Feeds”, which will be the main focus of this step. The Product section offers an easy way to access the configuration and other information pertaining to your product data. This section offers a centralized platform to manage all the feeds, analyze its quality, and view all your products as a list with an easy and uncluttered interface.

Diagnostics

First, let us check out the Diagnostics sub-section.

GMC-Diagonstic-problem

The Diagnostics sub-section allows you to analyze and troubleshoot both historical and current issues with your product data.

List

List

The List section gives you a detailed view of the products that you have added to your Google Merchant account. This section allows you to search for a particular product and shows the data for the past 30 days. The Listretrieves the clicks from your Google Adwords data and uses the Adwords Time Zone to calculate it. If your Merchant Center is linked to multiple Adwords accounts, the List will give you an aggregated view of the data from all those accounts.

Feeds

Feeds

Feeds bring the Google Merchant Center to life with your product listings! A Feed is the mandatory data source for the tool. All the data pertaining to the products that you wish to advertise on Google are fed into the tool using a Feed. Feeds are classified into two types – Primary and Supplemental.

Primary Feed

A Primary feed is the compulsory data source containing the product information that the Merchant Center uses to advertise your merchandises on Google. Primary feeds are all you need to create if the product data adheres to the product data norms and specifications of the Merchant Center. But if they don’t, you need to utilize the Supplemental Feeds or other advanced feed features like the Rules. However, you can add or remove products and set other attributes pertaining to your products only with Primary feeds.

Supplemental Feeds

As the name suggests, Supplemental Feeds will only provide additional data to the existing Primary Feeds or provide data for the Feed Rules (Feed Rules are created to amend the product data to conform to the Google Merchant Center requirements). To provide additional data to an existing feed you must connect this feed to an existing Primary Feed. However, you cannot add, remove products or change attributes of your product data with a Supplemental Feed.

To use a Feed, you need to first register a Feed. Let’s check out how you can register a Primary Feed.

Registering a Primary Feed

Click the round blue “+” buttonto the top left side of the screen under the Primary feed’s title. This opens up the “New primary feed” screen, where you can start registering a new Primary Feed. See the screenshot given below.

Primary feed’s title

Image source: https://help.godatafeed.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003751891-How-do-I-submit-my-feed-to-Google-Merchant-Center-

It is divided into three sections,

  1. The Basic Information section,
  2. Primary feed name and input method, and
  3. Setup

1. Basic information

The Basic information section displays the Type of the Feed, which is defaulted to ‘Products’, assuming that the feed you are registering will only have product information.

Feed-basic-information

Target country Select the Target country, where you wish to sell and ship your products to after uploading them using the Feed. Please note that the products that you upload for the Target country using a feed must adhere to all the requirements of that country, including the norms and specifications of the Feed.

Language Select the Language used to create product data. However, if you select a Target country where multiple languages are spoken, the Language drop-down will present you with all the supported languages used in that country for the feed. (For example, if you select Germany, the Language drop-down will have German and English as options.)

Destinations (Shopping)” checkbox is checked by default indicating that your products are presented in the Google Shopping advertisement destinations and included in the Google Shopping catalog.

Click “Continue”, which takes you to the 2nd section – Primary feed name and input method.

2. Primary feed name and input method

Primary feed name – Give a descriptive name that easily identifies the content of the feed. This name need not match with the filename of the source file that you are submitting.

Feed-primary-feed-section

3. Setup

Input method (Choose how to set up your feed and connect your data to Google Merchant Center) – Merchant Center offers four different options to input product data with a feed.

feed-Setup-threea.Google Sheets – If you choose this option and click “Continue”, you will be shown the following screen in the third and final step, where you need to setup this input method.

If you choose “Generate a new Google spreadsheet from a template” option, Merchant Center will generate a template spreadsheet for you (after clicking “Continue”) that will have an auto-filled row with the recommended and required fields.

Google-sheets

If you select the next option “Select an existing Google spreadsheet” and click “Continue”, a window titled “Select your spreadsheet”opens up which allows you to select an existing Google Spreadsheet pre-created by you.

You can edit the fetch schedule by editing the Fetch Frequency, time, and time zone. The fetch schedule can be changed later from the Feed settings (by clicking on the Feed after it is created). Click “Continue” when done.

