What is Google Merchant Center (GMC)?
Google Merchant Center sits between your store and Google Ads and holds all the data for the products you want to advertise on Google Shopping.
How Does It Work?
In the image below we see your store on one side, Google Ads on the other, with Google Merchant Center sitting in the middle.
The process works such that your product information is pulled into Merchant Center by way of a feed. Your feed sits in GMC and is kept up to date by refreshing with your store’s data on a regular basis (usually daily). Once you’ve set your feed up, it’s verified and approved. Once the data is validated and your products are active they are pushed into Google Ads were you can use them to build your Shopping campaigns.
You can also have an additional step in the process when you use some kind of feed management platform or tool. In this case, the product data goes into the tool first and then into Merchant Centre, as illustrated below. This removes the need to have the product information being imported directly in Merchant Center.
Feed management tools are used to optimise the product feed before pushing it into Merchant Center.
Inside Google Merchant Center
There are three sections under Business Information: About Your Business, Website & Branding.
About Your Business
This is where you enter your business name, address and contact details for customer service.
Before you can start advertising on Google Shopping you need to verify and claim your website. You do this inside the GMC dashboard.
There are several ways to verify ownership of your website: via Analytics, Tag Manager or by uploading a file or adding a tag to your website.
Here you can set brand colours (optional) and upload square and rectangular logos for use in some ad formats.
Delivery & Returns
Shipping can be set up directly in your feed for each product or by setting your zones and rates in GMC. You can set multiple delivery zones and delivery services (eg standard & priority) including free shipping if you offer it.
Despite mentioning returns in the menu at present there is no option to enter any info on this here.
This section allows you to set up the correct sales tax depending on where your products are to be shipped. You’ll need to refer to local rules to find out what needs entering here.
Once your product feed has been set up in GMC you’ll see diagnostic information in your main dashboard.
The graphs show your active, expiring, pending and disapproved products for both Google Shoppind and Dynamic Remarketing if you have that set up.
Clicking on the Diagnostics link below the graphs takes you to more detailed information about disapprovals and errors in the feed, as well as any issues with your Merchant Account.
Below this section is a table showing the reason why products may be disapproved or have errors. Disapproved products will not show in Shopping Campaigns. Products with yellow warnings still show in your ads but performance is likely to be adversely affected so you need to fix those errors as soon as you can.
You can download data here to help identify products affected.
Inside the Growth menu are the following options:
Opportunities, Price competitiveness, Product suggestions & Manage programs.
Here google will make suggestions for expanding or growing your campaigns, as in the example below:
You can choose whether you implement these suggestions.
At the time of writing this is in Beta and is an optional programme you can sign up for. Price is a big factor in success in Google Shopping so this could provide some very valuable insights to help optimise your products and campaigns.
This will show you products that are currently popular on Google but that you’re not advertising. The idea is that it will show products like yours that you may want to consider adding to your inventory.
You will see product images, links, descriptions and benchmark prices from stores that are selling them.
This area is where you will sign up for additional programmes such as local inventory ads, dynamic remarketing, promotions and product ratings.
Google Merchant Centre is the heart of any Google Shopping campaign. It provides valuable information to help you keep your product data/feed in the best possible condition. Having a well optimised feed with few errors will make it much easier to succeed in Google Shopping.
Make sure you check in regularly for errors and alerts to avoid costly disapprovals and even potential account suspension which could be catastrophic.