Google Product Feed Updates & Rich Snippets

PPC

Elizabeth Marsten Mar 17 2011

Technically this information isn’t strictly PPC, but it sure affects you if you are running or using a product feed for things like Product Extension Ads or Product Listing Ads and the feed suddenly disappears, disabling all your precious AdWords attributes and rendering the Auto Targets tab useless.

Tragic, right?

So here is a breakdown of changes coming to required attributes on Google Product Feeds and drilling down even further on rich snippets and how you can utilize those through a product feed. This information was pulled together from 3 different Google product sites: Google Merchant Blog, Google Merchant Help Center and the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

First up- the most crucial information- on required attributes for a Google Product Feed:
EVERY product must have a unique product identifier (UPI)- if you want it to show up that is.

Starting May 3, we will require unique identifiers for all products except apparel and one-of-a-kind items. Products without unique product identifiers may not be listed in Google Product Search, though the feed may not be disapproved.

A UPI is something like a UPC code, MPN (manufacturer part number), ISBN or could be a Japanese or European article number (JAN, EAN).

google-product-upi.jpg

Check out the full Google Merchant Help Center article.

Tax Attributes in Google Merchant Center

Next- takes effect on June 6th. Tax information is required for feeds targeting the USA. You can set this at an account level (that’s the required part) or you can do item level override values within the data feed or via the API. See the full Google Merchant Help Center article on tax attributes.

Obviously the easiest is going to be the account level setting. Login to your Merchant account and under Settings, select “Tax and Shipping.” Click “add your tax settings” and select how you will be charging taxes, click continue.

If you select to do it on a state by state basis a handy list of all 50 states will show up, allowing you to select which states you need to charge tax in and then on the next screen, allows you to enter the tax rate for each state and whether or not to apply that tax to shipping as well. Save and you’re done. You can go back and edit any of these settings later if you need to.

google-products-tax-settings.jpg

What’s a Rich Snippet?

OK, now that’s how you keep your feed up and running through June 6th. But I also promised something on rich snippets since we’re on the topic of product feeds. Rich snippets are “search results that have been enhanced using structured data from your webpages…” It means that in an organic search result it can show price, availability, reviews, sales- but only available in the US.

Example: Amazon uses these a lot.

rich-snippet-product-result.jpg
angelas-ashes-rich-snippet.jpg

You can utilize this feature a couple of ways: through a product feed or markup on your site.

Submit Rich Snippets via Product Feed

The Google Merchant Help Center article on this outlines how to do this, here are some highlights:

  • Have the attribute column for quantity set to 0 for out of stock items.
  • You need product ratings and reviews- so if you don’t have any, you may be out of luck. If you do, submit these ratings through the “product review average” and “product review count” attributes.
  • BUT- if you work with one of the Google Product Review Partners (Bazaarvoice and Power Reviews) you might be able to leverage those reviews and ratings instead.
  • Fill out the prices attribute column correctly.
  • Include rel=”canonical” link element on product pages- more on that below.
  • Then, fill out the Rich Snippets Participation Request Form and submit.

Submit Rich Snippets via Markup

Google said it best:

If prices for your products tend to change only infrequently, then adding markup is an alternative method to provide product data for rich snippets. We’ve updated our product markup format to allow a variety of different types of shopping sites to participate. In addition to the Google format, we support two other standards: the hProduct microformat and GoodRelations. You can use the rich snippets testing tool to test your markup and make sure it’s being parsed correctly.

The rich snippets testing tool is pretty nifty, be sure to use it- it’ll also give you a preview of what the result will look like.

Rel = Wha?

And last, but not least, what about that rel=”canonical” link that needs to go on product pages?

What that does is let you tell Google which URL you want them to use for that product page. Often there are multiple URLs or long URLs that take users to the same product page, this is a way to consolidate and remove things like session IDs.

For example, both

http://www.example.com/product?id=388

and

http://www.example.com/product?id=388&category=748&sessionId=4754379899

might lead to the same product page. When Googlebot crawls a site, it’s not unusual for it to find several URLs for the same page. And it’s not always clear which of those should be displayed in the search results on Google.com.

This is allowing you some control over how long the URL is (go for the shorter one) and of course, let you participate in rich snippets. This does not affect Product Search, Product Listing Ads or Product Extension Ads URLs- whatever you specify in the feed is the URL they will use, this does not override those. Tracking parameters don’t get stripped off.

Does this crossover out of PPC, into SEO and web developer territory? Yeah. But aren’t you glad you know about it?

tags : DevelopmentGoogleppcrich snippetsSEO