The advantage of using Google Sheets is that you can update your feed information using Google’s existing template, so you are less likely to make mistakes with the product feed specifications.

b.Scheduled Fetch – If you select this input method option, you must host a file containing the product data in a location on your website server. When you click “Continue” after selecting this option, you will see the following setup screen, where you need to setup this input option.

fetch-scheduling

File name In the setup screen, you must enter the filename of the feed file that you have hosted on your server. The filename must exactly match the name of the file that you have hosted on the server.

Fetching schedule You can leave these fields at the default values or specify your own. That’s optional.

File URL The File URL must begin with http://, https://, FTP://, or SFTP:// depending on the protocol. If not, the processing of your feed will fail.

Login Info – The username and password are required if you are submitting the Feed file via SFTP protocol. However, you cannot use Google’s FTP or SFTP servers as the feed URL for a Scheduled fetch input method.

Click “Continue” to finish the registration with this input method.

The advantage of using this method is that it is a more hands-off approach since you do not need to manually upload or create your feed.

c. Upload – With this input method, you can provide the product data to Merchant Center via a file (TXT or XML format for RSS and Atom files) residing on your computer using the UI or via SFTP, FTP or Google Cloud Storage. If your file has no extension, it will be processed as a .txt file (tab delimited) by default. If you are uploading it via SFTP, FTP or Google Cloud, the filename must be an exact match of the filename that you are submitting to the Google Merchant Center account. It is recommended to use SFTP as it is a more secure method to transfer files. You can also use Google Cloud Storage as it is a flexible infrastructure and offers enhanced security. You can learn more about it here.

File-upload

It is highly recommended to Upload the file as a test (tick the checkbox in the box), which allows you to preview the file in the Merchant Center before overwriting the existing feed; else you will end up disrupting your existing Shopping ads.

If you are using the SFTP, FTP or Google Cloud Storage (GCS) to upload the product data file, you must create an SFTP or FTP or GCS account by going to the SFTP/FTP/GCS page from three dots menu located to the top-right corner of the Merchant Center account. (Check the screenshot below).

SFTP-ftpd.Content API – If you choose the “Content API” input method to upload your product data, you don’t need any source file and a feed is automatically created by the Merchant Center. The Content API for Shopping feature itself will act as an input source and interact directly with your website to retrieve your product listings, but programmatically.

Although Content API makes it enormously easy and efficient to manage large or intricate Merchant Center accounts, I wouldn’t recommend this input method to anyone who’s just starting out with Google Merchant Center, especially to the ones with no programming background. Because Content API method requires the knowledge of any of the programming language such as Python, Ruby, PHP, etc. to get this up and running successfully. If you plan to take this route, you must discuss with a developer.

Registering a Supplemental Feed

To register a Supplemental feed, go to Products -> Feed in your Google Merchant Center account and click on “ADD SUPPLEMENTAL FEED” button under the Supplemental feeds section. See the image given below.

add-supplements

Similar to the Primary feed registration, registering a Supplemental feed also has three steps. But unlike the Primary feed registration, you do not need to add the Basic information.

The first step is identical to the second step of Primary feed registration, where you need to choose an input method. The second step is identical to the third step of the Primary feed registration, where you need to set up the selected input method.

choose an input method

Image source: https://blog.datafeedwatch.com/supplemental-feeds-google-merchant-center

And in the third step, you have the option to link a Supplemental feed to an existing Primary feed.

Linking the Supplemental feed to a Primary feed

linking-supplement-to-primary

If you wish to link the Supplemental feed to a Primary feed, click on the appropriate checkbox and click “Continue”. A new Supplemental feed will be created in your Merchant Center account.

You can see the link to the Primary feed indicated under the Used inthe header of the created Supplemental feed.

primary-feed-indicator

Removing a Feed

To remove a Primary feed, go to Products -> Feeds in your Merchant Center account and click on the recycle bin icon right next to the feed name. This will delete the feed.

primary-feed-delete

The Merchant Center won’t allow you to delete a Supplemental feed unless the Rule created to link the feed to the Primary feed is deleted.

