E-commerce sites that have their products listed on Google Product Search need to pay attention: A big sweep of updates to the feed formatting and policies has been implemented and will be enforced starting on September 22.
The Feed Changes
As announced on the Google Merchant blog, the company is releasing a new set of feed specifications that "will have a strong impact on the user experience." Here's a breakdown of the new items that you must include:
- The "Image" attribute is now required in every country except Japan. Users can still submit up to 10 additional images for their product.
- The "Availability" attribute, which indicates whether an item is currently out of stock, is now required in the U.S., UK, Germany, and France.
- Product categories will have to be specified for the following categories:
- Apparel & Accessories (including sub-categories of "Clothing" and "Shoes").
- Media (including sub-categories of "Books," "DVDs & Movies," and "Music").
- Software (including the sub-category "Video Game Software").
- Items in the "Apparel" category in the U.S. will require the "Age Group," "Gender," "Color," and "Size" to be listed in the product feed.
- A new set of "Variant Attributes" will now be required in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, and Japan for any product that varies in "color," "size," "material," and "pattern."
You can check out the full details on the Google support page that covers the changes.
Changes to the Policies
Beyond changing the feed parameters, Google has also made clarifications on two rules:
- The data from the feed has to accurately match the actual product on the site.
- The price has to match the price most prominently displayed on the site.
These rules were in place previously, but new phrasing indicates that the bar is raising for the match between product feed and actual product. To determine a mismatch, Google "will periodically check your products to ensure accuracy of your product data," indicates that Google support file.
The pricing rule has added some new language that's a little more precise: the price you list on your feed has to be the same as the one listed most prominently on your actual page. This is going to be especially important for member sites that showcase the member price. They will have to show the standard price more prominently instead if they want to continue to appear on the Google Product Search.
What Does Enforcement Mean?
Google has been clear that they will start taking actions against those who violate the terms, and specifically that, "Starting on September 22, 2011 we will be taking action against accounts with feeds targeting the United States, France, United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany that do not comply with the new specification and policy requirements." But what does "taking action" mean?
Feeds will be pulled. More specifically, "products will be suspended from Google Product Search until the issues have been addressed. In case of repeated violations of our quality standards, your products will be suspended for at least one week after the second violation, and for at least one month after the third violation."
Scared that your feed may accidentally violate the new rules? Luckily, a new segment of the Google Merchant Center allows you to check Google's current evaluation of your feed and site to see if there are any problems.