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Optimizing a Product Feed

How to optimize a product feed (PLA)

A product feed, also known as a product file, is an essential element of a PLA (Product Listing Ads) campaign in Google’s advertising system. To run any product ads in Google Search or the Shopping tab, you must first create a list of products from your online store (in CSV or XML format) and upload it to your Google Merchant Center account. From there, the advertising system draw information about our offer. The product feed is not created manually; most often it’s created in an easy way by plugins available for particular store systems, where you can assign particular attributes to products. It’s worth knowing that the quality of this file has a huge influence on campaign effectiveness and even the display of our ads to users. That’s why its optimization is one of the most important tasks when launching a PLA campaign. What should you pay attention to in order to create a high-quality product feed?

Why Is Product Feed Optimization so Important?

For starters, it’s worth asking ourselves a basic question: why taking care of the product file stands so high in the hierarchy of actions when creating a PLA campaign. It’s such an important factor for several reasons. Firstly, in this type of campaign we’ve no influence on what key phrases our ad will be displayed on. It’s the Google Ads algorithm itself that decides when to show our product, based on the information contained in the product feed. Therefore, optimization of this file, for example by adding interesting key phrases in the title or item description, gives us at least an indirect influence on who will see our products and in what context.

Secondly, we can add a number of attributes to each product, i.e. product features such as size, color, material, gender (e.g. in the case of clothing) or design. In the Google Shopping tab the user can filter the results based on exactly the same attributes. So the more fields we fill in describing the product, the higher the chance that it will also show up in filtered views. The third reason to optimize your feed is that Google Ads algorithms are constantly determining its quality and rewarding in the displays the products from those files that they consider high quality.

A high quality feed, in addition to affecting your display position, can also help reduce your CPC (cost per click). If the feed is well constructed, our product is more relevant to the customer’s query, so we burn through less budget. This makes it possible for the campaign to achieve much better results, as it produces more clicks within the set budget and reaches a more targeted audience.

What Must a Product File Contain? – Elements of a Product Feed

In the case of a product file, some information is obligatory for the feed to be accepted by the system and some is optional. Additionally, some options are required only for campaigns for specific countries or product categories. That’swhy when creating a product campaign it’s best to check what the requirements are for the feed in your industry and in the country where you want to publish ads. In a nutshell, however, we can say that the information that must be included in the product file includes:

  • ID – a unique identifier of the product. Ideally, it should be the same as in our stock ID.
  • Title – the name of the product and the most important information about it. We will write a bit more about what it should look like later.
  • Description – in this field you should describe the product in detail, using keywords which are the most accurate in its case.
  • Link – it should lead to the product page where you can make a purchase.
  • Image link – the address of the main image of the product, which will be available to be indexed by Google.
  • Availability – the status of the product. It can have a value of “in stock”, “unavailable”, “temporarily out of stock” or “pre-sale” (in the case of the last two options it’s also mandatory to fill-in an attribute indicating the availability date).
  • Price – it shall be consistent with the price on the store page and payment page.
  • GTIN – global trade unit number – this is only required for products that have such a number assigned by the manufacturer, but Google strongly recommends using it for all products.

If the product file contains the elements listed above, it will be accepted by the advertising system, but it’s not equivalent to a high quality feed. These are just the basics and to get a high rating from the algorithm, it’s worth filling-in some of the attributes from the optional list. But before we go on to describe them, let’s say how to optimize this basic product data.

How to Optimize Titles in the Product Feed?

The title is a very important element not only because it’s one of the first pieces of information a user sees. It’s also important because it’s one of the main parameters the algorithm takes into account when deciding which keywords to display for a given product. Therefore, it’s worth including not only the name of the product, but also, for example, its brand, color or size. It’s true that this information will be repeated in other attributes, but if we put them also in the title, we increase the chance that the products will be displayed on the best queries in their case. The order in which the information is provided is also very important and may be slightly different for different product categories. Google states that best practices for title optimization for the most popular industries are:

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  • Clothing: Brand name + Gender + Product type + Product features (color, size, material, etc.)
  • Food: Brand name + Product type + Product features (flavor, number of pieces per package, weight)
  • Home & Garden: Brand name + Product type + Product features + Model
  • Electronics: Brand name + Product features + Product type + Model
  • Seasonal products: Occasion + Product type + Product features

Of course, however, these are not universal models that will work in all cases. For example, a brand name in the title will only attract an audience if the brand is recognizable and has a good reputation, so it’s best to experiment with names and test various options in order to choose the combination that works best in your case.

It’s also worth remembering that product titles may be displayed differently on different devices and thus the system may cut them off in some cases. In the title field we’ve 150 characters to use and it’s good to use them, but make sure that the most important information is at the beginning of this section. In the Google Shopping tab, titles are truncated after 70 characters, so it’s best to fit the most relevant data in this pool.

How to Optimize Descriptions in the Product Feed?

