Unlock the power of online retail with our guide to setting up your Google Merchant Centre. From product listings to optimising campaigns, master the art of digital storefronts and reach your target audience effectively.
What is Google Merchant Centre?
Google Merchant Centre is a vital tool for eCommerce businesses. It lets you upload your products to showcase across a range of Google-owned properties: Search, Maps, Shopping, YouTube, and Images.
There are options to do this free of charge and using a paid model via Google shopping or other comparison shopping services.
Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) enables you to show your products as ad listings on Google’s websites in response to relevant searches.
This service was exclusively controlled by Google until a few years ago. Today, Google Shopping has to buy clicks from Google just like other CSS partners.
Usually, there is no urgent need to move away from Google Shopping to another CSS provider, but some offer benefits that Google Shopping does not.
Showcasing your products is a way of capturing potential customers right at the point when they are in decision mode. Users at this stage are much more likely to convert – they’re looking at who to buy from, not whether or not to purchase.
You can set up a merchant account for free as long as you have a website and can verify it. When you first do this, your default CSS will be Google Shopping, but you can change this to one of Google’s CSS partners if preferred.
How do I set up a Google Merchant Centre?
Let’s take a look at how to list your products step-by-step.
Step one: Create an account
The first step is to create an account and link it to your other Google properties.
Start by visiting Google Merchant Centre and sign up for a new account. You’ll need to input basic information about your business.
The first page will look something like this:
Step two: Verify your website
The next step can be a little more complicated. You’ll need to claim your website using one of the four ways listed below.
- Code sent via a business email. This will need to be @yourdomain
- Verify via your eCommerce platform (often the easiest way for most people)
- Verify via HTML tag/file
- Verify via Google Tag Manager
The first two options may be better for users who are not comfortable adding script to their site. However, if you have experience of doing this or a team of PPC specialists that can help, the latter two are more favourable.
Once you have applied your preferred method, Google will verify and approve if it has been applied correctly.
Step three: Add shipping details
Next, add shipping details that align with your business delivery conditions. This includes things like order cut-off, handling days and transit time.
You should set up all delivery options your business offers. This is to inform potential customers how long they can expect to wait for their products.
Step four: Add your products
Google is introducing a new way of automatically adding and updating products based on a web crawl and product schema available on your site. But there are lots of other ways to add your products.
The best way is to pull the products directly from your website by setting up an automated feed from the product management system built into your CMS (content management system).
Depending on your CMS, this can be achieved in different ways. For example, Shopify can connect via the Google and YouTube App available in the Shopify app store. It uses an API to pull through product information into the Merchant Centre based on the rules you give it.
There are also other feed management apps that, once installed, offer greater usability options.
You can also add all the required information via a spreadsheet (see below) and then add descriptive product information separately.
|Use a unique value for each product.
|Accurately describe your product and match the title from your landing page.
|Accurately describe your product and match the description from your landing page.
|Use your verified domain name.
|Link to the main image of your product.
|Accurately submit the product’s availability and match the availability with your landing page and checkout pages.
|Availability date (if pre-order)
|Use this attribute if your product’s availability is set to pre-order. Provide a value up to one year in the future.
|Submit the product’s price and currency accurately, matching it with the price from your landing page and at checkout.
|Provide the brand name of the product generally recognised by consumers.
|GTIN (recommended if available)
|Submit only valid GTINs as defined in the official GS1 validation guide
Google has more information regarding the formatting here.
Finally, you can also add your products manually. This is fine if you only have a handful, but any more than this will be very time-consuming to populate.
The image below shows an example of the information you need to add, which is similar to the table above. Inserting this manually for each product will take a long time.
What next? Promoting your products
So you’ve set up your Merchant Centre account and added your products; what next? Well, this will partly depend on your marketing strategy. You have a couple of options that make the most sense.
Your account is now connected to Google Shopping, which places products in two ways: organic (free listings) and paid.
Assuming your products are relevant, Google will show them organically on the shopping platform in response to users searching for keywords relevant to them (free listings).
You can also connect your Google Merchant Centre to other marketing platforms. Google Ads is the most common. However, it can also be connected to DV360.
DV360 is a lesser-known Google platform dedicated to display and video advertising, which primarily promotes across display networks and YouTube. It can also connect to your Google Business Profile, manufacturing centres and other partner platforms.
Google Shopping is a fantastic way of capturing the attention of people who are ready to purchase. Start by taking advantage of this immediately by promoting your products as soon as your Merchant Centre is verified.
For Google Ads, you’ll also need to link your merchant account to your ads account to pull the product feed in and make them available to place ads.
How to link your Merchant Centre with Google Ads
To make things easy, ensure you use the same email address for Merchant Centre and Google Ads. If you have admin privileges (which you should by default) then you’ll be presented with an option to connect the platforms when you access the relevant areas in either of them.
We have provided a few example screenshots of how the platform currently looks (January 2024). Google is experimenting with the ads interface, so this may look different for users of newer accounts.
How to access the linked account section in Google Ads
Options available to link platforms.
Once you’ve connected the two platforms, you’re ready to serve product listings either via organic listings or ads. But there is still a huge amount of work to optimise your products and advertise them effectively.
With Google Ads, as things stand, there are three ways to promote shopping ads.
- A manual shopping campaign. This is where you select the product you want to promote and manually set up the campaign and the bids to advertise them.
- PMax (a newer version of Google Shopping campaigns). This will pull the product feed and other information into Ads, allowing Google to build a creative they can serve to users.
- Discover, Video, and ‘demand gen’ campaigns can also serve product ads but are primarily focused on building demand. This heavily relies on high-quality ad assets (i.e. photos, video, etc).
Choosing one or more of these options is the first step to promoting your products. This is just the beginning! You can make many optimisations and enhancements to ramp up your campaign’s return on investment.
Continue learning with our resources on Google Ads and product promotion.