Big news for ecommerce merchants: as of April 21, 2020 and before the end of the year, U.S. businesses can advertise for free on Google Shopping. On Google’s end, the effort is meant to help businesses combat slow sales and other issues that may have emerged in the wake of COVID-19. On your end, this represents an amazing opportunity to connect with your customers and reach new customers even if you’ve been forced to close your doors. 

Advertisers who already have a GMC and Google Ads account won’t have to do much extra legwork to get their products listed for free on Google shopping. For those who do not, you’ll create a GMC account and product feed, but won’t be required to have or create a Google Ads account. Google will be working on a streamlining the onboarding process over the next couple of months. 

To learn more about how to show your products free on Google Shopping, click here.

To sign up for Google Merchant Center, click here

Shopping campaigns are a highly effective way to move your inventory and get users to your site, and we recommend taking advantage of this opportunity ASAP. Not sure how to get started? This blog will help you make sure your website follows Google’s shopping feeds campaign policies and the other best practices that set your site up for success.

Are You Eligible To Advertise On Google?

First, let’s make sure that you are allowed to advertise on Google. There is certain content that Google does not allow on its ad platform, such as:

  • Products that are considered dangerous: weapons, ammunition, fireworks, tobacco products, drugs, and more.
  • Products that enable dishonest behavior: products to cheat in academics, hacking software, fake documentation, and more.
  • Products that are considered to be inappropriate: bullying an individual or a group, racial discrimination, blackmail, cruelty of animals, and more.
  • Products that are counterfeit goods. This is if the products mimic a brand or products.
  • Currently, Google will not accept ads that mention coronavirus or COVID-19 to prevent the spread of misinformation. 

How to Stay Compliant With Google’s Policies

Once you’ve verified that you’re eligible to advertise on Google, there are additional guidelines to follow to ensure you don’t meet the dreaded ad disapproval. 

Mobile Optimization

Google is known for wanting to create the best experience for users, which is a huge reason we use it in our day to day lives. Naturally, they want to show the websites that meet the user’s needs and expectations  when they are shopping online. And because more than half of all web traffic is mobile, responsive websites top the list of user expectations. Knowing this, Google also expects websites to be responsive. Check that yours is using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test tool. 

Universal Product Code (UPC)

The universal product code (UPC) is a unique number assigned to each product which identifies a product brand name, model, color, size, etc. Google has strongly encouraged all items to have a UPC code where available, and failure to submit one can result in products being disapproved. However, products that are handmade do not require a UPC code.

Product Images

One of the many reasons shopping campaigns are successful is because it is a visual campaign and people are already searching for your product. Good product images are one of the most important aspects of running a successful shopping campaign, and they can have a big impact on the user’s purchasing decision. 

If an image is too big or too small, it can be disapproved or cause an error on Google Merchant Center (GMC). Google requires all non-apparel images to be at least 100×100 pixels in dimension. All apparel images must be at least 250×250 pixels. Images must not be larger than 64 megapixels, with no file size larger than 16MB.

Image size isn’t the only factor that can get a product disapproved on GMC. Your ad will also be disapproved if there are watermarks, generic images, text on the image, or a broken link on the image. Remember folks, the product descriptions are there for a reason!

Accurate Contact Information

Google likes websites that offer full transparency and so do people. One of the policies in order to run a shopping campaign (and one of the easiest to abide by) is to have accurate contact information on your website. This is the “Contact Us” page most websites have. You must provide a phone number/email address and an address.

Privacy Policy

If you collect user data on your website (such as using Google Analytics, Google Ads, etc) you must be transparent about it with a complete, accurate privacy policy page or section. A privacy policy section lets your customers know that you are collecting data on them and what you are doing with this data. Having one is an essential responsibility you have to your customers, and it keeps your website GDPR-compliant. It’s also required by Google and Facebook to run ads. 

If you are having trouble creating a privacy policy for your website,Volusion has a free privacy policy creator.

Shipping & Returns

Another must do in order to advertise on Google is have a clear shipping and returns section on your website. When it comes down to it, shipping and returns can be a major factor to a person’s purchasing decisions. 

Example: if you need a tent for a week from now for your camping trip, you are going to want to know how soon it can get to you. You’ll also want to know what you can do if the tent doesn’t work out.

Your website must state shipping information, shipping carrier, and estimated delivery time. Some other things you should consider when you are making your shipping & returns policy are: 

  • How long will your return policy last?
  • Will you give the customer back a full refund or store credit?
  • In what condition should the product be to be eligible for a refund (undamaged, still in packaging, etc)? 
  • Are shipping labels required?

Secure Website

A secure website is a vital sign of trust, and it’s required if people are making purchases on your website. If shoppers  don’t see the locked lock at the top of a website they will leave immediately, no matter how cute the shirt they wanted to purchase was! 

Your website should be hosted using HTTPS protocol and include an SSL certificate. This  ensures that the webserver and the browser remain encrypted. If you do not have an SSL certificate, you can easily get one an affordable one here

Best Practices To Have A Successful Shopping Campaign

Don’t let the hard work of setting your website up for a shopping campaign go to waste!   A few additional technical & non-technical adjustments  will not only help your shopping campaign, but can lead to better SEO and higher revenue. 

Analytics & Tracking

Google Analytics is one of the best ways to track users on your website. The tool helps you track factors like where your users come from, the time they spend on your site, whether they made a transaction, and much more. 

This is such a valuable tool that gives you so much information about your strategy and goals. And it’s free! 

404 Error Page

A 404 error message occurs when a user attempts to reach a page or file that does not exist. When we think of 404 error pages — well, let’s be honest, we don’t. It might be considered the “out of sight, out of mind” page for most of us. However, not having this page creates a dead end and bad experience for users. 

Create a custom 404 page to lead your customers back to your site without interrupting or confusing them. This page can also be an opportunity to use your company’s voice and have fun with it!

16 Super Clever 404 Pages that are Totally On-Brand

Product Page Content

SEO and shopping feeds go together like peanut butter and jelly. Make sure all your product pages contain useful, keyword-rich information. This makes it easier for Google to crawl and index to match your products with potential search terms. 

This also helps attract customers and give them all the information they need to make a purchase decision! 

Duplicate Content

Having duplicate content on your website can confuse the search engines and may impact your rankings. The best practices for product content is to have a distinct purpose for each product. Even if two products are very similar, change the verbiage to make each one  more unique and indexable. 

SEO-Friendly URLs

Each product URL should contain keywords that you want the page to rank for in your shopping campaign. Keep in mind that you do not bid on keywords for shopping feeds campaigns, but the information on your page will help Google determine when to serve the ad. 

Shopping campaigns can be a straight shot to a transaction in the marketing funnel. And once you are able to follow all the best practices, the campaign can be a cake walk!