Guide to Google Merchant Center – An SEO Perspective

The role of Google Merchant Center for SEO

Operating an online business in today's digital landscape demands a thorough understanding of the role played by various tools in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). One such critical tool is the Google Merchant Center, which facilitates eCommerce businesses by enhancing product visibility on Google’s vast network. Traditionally leveraged by Google Ads professionals, Google’s Merchant Center offers some surprising organic benefits to brands.

A strategic use of the Merchant Center can result in significant uplifts in product exposure and a consequent increase in website traffic and sales. However, setting up and effectively optimizing Google Merchant Center for SEO is a process that requires careful attention, and this guide aims to facilitate that journey for you.

This document will provide detailed steps on the following:

  1.  Understanding the fundamentals of Google Merchant Center and its benefits in the context of SEO.
  2. Setting up your Merchant Center account, with clear roles and responsibilities during the setup process.
  3. Optimizing your product data, such as titles, images, and descriptions for better SEO outcomes.
  4. The importance of high-quality images and how to select and upload them for optimal engagement.
  5. Maintaining accurate and up-to-date product data to build trust and improve SEO.
  6. Ensuring consistency between product data and landing pages to enhance user experience and boost SEO.
  7. Running experiments on product data for continuous improvement and further optimization.

Learning Google Merchant Center

Google Merchant Center is a key tool for online retailers looking to maximize their product visibility across Google's networks. It serves as a control center where you can upload product data and make it available for Shopping ads, Google Product Search, and other Google services.

Understanding the role of the Merchant Center in SEO involves these crucial steps:

  • Get into the platform: Familiarize yourself with the Merchant Center interface. Know where to find key sections like product feed, diagnostics, and performance.
  • Understand the SEO benefits: Understand how the Merchant Center aids SEO. It helps your products to appear in Google Shopping results, which can greatly increase product visibility and traffic to your website. This is in addition to your ability to leverage it for Paid Ads.
  • Understand product data requirements: Know what data is necessary for each product upload, including id, title, description, link, image link, price, and brand. Understand the SEO implications of each - for example, the "title" and "description" fields are important for search keywords.
  • Know the policies: Familiarize yourself with Google's policies to avoid violations that can lead to product disapprovals or account suspension. This includes pricing, URL, and image guidelines, amongst others.
  • Explore advanced features: Beyond the basic setup, the Merchant Center offers advanced features like promotions, dynamic remarketing, local inventory ads, etc. Understand how these can enhance your SEO and overall product visibility.

By understanding the significance of Google Merchant Center, you are setting a solid foundation for your SEO journey, better positioning your products for greater visibility across Google’s services.

Setting up your Merchant Center Account

Setting up your Google Merchant Center account is a straightforward process that involves a few key steps:

  1.  Visit Google Merchant Center: Start by going to the Google Merchant Center website and clicking on the "Get Started" button.
  2. Create or sign into your Google Account: If you have an existing Google account, use it to sign in. If not, create a new one.
  3. Business Information: Fill out your business information, including business name, country, and time zone. This information helps Google know more about your business.
  4. Agree to Terms of Service: Read through the terms of service, and if you agree, click to accept them.
  5. Configure your Account: Once your account is created, you'll be guided through the configuration process. This includes setting up shipping and tax information, linking your account to Google Ads, and verifying and claiming your website URL.
  6. Upload your product feed: The final step is to upload your product feed. This is where you provide Google with all the details about your products.

Remember, everyone involved in the setup process should be aware of their roles and responsibilities, ensuring a smooth and efficient setup.

Optimizing your product data for SEO

Optimizing your product data is crucial for your products' visibility in Google Shopping. Here are some steps to ensure your product data is optimized:

  • Product Titles: Your product titles should be clear, concise, and contain the most important details about your product. Ensure your main keyword appears early in the title for best SEO results.
  • Product Descriptions: Your product descriptions should be informative, engaging, and keyword-rich. Remember, don't just list features; describe the benefits. And don’t forget to use keywords.
  • Product Images: High-quality, clear, and relevant product images can significantly improve click-through rates. Make sure the image link is accessible, and the image itself is representative of the product.
  • Product Types and Categories: Correctly categorizing your products and making good use of the product type attribute can improve visibility and placement in relevant search results.
  • Link and Mobile Link: Ensure that the 'link' attribute directs to a functioning, final URL of the product. If you have a separate mobile site, make sure the 'mobile link' attribute points to the mobile URL.
  • Price and Availability: Ensure that the price and availability on your website match the data in your product feed. Discrepancies here can lead to product disapprovals.
  • Unique Product Identifiers: Providing accurate unique product identifiers (UPIs), like GTINs, MPNs, and brand names, can help improve the performance of your Product Shopping ads.

By effectively optimizing your product data, you can enhance your product visibility, improve your SEO outcomes, and ultimately drive more traffic to your site.

