Now that Google Catalogs is integrated into Google Shopping, the catalog platform is more relevant than ever to merchants. Google has reformatted the Google Shopping home page. The redesign includes prominent placement for Google Catalogs, with “Featured Catalogs” on a banner at the bottom of the above-the-scroll page.
Google’s re-introduction of Google Catalogs includes more and better ways for merchants to connect with consumers. The new Google Catalogs is interactive and mobile. There is a Google Catalogs application for iOS and Android tablets.
Google Catalogs can contain videos, image galleries and web links in addition links from the merchant’s Google Shopping feed. A lot of publishers are making the mistake of simply publishing their print catalog on Google Catalogs rather than taking advantage of the unique opportunities that the platform offers.
Maximizing the merchant’s return on Google Catalogs means using strategy, planning and preparation to bring a rich user experience that is going to lead to higher conversion.
This article will show publishers how they should prepare their company’s Google Shopping Feed in order for it to integrate smoothly with the publisher’s Google Catalogs dashboard, and provide tips and strategies on how to clean up images (duplicates, pixelated, or lacking), as well as how to write titles and descriptions.
Fix Your Feed
The interactive element of Google Catalogs that most directly leads to conversion is product annotation. This is a stylized price tag link that opens up to a dialogue box which gives the consumer more details about the product along with showing product images. From that dialogue box consumers can click through to the product page on a merchant’s website in order to put the product in a cart.
Publishers don't create the product annotation links from scratch. On the Google Catalogs dashboard, there is a tab in which the publisher can enter a query such as a part number or product name to search for products that are in the publisher’s Google Shopping Feed. Once search results are returned from the feed, the publisher drags and drops the product results onto the catalog.
Every catalog is submitted to human review at Google before it goes “live”. Once a catalog goes live, it can't be altered.
There are a number of Google Shopping Feed issues that will cause a catalog submission to be rejected. It is important for the publisher to clean up their Google Shopping Feed in preparation for annotating a Google Catalog.
Check out this Google Shopping search results page for “Smittybilt xrc8” restricted to the store Winch Depot. In the upper right hand corner of the screen the web surfer can choose the way the results are displayed. The choices are a stacked table or a grid. Switching between the two shows that the stacked table images appear smaller than the images in the grid view.
In the Google Shopping Feed for Winch Depot, there are two identical images of the product but one image is larger than the other. If the consumer were to click on the product annotation for this winch in Google Catalogs, the consumer would see two identical images with no size difference.
On Google Catalogs, multiple images of a product are meant to show the item from different angles. Google reviewers will reject a submission that has duplicate images for one particular product. The publisher has to manually remove duplicate images from each individual product annotation in which they appear or alter the Google Shopping Feed to remove duplicate images.
The image above shows the product annotation dialogue box for a Rock Crawler wheel in the Google Catalogs dashboard.
The small image on the right of the dialogue box is the one image that is in the Google Shopping Feed for this particular Rock Crawler wheel. The image on the left of the dialogue box shows that image at the size it is suppose to be in the Google Catalog. If the image were shown at this size it would, as you can see, be pixelated.
Above is an image of the same product annotation as the consumer would see it. The image of the wheel remains small in order to remain crisp. If the consumer wants to get a good look at the wheel, he will have to zoom in.
The image above shows the product annotation for a La Paz wheel as the consumer would see it. Notice how much larger the image is. No zooming in is necessary.
Google reviewers will reject a submission that has product annotations with low resolution images that will pixelate when shown at the default product annotation size. The Google Catalog dashboard does not allow the publisher to upload images directly to a product annotation. The publisher has to make sure that the images in the feed are of a high enough dpi.
The Product tab in the Google Catalogs dashboard won't return queries for product searches if the product doesn't have an image attached to it in the Google Shopping Feed. Publishers must make sure that the images in their catalog are represented in the Google Shopping Feed with an attached image.
If a catalog product isn't in the publisher’s Google Shopping Feed, then the publisher can substitute a product annotation with a call-to-order annotation. This is a stylized analog telephone link that opens up to a dialogue box with the part number, price and a telephone number the consumer may call to order the product.
Your Feed is for SEO, Your Catalog is for Users
Check out the SERP in Google Shopping for “Bestop Supertop NX” limited to the JeeptopDepot.com store. The text in the product description is optimized for SEO:
“2007-12 JK Wrangler and Rubicon;2-door models;Khaki diamond;Tinted windows;Factory style hardware and bow assembly included;Sunroof option;Doors ...”
Now look at the product annotation for Bestop Supertop NX in Google Catalogsin the 4 Wheel Parts 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. (The very first annotation on the spread. The annotation on the yellow Jeep in the upper left hand corner). The description adheres much more to a catalog writing style:
“Supertop® NX complete top with OEM style hardware: Bestop's factory style soft top comes complete with factory style door surrounds, factory style windshield channel, sailcloth fabric and tinted windows. PLUS, a Top Arch to support the fabric, quick release bow. . . “
A product description in the Google Shopping Feed is written to enhance the chances that the product will show up on the SERP for a particular set of keywords. The product description in Google Catalogs should be written to enhance the experience of reading the catalog and to sell the consumer on the product.
Tell ‘em in the Title
For products that look the same but have multiple iterations, the publisher can alter product annotation titles to help the consumer differentiate. Take Smittybilt Windbreaker Jeep soft tops for example (The annotation that is the 4th row down and the 2nd row across. The second Jeep below the big yellow “$30” and above the 4-door red Jeep).
The images for the Windbreaker Jeep Soft Top, the Windbreaker Tonneau Cover, and the Windbreaker Spare Tire Cover are all exactly the same. In addition, the differences in the images between the Black Diamond, Black Denim and Black Vinyl top are minimal.
The titles for each of the annotations have been altered from the Google Shopping Feed title so that the product and the product color are visible to the consumer. The product annotation titles in Google Catalogs are fewer characters than the Google Shopping Feed titles so differentiating information should be written at the beginning of the title.
The consumer swiping through this grouped product annotation with altered titles is a lot less likely to mistakenly click on the View Details/Buy Online button for the wrong item. Changes that the publisher makes to the title and description in the Google Catalog dashboard do not change the title or description in the actual feed.
After reading this article, it may seem like preparing your company’s Google Shopping Feed for integration with Google Catalogs is a lot of work. If so, you read this article correctly.
But here's the thing. Having a clean feed is of benefit to an e-commerce website whether or not the company has a digital catalog. The desire to publish on Google Catalogs may be just the push a company needs to spur its data and development departments to do feed maintenance that may have been long overdue.
This is maintenance that will help the company when it's time for a site upgrade, the launch of an additional site or a site redesign. So don’t look at feed maintenance as a hassle. Look at it as an opportunity.