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Fall 2019 Updates to Google Merchant Center

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Google quietly rolled out several updates to Google Merchant Center in August 2019, which you may have missed if you weren’t paying close enough attention. While these updates were minor in nature, as advertisers it’s important to find ways to leverage new features as they are rolled out to continue bringing innovative ideas to grow our clients’ businesses. I’m going to recap some of the smaller updates and explain how the larger updates fit into (what I think is) Google’s long term plan for Merchant Center, managing feeds/shopping, and integrating their various products.

Navigation and Design Updates 

My two favorite Fall 2019 updates are the updated design and navigation elements for the Merchant Center UI. Google has simplified the left-hand navigation menu, condensing the most commonly used features into tabs labeled products, marketing, growth, and a few more depending on what is active. The overview tab gives a high-level view of different programs being managed through the Merchant Center to get a quick look to see if things are functioning correctly. 

Example of Merchant Center overview page

Less used tabs from the previous left-hand navigation menu have been moved to the wrench drop-down in the top right. Here you can find all the tools and settings related to Shipping and Returns, Taxes, Business information, and much more. 

The overall design of the site has been revamped to closely resemble the re-branding of other Google products over the last year. This is a continuation of the play for Google to integrate their products, improve cohesion across entities, and reduce friction when learning interfaces. This usability change will especially help smaller advertisers who have less time to spend on each platform and can get in and out more easily. 

Changes to Promotions & Diagnostics

In the new “marketing” tab on the left navigation menu, you can find all the promotional feed and setup options. Advertisers now have the ability to see the different stages of approvals for promotion extensions for Google Shopping. This is an expansion of the Fall 2018 update that completely overhauled the promotion extension creation interface. E-commerce account managers that have a hefty promotion schedule will appreciate this update because it allows for more transparency into the review process to reduce the unknown of when your promotions will go live.

Example of updated Merchant Center promotion approvals

Along the lines of product disapprovals, I have to also mention Google has updated their product diagnostics page from updating twice daily to near real-time updates. This will help immensely when a product feed is being updated or switched and less time will be needed to wait for updates to see if your changes worked or not. 

Bonus tip: Google also confirmed in August that GTINs, MPNs, and Brand Names are no longer required for products to be approved for Google Shopping. Having these fields will still enrich your product data and make the products easier to find. 

Example of diagnostics page

The Meat of the Revamp

The newest feature added into Merchant Center is the ‘growth’ tab on the left-hand nav menu which houses three main components:  opportunities, market insights, and manage programs. 

The opportunities section is a clear replica of the ‘recommendations’ section within Google Ads and provides high-level ideas for optimizing your Shopping campaigns. This is aligned with Google’s market position of focusing more on self-serve advertisers that don’t have time for many day-to-day optimizations. We have seen this trend in the industry for years now, with Google catering more and more to smaller advertisers who have less time to spend in accounts and need to leverage machine learning for 1-click optimizations. Find out what other trends you can get in front of now in our latest webinar, predictions for online marketplaces in 2020

Example of Merchant Center opportunities

The ‘market insight’ tab is a competitor product tool that aggregates product pricing and volume insights. The ‘top products tab’ shows overall top products on Google you aren’t advertising, while the ‘personalized’ tab shows products that related to what’s in your feed that you’re not advertising

Example of Merchant Center market insights

At first glance, this section may not help many advertisers who have set product SKUs or are the sole distributor of certain products, but there are several out-of-the-box ways we can leverage this data as digital advertising managers. We can:

  • Use this product data to provide clients with insight into trends in their industry that are specific to digital
  • Investigate  a dip in performance for a particular SKU, see if any products in this list overlap with that SKU, and what search volume it is experiencing
  • Get in front of potential query exclusion through analyzing the current top products. 

Conclusion 

Google has been amping up the frequency of updates relating to the Merchant Center, product feeds, and Shopping programs throughout  2019. Moving into 2020, my prediction is for Google to continue rolling out updates aimed at smaller advertisers that reduce barriers to entry into the online marketplace. 

NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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Searchenginejournal.com

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