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Google PLA Ads: How Data Quality Drives Performance

To manage Google Shopping effectively, it’s important to use an integrated approach. To drive the best results on Google PLA ads, campaign management in AdWords needs to be done in conjunction with feed management rather than being siloed into separate processes. This integrated approach has been a key component in driving YoY performance for our clients.

Previously, we’ve looked best practices for Product Listing Ad campaign structure. In this post, we’ll highlight the critical importance of data quality in your Google Shopping feed to overall success of your PLA program.

Google has emphasized repeatedly the importance of data quality in Product Listing Ads, and it’s one of the key reasons they shifted to a paid model. As we’ve seen over the summer, they are beginning to enforce data quality more aggressively, starting with stricter validation of product identifiers beginning in July.

This is a natural progression as their marketplace continues to evolve, and over time we expect more robust policies and controls over data quality with the intent of improving the consumer’s ability to discover products more effectively through Google Shopping.

Good Data Quality Gets You Listed

At the most fundamental level, poor data quality can prevent your products from being listed on PLAs. For each category, it’s important to stay on top of Google’s requirements as they change to ensure that each product has the attributes required to get them listed successfully.

As an example, Google rolled out new policies in July for unique product identifiers, and retailers who haven’t complied with this requirement have begun to see products rejected from Google Shopping. These products are not live on PLA ads and they won’t be marketed during holiday unless the unique product identifier rules are followed.

Media categories now require a UPC, EAN or JAN depending on region. Books require an ISBN value. Clothing continues to only require brand name, but the shoes, handbags, sunglasses and watches subcategories require GTIN in addition to brand. In other categories, Google requires multiple unique product identifiers typically a combination of GTIN or MPN and brand.

Given these policy changes, it’s critical to ensure you are including the appropriate unique product identifier (or identifiers, plural) for every SKU in your Google Merchant Center feed. On an ongoing basis, it’s important to keep pace with Google’s evolving requirements as they push additional policy changes to continuing refining the consumer’s experience on Google Shopping.

Data Quality Keeps You Listed

In addition to gating your products based on required attributes, Google also monitors your website to verify the accuracy of what you are sending in your feed — Are the prices in your product feed consistent with your website pricing? Are all the products listed as in stock in your feed actually available for sale on your site?

If not, Google flags these data quality errors, and this in turn can trigger a manual review by Google with some unfortunate outcomes – either account penalties or in some cases account suspension.

Thus a key component of data quality for Google PLA ads is to ensure the accuracy of data in your Google Shopping feed, including rapidly changing data points such as inventory and pricing which can change rapidly particularly during holiday promotions. It’s important to update your feed frequently; in fact we recommend updating as frequently as every 15 minutes.

Beyond avoiding penalties, there are ROI benefits to keeping your data in sync. We have seen improved conversion for retailers that are able to post updated product inventory within 15 to 30 minute increments. Specific sizes or colors of a product often sell out more quickly, especially during peak selling season. Removing those out-of-stock variation SKUs from your Product Listing Ads as quickly as possible eliminates wasted ad spend and boosts overall conversion rate.

To maximize the frequency of updates to this level, you should ideally use the Google Content API for Shopping rather than sending a traditional flat file product feed. The Content API for Shopping allows for incremental updates throughout the day, whereas sending a flat file takes longer to process and can delay your Google Shopping updates.

Data Quality is Key to Successful Marketing

Data quality also significantly impacts your marketing effectiveness. The data feed extends your product website onto Google Shopping, and it’s important that all the key attributes needed to merchandise those products are available within the feed.

Focus on the quality of your data right from the start, ensuring you have populated simple attributes like brand, title and taxonomy values for every SKU in your data feed. Make sure the attributes are accurate and as descriptive as possible. If there are gaps in your data, you’re going to need to fill in those gaps.

The data in your product titles and descriptions provides the keyword or search term coverage within your Google Shopping campaign, so titles and descriptions need to include relevant terms that consumers will be using to search for your products. Optimized titles and descriptions help drive your overall visibility in Google Shopping.

Titles also influence your click through rate, so ensure that the title includes key attributes such as product type, gender and color that will highlight to the consumer that your product is a good match for their query.

How Mercent Helps Retailers Optimize Data Quality for PLA

Understanding how data quality affects your Google PLA ads performance is good, but it can be a challenge to manage data quality for each SKU across a catalog with thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of SKUs. Depending on catalog size, how frequently your inventory changes, and the quality of data available in your own ecommerce systems, Google’s data quality requirements can be difficult to address effectively without a software solution.

 Get Listed Quickly

Our software-as-a-service platform DemandStream automates many of the key tasks in managing and optimizing data quality, ensuring you get listed quickly, stay listed and in synch, and improve the quality of your product data in order to outperform with your PLA campaigns.

Our platform is built from the ground up focused on product data quality. We provide real-time feedback of validation errors including missing or invalid attributes, thanks to our integration with the Google Content API for Shopping. As Google begins valideating and enforcing product attributes more stringently — such as with the recent changes around UPCs — we automatically expose any errors and provide workflows to address them. This ensures that issues get flagged and resolved quickly as opposed to lingering without going live on Google Shopping.

Ultimately every product that is live represents incremental sales for retailers, especially as we approach the fourth quarter.

Stay Listed and in Synch

Our integration with Google’s Data Quality API provides additional information about the quality of your product data and how Google is scoring those products. We organize this feedback in DemandStream to allow you to easily correct data quality issues. You can apply content rules to your existing products as well as new incoming products. This ensures you meet Google’s ongoing data quality requirements and also allows you to better optimize your overall campaign.

DemandStream posts new products and product updates directly via Google’s API vs relying on a flat file. Our software injects products incrementally via Google’s Express Pipeline and updates price and inventory in near real time, sending only those products that have changed. For a retailer with 100,000 SKUs where only 10% change inventory status in a given day, this means changes are live in the Merchant Center hours faster than they would be if delivered via a flat file.

 Optimize Your Performance

Our platform is designed to optimize the data quality of any field within your feed. Using dynamic content rules within the Mercent system, you can add relevant attributes to your product titles or description to improve keyword coverage within your data feed.

In this example, we add attributes like ‘electric guitar’ and additional keywords to the product title, thus driving overall visibility of your products in Google PLA ads. These optimizations can be done at scale or even at a one by one basis for critical bestselling SKUs.

The Product Ad Platform You Need

DemandStream provides the industry’s only complete end-to-end, enterprise ready Product Ad Management platform. Our holistic software platform provides the critical pieces required for success on Google Product Listing Ads, including:

– Integration with your retail product catalog, inventory, and price feeds 
– API integration with Google and all major product ad channels including Bing, Amazon, and eBay
– Feed management and scheduling tools
– Data quality optimization and error resolution tools
– Campaign management and product target structuring tools
– Bid management and automated bidding tools
– Robust tracking, reporting and analytics