Ahead of Holiday, the Google Merchant Center Gets Important Updates

We like to think of Google Adwords as the brain of Google Shopping programs. It’s where campaigns are built, strategies are implemented and product targeting is ultimately decided. And if Google Adwords is the brain, the Google Merchant Center (GMC) is the heart of the program – where the catalog information is submitted, data health is actively monitored and product status is determined.

Over the last few years, Google has been adding small updates to the GMC periodically, tweaking it here and there. But yesterday, they released a near overhaul of the entire program. As we’re getting closer to the holiday season, with strategies and media plans already very much in motion, marketers should take this time to explore the new interface and added features.

If you access the Merchant Center, the first and most noticeable change is the physical appearance. As Google mentioned in the AdWords blog, the goal was to, “align with the modern look and feel of the rest of Google’s products.” More notably, Google has taken measures to streamline the navigation of the platform, by grouping similar functions into the same section, such as Business Information, Products, and Promotions. You’ll also notice that many of the features that used to be under the General Settings tab, like Account Linking, Users, or FTP access, can now be found by clicking the “3-dot icon” in the upper right hand corner. See below a screenshot of the revamped GMC:

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The update is clearly more than just a face lift, with several exciting new or updated features. With greater efficiency on the marketer’s end, the consumer shopping experience will also likely improve. Google Shopping has become increasingly important in paid media programs, offering a more visual, immersive experience for the end user. PLAs also give brands the opportunity to be more creative and relevant with their content, which will be crucial for maintaining an edge during the upcoming holiday season. All this being said, the overhaul to the Merchant Center is very timely.

Take a look at some of the other noteworthy updates:

Feed Rules: Feed Rules aren’t new, but they’ve been updated, and capabilities have been expanded. This is a tool that allows users to make changes to the feed or product data directly in the GMC, which is a great plus for merchants who do not use a sophisticated feed management program, and may not have access to these features otherwise.

Up-to-date Diagnostics:  As a feed manager, it’s critical to ensure that all data is in compliance with Google specifications; because there will be times when products may be in violation of these rules. In order to mitigate any disruption to the Shopping Campaign performance, our teams act as quickly as possible to solve these issues. But one of the most difficult aspects of that process is waiting for GMC Diagnostics to refresh the changes, and confirm whether or not they worked. Ultimately in the past, the process could take up to 12 hours, with updates only occurring twice daily. But now, the new Diagnostics page will update results several times a day in near-real time, so users will have more current, accurate data to base decisions on.

Logo: One of the more unexpected updates is the addition of the Logo section. As an additional way to differentiate ads, it’s a very exciting opportunity. However, the Logo section will not be immediately available at a global scale with the new version of GMC. Since Logos are currently only used for Local Inventory Ads or transactable PLAs (TPLAs) like the Purchases on Google beta, this section will only be seen in accounts that have been enabled for those programs. However, Google has indicated that the Logo option will be rolled out universally as the new interface changes – there is not a specific timeline at the moment.

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Shopping Program Visibility: Now, users will have more visibility and access to other Google programs that can be used to promote and sell your products – all conveniently located in the left side menu. These programs include Merchant Promotions, Local Inventory Ads, Product Ratings and More, and their availability will vary by account.

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For support or more information on the new Google Merchant Center, check out Google’s change log here.

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