The importance of high-quality imagery

The impact of high-quality images on eCommerce platforms cannot be understated. Not only do they attract potential buyers and encourage engagement, but they also contribute significantly to your SEO. High-quality images are more likely to appear in search results, especially in Google Image Search, and thus can increase your website traffic. Here are some guidelines to ensure you use high-quality images:

  • Image size and resolution: Ensure your images meet Google’s minimum size requirements. For non-apparel products, use an image that is at least 100 x 100 pixels. For apparel products, use an image that is at least 250 x 250 pixels. Avoid images larger than 64 megapixels or files larger than 16MB.
  • Image background: Use a white, gray, or light-colored background to make your product stand out. Avoid adding promotional text, watermarks, or other distractions in the image.
  • Image quality: Use high-quality images that are clear, well-lit, and not blurry. The product should occupy at least 75-90% of the image frame.
  • Image format: Submit images in accepted formats such as non-animated GIF (.gif), JPEG (.jpg/.jpeg), PNG (.png), BMP (.bmp), and TIFF (.tif/.tiff).
  • Multiple angles: To give potential buyers a comprehensive view of the product, consider including images from different angles or perspectives. This will also enhance your product listing’s attractiveness.

By following these guidelines, you ensure that your product images are of the highest quality and can provide the best results in terms of SEO and customer engagement.

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date product data

Ensuring your product data is accurate and up to date is critical for a successful Google Merchant Center experience. This not only builds trust with your potential customers but also helps improve your SEO as Google prioritizes accurate and relevant information.

  • Update your product feed regularly: Depending on your inventory changes, you might need to update your product feed daily, weekly, or monthly. Regular updates keep your product data accurate and consistent with your website.
  • Monitor your product data quality: Regularly check your Merchant Center account for data quality issues. Resolve any issues promptly to avoid product disapprovals or worse, account suspension.
  • Maintain accurate pricing: The price of a product on your website must match the price listed in your product feed. Regular updates are necessary, especially during sales or promotions.
  • Use Automatic item updates: If you can't frequently update your product feed, consider using Google’s Automatic item updates feature. It helps mitigate the risk of temporary product disapprovals due to price and availability discrepancies.

By maintaining accurate and up-to-date product data, you ensure a seamless shopping experience for your customers and a better ranking in Google's search results.

Ensuring consistency between product data and landing pages

For an effective SEO strategy, it's crucial to maintain consistency between your product data and your landing pages. Inconsistencies may lead to a poor customer experience and negatively impact your organic search rankings. Here are some pointers:

  • Ensure matching product details: The product details on your landing page should match the details in your product data. This includes the title, description, price, and availability.
  • Consistent branding: The branding on your landing pages should align with your overall business branding. Consistency in your brand representation helps to build trust with your customers.
  • Page Load Time: Slow-loading pages can lead to high bounce rates, which can negatively impact your SEO. Optimize your landing pages to load quickly, both on desktop and mobile.
  • Avoid 404 errors: Regularly check your landing pages for broken links and fix them promptly. Landing pages that lead to a 404 error can harm your SEO and frustrate potential customers.

By ensuring consistency between your product data and landing pages, you enhance the user experience, which can boost your SEO rankings.

Run experiments on product data for continuous improvement

To continue improving your SEO performance, consider running experiments on your product data. This can help you understand what works and what doesn’t for your particular audience. Here are some strategies:

  • Test different product titles: Experiment with different keyword placements and title lengths to see what leads to higher visibility.
  • Try different product descriptions: Test varying styles of product descriptions. Some audiences may prefer detailed descriptions, while others might prefer concise bullet points.
  • Experiment with pricing: Test different pricing strategies to see which one maximizes profitability without sacrificing click-through rates.
  • Analyze Image performance: Experiment with different image styles, such as images with models vs. product-only images, to see which performs better.

By running experiments, you gain insights into the preferences of your target audience, allowing you to tailor your product data and SEO strategies for better performance.

Looking ahead: Google's Merchant Center Next

In an important announcement at Google Marketing Live 2023, Google introduced its reimagined Merchant Center: Merchant Center Next. Beyond a visual makeover, Merchant Center Next offers automation of product data extraction directly from merchant websites. This enhancement seeks to streamline the experience for users with less technical acumen and provide richer insights for data-oriented retailers.

At Acadia, we think Merchant Center Next is going to be a game-changer. The platform's capability to automatically pull product data emphasizes the importance of robust SEO fundamentals. Ensuring proper markup of products, effective crawling, and indexing becomes paramount. Additionally, given the variable nature of stock statuses, it's crucial for businesses to be ready to handle an increased load of bot traffic. Consequently, businesses should focus not only on product optimization but also on strengthening their websites to accommodate this more advanced method of product data retrieval. The introduction of Merchant Center Next underlines the vital role of a sturdy SEO strategy in the constantly evolving landscape of digital marketing.

Parting thoughts

Mastering tools like Google Merchant Center is critical for businesses seeking to thrive online. As SEO becomes more complex and essential, understanding how to use Merchant Center to its full potential has grown increasingly important.

The upcoming Merchant Center Next, unveiled at Google Marketing Live 2023, reiterates this importance. The platform's new features, including automated product data extraction from merchant websites, highlight the role of thorough SEO practices in digital marketing.

Even as Google streamlines data extraction, the onus is still on businesses to ensure their websites and product data are well-optimized and structured for easy crawling and indexing. It also indicates a need for businesses to bolster their servers to handle potential increases in bot traffic.

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Scott Walldren