Google Merchant Center is a tool and central dashboard where online retailers can upload store and product data and manage the appearance of their e-commerce products. Perhaps its biggest benefit is that the feed is uploaded directly to Google in real-time, ensuring that all information displayed is accurate at the time of a given search.
This data was used to primarily to power Google Shopping Ads, which meant that the benefits of the merchant center were not readily available to non-AdWords users. Retailers generally relied on schema markup to display information in rich results and rich product image results. Information displayed usually included ratings, price, availability, etc.
But in its latest news, Google announced that it would be opening up its merchant center capabilities to all online retailers, regardless of whether they run AdWords campaigns. This comes after its recent updates to the product report in Search Console and improvements to product visibility through Google Manufacturer Center.
So why is the merchant center update important?
It’s important because all that detailed information in Shopping Ads is now available to all retailers (free of cost) and eligible to be viewed in organic search and image results. That information can also be submitted directly to Google in real-time, not just by adding schema markup to your site.
This gives retailers better control over how their products appear online to help customers better find the relevant information they need.
Google also stated that product data would be ranked based only on relevance to users’ queries. We can assume that it will be treated similarly to rich results by choosing information to display that it believes is best suited to each user and query (based on search history, location, etc.).
This change is great news for online retailers and highlights two major departures from the previous version of the merchant center:
- Retailers no longer need an AdWords account to upload product information
- There’s no cost associated with it
For any brands looking to add relevant information to their listings without running a shopping campaign, this is the way to do it.
The expansion is starting in the U.S. with support for other countries coming later in the year.
Don’t have a merchant center account? Here’s how to set one up
To get started, you’ll first need to create a merchant center account. This is free of charge and requires and doesn’t require an associated Google AdWords account.
You will need an existing Google account, or to create a new one.
Then, head to the Google Merchant Center page to begin set up.
You’ll be asked to enter in basic business details like location, name, and website URL.
Then, you’ll need to verify and claim your website. If you haven’t verified your website with Google before, you’ll need to do so either by HTML file upload, HTML tag, Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager.
Note that all websites must comply with the Merchant Center Guidelines.
Now here’s the fun part: the product feed. (Okay, it’s not that fun, but it’s important).
To get started, go to the “Feeds” section under “Products” in your Merchant Center. To create a new Primary Feed (required), click the + button
Remember, your feed is a digital listing of all the products you’re selling online. It will contain quite a bit of detail regarding your products, like title, description, URL, price and image URL. You can find a complete list of eligible attributes in the product feed here. Keep in mind that some of these attributes are required.
These feeds are submitted either in TXT (.txt) or XML (.xml) format. If you go the XML route, you may require the help of a developer. TXT is generally easier for creating a feed.
Once you’ve submitted your Feed, it’s a waiting game. Google processing could take up to 24 hours.
But when it’s done, Google will start pulling information from your feed straight to search and image results.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, a digital marketing teacher at the University of California San Diego and author of the book Digital Influencer, A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online. Throughout his career, Lincoln has worked with hundreds of websites, ranging from start-ups to household names, and has won awards in SEO, CRO, analytics and Social Media. In the media, Lincoln has been featured on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, CIO magazine and more.