Retailers Scramble to Cope with Latest Google Product Feed Changes
By Ina Steiner
Retailers looking forward to summer vacations now have a new chore to take care of before they start gearing up for back-to-school activities next month. Google announced on Monday additional changes to its Product Search feed requirements that will take effect on September 22, 2011.
Product feeds are important to getting visibility in search-engine shopping results. In the spring, Google had began requiring merchants to include Unique Product Identifiers (UPIs), shipping and tax information in their product feeds. (See, "What You Need to Know about Google Product-Feed Changes" - link to article).
The latest round of changes, announced on Monday, hit apparel sellers particularly hard. Gena Cornett manages a clothing website called ComfortWearables.com. She's concerned about Google's requirement that merchants submit an image for each variation when selling multiple variations of a product, such as a t-shirt in multiple colors.
"On my apparel website, I have many products with multiple size/color variations. However, I don't have images for each individual color variation. I use stock photos provided by my supplier, which are usually a "catalog photo" of a representative item and "color chips" for the color variations. Reading this makes it look like if I don't have a different photo for each variation, I will not be able to submit the item."
On Google's page describing Products Feed Specifications under Basic Product Information: Image Link, Google states, "If you're selling multiple variations of a product (such as a t-shirt in multiple colors), you must give an image of the correct variation (except for variations of sizes). If you do not have the correct image for the variation of the product, you may not submit the item."
The page also warns merchants about the new changes and links to a summary of the Summer 2011 changes and how those changes might affect merchants.
Cornett said she was also confused about another change in requirements to variations and is concerned she may have to create separate product pages for each color/size variation. "If I do have to create separate product pages, it is going to require a huge time commitment to get it done."
Cornett is a one-woman operation and sells on multiple websites and marketplaces, and said it will take her a lot of time to understand the requirements and then to implement them, during a time she needs to be loading holiday product onto her websites.
"I feel that this change, as well as the earlier changes this year, are primarily to benefit the large merchants that have the resources and staff to devote to making these changes," she said. "It is becoming increasingly hard for the small "mom and pop" merchant to have the time and resources to keep up with these changes, on top of sourcing and selling product, customer service, SEO, and all the changes required by marketplaces such as eBay."
Google summed up the Summer 2011 changes as follows:
- Availability: We'd like a user to be able to find your products even when they are out of stock. For this reason, the (availability) status of all your items will be required.
- Google Product Category: We have added a new required high-level attribute called (google product category) that contains the category of the item in Google's taxonomy (currently only required for a select number of categories). This is in addition to the current (product type) attribute.
- Images: We're making (image link) required and we encourage you to submit up to 10 additional product images through (additional image link). This way, you can improve the visual representation of your products.
- Apparel: In order to create a better experience for product variants such as dresses or shoes that are available in multiple colors or sizes, we ask you to include information like (size) and (color) in your product feed. In addition, we require you to provide (gender) and (age group).
- Data Freshness: We will continue to regularly check feeds for accuracy of pricing, availability, and general product information, and take action against accounts that violate our standards.
Google said its goal in making the changes was for shoppers to quickly and easily find the information they need on Google Product Search and to in turn send more shoppers to merchants.
Merchants aren't the only ones who have to cope with Google Product Feed changes - online marketplaces submit feeds to Google on behalf of third-party sellers and must also make sure the feeds comply with the latest requirements.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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