In the case of the product description in the feed we’ve five thousand characters at our disposal. Of course we don’t have to use all of them, but this field is a place, where we can place many keywords. Admittedly, it won’t guarantee that the product will be displayed on these words, but it significantly increases the chances that this will happen.

However, the description should not only be saturated with keywords, but also valuable for the user. Therefore, it’s worth taking care that it comprehensively describes the product and is of high quality. The description for each product should be unique, which increases the chance that the system will correctly select from the list of our products the one that best matches the given search query. For this field it’s best to use a minimum of 500 characters, although of course the more useful information for the user, the better.

However, there remains the question of where to get information on what keywords will be most valuable for a given product. Here with help comes a free tool called Google Trends. We can enter keywords that are associated with our product and check which of them are most frequently searched by search engine users. Thanks to this, we can include in the description those key phrases which are likely to bring us the most impressions and clicks of the advertisement. For example, if Google Trends shows that the most searched keyword phrase is “black women’s stilettos” than “black women’s pumps”, use the first option in both the description and the title.

How to Optimize Product Images in the Product File?

An obligatory element of the feed is a link to the product photo, which the system may then use in the ads. However, in order to get the best quality of the file, it’s advisable not to stop at one picture, but to add several of them, showing the product in more detail. This can be done by using the attribute Link to additional picture. This attribute can be repeated 10 times per product, which means that we can add a maximum 10 additional photos. However, the standard is that for one product we place 3-5 photos, which show the product from different angles.

All uploaded photos should be of good quality, but their weight cannot exceed 16 MB. Although in the official specification of the feed on Google we can find information that the photos should have a minimum size of 250×250 pixels for clothing and 100×100 pixels for other products, it’s better to bet on photos with higher resolution. The optimal size for product images is 800×800 pixels. It’s worth sticking to these guidelines because high-quality images improve click-through rates and, as a result, can also increase conversions.

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Optional Attributes You Should Add to Optimize Your Product Feed

As we’ve already mentioned, apart from the basic data it’s also worth filling in at least some of the attributes which are considered optional by the system. Admittedly, a file without them will be accepted and ads will be displayed, but their effectiveness won’t be as good as if we add additional information. Here are some attributes that are definitely worth completing.

  • Brand

The Brand attribute is most helpful when you are selling products from well-known and frequently searched brands, but it’s worth using in any case. However, it’s an attribute that is often filled in incorrectly, which may reduce the effectiveness of ads, so it’s worth paying special attention to it. A common mistake is to enter the name of your online store in this place, while the correct value is the name of the manufacturer of a given product. For example, if you sell Nike sneakers in your store named XYZ, you should enter “Nike” in the brand attribute, and not “XYZ”. The name of your e-shop shall be entered here only if your company produces the given item in the offer. If the product doesn’t have a brand or the brand is unknown, do not fill in this attribute. It’s a mistake to enter values such as “not applicable” or “none” here.

  • Product Group Identifier

This attribute is used for grouping products, which are available in different versions, e.g. sizes or colors. Thanks to this, they won’t be displayed to the users as separate products, but as variants of the same item, which will make it easier to get acquainted with the offer and make a purchase decision. For all products that are to constitute a group, we should add the same product group ID.

  • Size

This attribute is mandatory for clothing and footwear, but recommended for all products with different size variants. It’s best to use the size most popular in the country for which the campaign is to be run to determine this parameter. If the product comes in multiple sizes, it’s important to add the product group identifier to all versions of the product. In case the garment you are selling has one size, you can enter the value “universal size” in the attribute.

  • Material

Material is one of the most important attributes for many products, including clothing, accessories, footwear or furniture. If a product comes in different material variants, we add each of them to the file separately and combine them into a single listing using an identical product group ID. However, it sometimes happens that an item is made of several materials, e.g. a mixture of cotton and polyester. Then we add all materials within one version in the Material attribute, separating them with a “/” character without spaces, e.g. “cotton/polyester”.

  • Mobile Link

In case we’ve different URLs for computer and mobile traffic, we can also fill in the Mobile Link attribute. This way we will make sure that users using smartphones and tablets after clicking the ad will go to subpages of our store optimized for those devices. This in turn will provide them with a better shopping experience related to our brand. If the URL is the same for both desktop and mobile versions, we don’t need to add this attribute.

What Else Can You Do to Optimize Your Product Feed?

The quality of a product feed, aka a product file, is also influenced by placing information about product types in it and completing the Google categories field. Thanks to proper product classification, the system is better at positioning the offer and adjusting it to the needs of the recipients.

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Make sure up-to-date information about the product assortment appears in the product file. It’s best to set automatic updates of the product file in Google Merchant Center once a day. You can also set more frequent updates (up to 4 times a day), but frequent refreshing of the product file is necessary only in individual cases. Additionally, if you make changes to your website, e.g. add new products to the offer or launch a promotion, you can force the feed to be updated manually without waiting for the automatic data download. When setting up automatic updates, it’s a good idea to choose night hours so that refreshing the file doesn’t interfere with the display of ads to recipients.

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