To delete this Rule, click on the name of the linked Primary feed, click on the “RULES” tab, and then click anywhere under the “Attribute” and “Rule” headers (check the below screenshot).

attribute-and-rule

Now click on the Delete icon next to the “Set to” Rule of the Supplemental feed to delete that rule.

Once the Rule is deleted, the Supplemental feed is unlinked from the Primary feed and it can be deleted by clicking the recycle bin icon next to its name.

Product Suggestions

The Product Suggestions report will list the related products that are popular right now in the Google marketplace, but not promoted by you on Google via the Merchant Center account. This report will help you update your inventory with new items and also price them appropriately on your site.

Product Listing Ads

Before moving on to the next step, I would highly recommend you to spend some time to watch this fantastic video made by the folks at Google themselves. The video offers some useful insights on getting started with feeds and product listing ads.

Step 4 – Setting up the Tax

To set up taxes, click on the Tax tab in your Google Merchant Center account.

Setting up the Tax

Image source: https://www.practicalecommerce.com/success-with-google-shopping-part-3-merchant-center-setup

Setting up the taxes is just as important as uploading products into your Google Merchant Center account. If you set up the taxes properly, your users will have a clear understanding of the amount of tax that they need to pay while buying a product on your site.

The Tax settings screen has three options as shown in the above screenshot. If you plan not to set up your taxes now, you can click on the first option “Don’t configure tax at account level” and click SAVE.

Step 5 – Setting up Shipping Service

Services

You can easily set up your Shipping services by navigating to the Shipping services section in your Merchant Center account. To get there; click on the “Shipping” tab.

Now click on the blue+button to create a new shipping service.

new-shipping-service-dashboard-1

new-shipping-service-dashboard-2

The fields are pretty much self-explanatory.

  1. Name: First you need to type-in the Shipping service name in the Name field. Keep it descriptive to easily identify the service later on. The maximum number of characters that you can enter is 100.
  2. Service area: Choose the area that you wish to provide your shipping service under the “Service area” drop down.
  3. Currency: Choose the currency for the shipping service that you are creating.
  4. Delivery time: Enter the Delivery time, which is the time required for an item to reach the customer’s place. Select the range of business days it will take for an item to reach the customer. Although this may vary depending on the products and customer’s location, this gives a fair idea about your delivery time to the users.
  5. Minimum order value: The Minimum order value is the minimum amount that the customer needs to spend on your site to become eligible for free shipping if you are offering it on your e-commerce store.
  6. Shipping rates: Click on the blue round button with a “+” sign to create a new shipping rate for the shipping service that you are creating.new shipping-rate
  • Affected products filter: You can apply the shipping service to a group of products by choosing the “Filter products by shipping labels” option with shipping labels. After this option is selected, you can enter the shipping labels of the products that you have specified in your feed. You can also enter the labels that you have not yet included in your feeds.
  • Shipping rate name: Give a name for your shipping rate.
  • Shipping rate table: You can create a single shipping rate for all the orders or create multiple rates depending on the item weight, price, or the number of items by creating a shipping rate table. For example, if you select the Order Price option under the Shipping rate table, the following screen opens.

Shipping rate table

In this screen, you can specify a shipping cost for an order price range (up to a certain amount) and a different shipping cost if the order price exceeds that range. You can keep the shipping rate at a fixed rate, or a percentage of the total order amount, link a sub-table if you have more than three dimensions or provide no shipping at all for a particular order price range.

When done, click “Continue” and click “Save” to create the shipping service, which can be seen as a new row in the Shipping services section.

Delivery Zones (Applicable to the US and Australia only)

To create a delivery zone, enter a Delivery zone name, select the country, add the postal codes and click “Save” (check the screenshot below). Delivery zones can be used while creating postal code based shipping options.

Create a delivery zone

You can see the newly created Delivery zone as a new row in the Delivery zones section,

Delivery zones section

That’s pretty much it!

Optimizing your Google Merchant Center Account

As you work with the Merchant Center and your product feed, remember to keep on checking the diagnostics tab. It is a great way to identify if you are missing some attributes and if there are errors with the existing ones.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these five steps will offer you an adequate understanding of the various features of the Google Merchant Center tool and also guide you to set it up correctly to promote your e-commerce products on the web.It may take a couple of weeks for your products to appear, but once they do they tend to stay there.

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