The Pros and Cons of Google Merchant Center Feed Rules
Introducing Google Merchant Center Feed Rules
Google is currently experimenting with “Feed Rules” a new feature within their Merchant Center. The beta program (currently available in a limited number of Merchant Center accounts) offers a way for retailers to transform their data directly within GMC.
With Feed Rules, retailers can export and submit their product database “as is” and then transform their attributes and values to meet the Google Shopping feed specification requirements.
Once retailers specify feed rules for a feed, all their future uploads are processed according to those rules. Essentially, if a retailer is able to apply a feed rule to address errors in their feed, they will likely be able to resolve a number of errors at once.
For retailers that don’t know how to manipulate fields in the feed, this could be a helpful tool – but unfortunately much like Google’s Direct Feed Import – for any large scale businesses this feature has limitations in terms of scalability.
Disadvantages of the Google Merchant Center Feed Rules:
“It’s an interesting feature, although it’s still going to be much more optimal to manipulate the data directly in the feed itself.”
How Feed Rules Function:
A product feed is how a retailer communicates their inventory to a given product advertising channel. Shopping channels like Google will cross reference this data with shopper search queries and your bids to determine ad visibility. While most marketers understand the importance of uploading feeds – it’s often lost how critical it is to optimize the feed data and sync it with a comprehensive Google Shopping strategy.
Feed rules transform data and tell Google how you want the Merchant Center to interpret the product data you’re submitting.
As seen in the example below retailers can create and define feed rules for attributes including availability, age group, condition, color, count, brand, custom labels and more.
Pro-Tip: Custom Labels are considered one of the most valuable attributes that marketers can use to reduce COS and increase efficiency. Located with the feed, Google Shopping Custom Labels can be used to subdivide products into specific categories for advanced monitoring, reporting and bidding.
With feed rules retailers can:
- Map their field names to the attributes names defined in the Google Shopping Products Feed Specification.
- Map the values in their feed to values compliant with Google Shopping Products Feed Specification.
- Populate missing attributes with a static value, or with different static values based on conditions.
For example, you might submit a feed with column headers (as seen in the example below). These column headers are not recognized by the Products Feed Specification, so the feed will show errors.
According to Google, instead of changing your column headers each time you create your feed, you can apply a feed rule to map each of these attributes to the required attributes from the Products Feed Specification.
Once a retailer has rules in place to transform their data to meet the requirements in the Products Feed Specification, they can submit their data feed formatted exactly the way it is.
Pro-Tip: Feed rules are applied to individual feeds. Setting rules for one feed will not affect how the other feeds in your account are processed.
For smaller retailers, (new to Shopping), this tool could be initially be useful. Unfortunately, any retailers seeking an advanced shopping strategy will eventually require a data feed specialist to optimize their feed. It’s a starting point – but large scale feed manipulation will still require a service provider as your catalog continues to grow.
To find out more about GMC Feed Rules, email firstname.lastname@example.org