• Marketing

Nightmare on Merch Street: The horrors of setting up a Google Merchant Center

Shane Davis
Shane Davis
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Like most horror movies, I am being a little over the top, but we thought we should arm you with the “rules” to defeat the evil that reigns over Google Merchant Center setup. Once you’ve defeated it, the Merchant Storeis extremely valuable and will certainly help grow your business, but getting there—like dispelling a curse, killing the bad guy, or ensuring no one knows what you did last summer—takes effort and time.

I Spreadsheet My Pants - Halloween Themed Blog by Flywheel Strategic

I Spreadsheet My Pants

When you launch into the Merchant Center you will be directed to a Google Sheet, which is called your Feed. Trust me, it eats your brain. The Feed is the backbone of your Merchant Center, listing your products, pricing, shipping currency and more. There are roughly 50 columns you must navigate, and within each cell there are several data points that need to be exactly as they appear in the provided example. Your Merchant Center dashboard pulls the feed, and if there are errors, it fails. You will need to switch back and forth between the spreadsheet and the Merch Center, checking to see which change is resulting in the failure.

When we implemented it recently, we had errors related to calculating the tax, and the example given was “US:CA:10.00”. We did not need to collect tax, so we did not use that column, and that returned an error. We added the column back in with a blank cell and got another error. We realized the cell needed colons, so looking at the example we used a cell with ::: for the 3 data points, but got yet another error. So looking at the examples in the sheet, it actually gave 4 examples which were country (optional), geographic region (optional), rate (required), tax_ship (optional), realizing the 3rd colon required a value, we provided ::0: and finally that worked. We ran into loads of cases where this occurred; either the examples supplied by Google were not exact enough, or requirements were not immediately obvious. Overall, this sheet will devour you if you don’t have both time and patience.

Google Merchant Center - Halloween Blog by Flywheel Strategic

Don’t Sleep (on Image Requirements)

Google has some strict but logical image rules, so tread carefully. One key rule has to do with outlines around your images. If your original design calls for borders, they will have to be removed or Google will not display them. You must also be aware of size. The ideal pic size is 800 x 800 and not over 4 MB. If your pictures are smaller than 250 x 250, Google will not display them. All these restrictions should be considered before you shoot your products. Much like Facebook ads, Google does not allow for text or watermarks over the product images. They must be square, clean and borderless. Recently, Google updated the functionality to include a logo, which is a nice addition.

28 Days Later - Halloween Themed Blog by Flywheel Strategic

28 Days Later

Some settings are quite annoying. When you connect your feed to your Google merchant spreadsheet and all your product listings are approved, you think you’re done... But Google sets all the products on your feed to expire after 30 days. You have to go into your feed, click your primary feed, go to your fetch settings, and change the fetch date to daily. This way Google checks your merchant spreadsheet every day. We’ve actually set a calendar reminder to go into Merchant Center every 30 days just to give us peace of mind nothing else is acting funky.

Google Merchant Center Back End - Halloween Blog by Flywheel Strategic

The Results

After finally slaying the Google Merchant Center, there have been some interesting data points and conversions. The data has helped us learn which keywords are resulting in which product clicks. Using this information, we’ve made changes to the product description pages and better understood what is popular in a product line. It has helped with pricing too, as we can see what other products show in our searches and if they align with what we are selling. If not, we can adjust keywords for more appropriate searches. Plus we have learned how to compete better and provide more attractive offers than our competitors.

Overall, the build was a nightmare, but once we jumped our first few hurdles, we were able to fully utilize the Google Merchant Center.

If you’ve had Merchant Center nightmare moments please share! Tag us on social @FlywheelStrategic.