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Google Products Search data feed generator (Google Base)

In a nutshell, “Products Search” is a product index within the larger Google Base database, and powers the results that you see when you click on the Shopping link on Google. You will need a Google Merchant account to submit products and content to Google Base. More information about uploading data to Google Products Search.

ProductCart contains a feature that allows you to quick generate a Google Product Search data feed. You will then need to register it with Google and provide the data feed by uploading it manually or letting Google automatically “fetch it” from your Web store.

Unique Product Identifiers

New requirements for Google Product Search data feeds

Starting May 3rd, 2011 (and the requirement goes in full effect on June 20th, 2011), Google requires product search listing to include at least two of the following three unique identifiers:

  • Brand
  • MPN
  • GTIN

This is so that your products can be matched to Google's “product pages”, where users are able to view useful data such as product specifications or reviews.

This requirement means that - unless you requests a special exemption, unique product identifiers must be included for all products. Specifically, one of these 3 combinations must be included:

  1. BRAND + MPN
  2. BRAND + GTIN (UPC, EAN, JAN, or ISBN)
  3. MPN + GTIN

Leveraging Custom Search Fields

To do so, you need to leverage the ability to map specific search fields to export fields in ProductCart. The system will then automatically retrieve those values from the database when generating the data feed. It is important that you become familiar with this special use of custom search fields before you create a Google Product Search data feed, unless you have been granted an exemption from submitting unique product identifiers.

Requesting an exemption

If your items do not have unique identifiers (e.g. custom-created products, services, etc.), you can requests a special exemption.

For example, on the ProductCart software store we sell digital goods (our ecommerce software) for which unique identifiers are not available. We requested an exemption and it was granted by Google within a couple of days of submitting the request.

Note that even after the request has been approved, you might still see “Missing Unique Product Identifiers” error messages in the your Google Merchant Center. We contacted Google on this matter, and they indicated that those messages can be ignored once the exemption has been approved (June 2011).

Feature Limitation: Apparel products (US only)

In the summer of 2011 Google Product Search introduced additional required attributes for Apparel products (see sections 4 and 5 of the Google Product Search data feed specifications). These additional requirements apply only to US merchants at this time.

The additional attributes are 'gender', 'age group', 'size' and 'color', plus the 'item group id' attribute if there are product variants, and the 'pattern' and 'material' attributes if the variants vary by pattern or material, plus the corresponding product image for each variant.

As you can see, these new requirements are quite extensive, and will require several database and code changes to ProductCart. We will be reviewing the project again after the release of ProductCart v4.5.

As of now (October 2011), the data feed generator will not support apparel products for US merchants. This is to be considered a feature limitation at this time.

Setting up Tax and Shipping at the Account level

Starting June 6th, 2011, Google also requires product search listings to include tax and shipping information. This information is required at either the account or item level in order for your items to process and appear in Google Product Search results.

  • Shipping:
    • In ProductCart v4.5 and above the Google Product Search data feed generator has been updated to include the product weight
    • You need to setup shipping in your Google Merchant Center account
  • Taxes:
    • You need to setup taxes in your Google Merchant Center account

Generating the Data Feed in ProductCart

v4.5 (or file downloaded in June, 2011)

  • Products to include in the data feed
    Select the categories that contain the products to be included in the Google Product Search data feed. Press down the CTRL key on your keyboard to select multiple categories. Use “Include sub-categories” to be able to select a parent category above and have all of its sub-categories be included. You can limit the number of categories shown by clicking on the links:
    • Only Categories with Products
    • Only Parent Categories
    • Show All Categories
  • Other product selection settings:
    • Exclude wholesale categories
      Check this checkbox to exclude categories that are only visible to wholesale customers (and therefore hidden to the casual visitor to your e-commerce store).
    • Exclude 'not for sale' products
      Check this checkbox to exclude products that are not currently available for purchase. Note that inactive products are always excluded.
  • Unique product identifiers
    As mentioned above, in the spring of 2011 Google Product Search started requiring the use of unique product identifiers (learn more). If unique identifiers are not available (e.g. custom products), you will need to request an exemption.
  • Data feed file name
    The file name must be a TEXT file (*.txt) and must not include the date. The file will be saved to the pcadmin folder.
  • Currency
    Select the currency that applies to your store from the Currency drop-down when generating the data feed.
  • Condition
    Select the products condition from the drop-down when generating the data feed.
  • Expiration Date
    The date that the item listing expires or that information about this item is going to change.
  • Brand
    ProductCart will use the brand associated with each product. If you are not using Brands in your store, you can enter a generic brand here (e.g. your company name):
  • Include shipping weight
    Note: you need to setup shipping options in your Google Merchant account
  • Display reports about included and excluded products
    Note: This option can slow down the data feed generation process, and it only works when exporting all categories

Tax settings: Google Product Search now also requires that you specify tax information. However, this is something that you need to do at the Google Merchant account level. The data feed will not contain a tax rate or amount at the item level (as that information does not exist in ProductCart)

Previous versions

  • Categories
    Select categories that should be excluded. To improve performance, you can limit the amount of categories included in the map. To select the categories that you would like to exclude from the map generation process, click on any of the categories shown in the Exclude These Categories field. Keep the CTRL key on your keyboard pressed to select multiple categories.
  • Currency
    Select the currency that applies to your store from the Currency drop-down when generating the data feed.
  • Condition
    Select the products condition from the drop-down when generating the data feed.
  • Expiration Date
    The date that the item listing expires or that information about this item is going to change.
  • Exclude wholesale categories
    Check this checkbox to exclude categories that are only visible to wholesale customers (and therefore hidden to the casual visitor to your e-commerce store).
  • Exclude 'not for sale' products
    Check this checkbox to exclude products that are not currently available for purchase. Note that inactive products are always excluded.
  • Additional fields (MPN, UPC, ISBN)
    Use Custom Search Fields to pre-fill these fields. To do so, you need to map specific search fields to export fields.

ProductCart will generate a properly formatted TEXT file (*.txt). The file will be saved to the PCADMIN folder (which has likely been renamed following our recommended security guidelines). You can enter the name of the file to be created at the top of the Google Base export page in ProductCart.

v3 only (this limitation was removed in v4): in order to avoid having the same products appear in separate data feeds created by selecting different categories on the first page of the Google Base export feature, ProductCart saves the product IDs in a session variable. If this creates a problem when recreating the file (e.g. no or only a few products are included in the new data feed), you will need to close and restart your browser.

Submitting your Product Search Data Feed

There are three ways to submit your data feed to Google Product Search.

  • Direct Upload (Files under 20 MB in size)
  • FTP Upload (Files under 1GB in size)
  • Automatic Upload (Scheduled Fetch) (Files under 1 GB in size)

Take advantage of the scheduling feature to automate the posting of the data feed: [http://www.google.com/support/merchants/bin/answer.py?answer=1219255|more information on this feature].

Once your data feed has been registered by Google Product Search, your items will become searchable in the Google Product Search database. However, remember that they will expire in 30 days from the date of the last upload, so remember to either use the scheduling feature or upload a new version of your bulk upload file regularly.

Also note:

  • the file name for your Google Product Search Data Feed must remain the same if you want to update existing items. However, you can also register a new bulk upload file
  • do not include the date in the name of the file.

Troubleshooting

Data feed rejected due to Google Product Category attribute being required

The Google Product Category (google_product_category) attribute is Google's category of the item. It has nothing to do with the item category in ProductCart, which is submitted as part of the data feed as the “Product Type” attribute (product_type).

You can find detailed information on this attribute on the Products Feed Specifications page. It is only applicable to a small subset of categories, and must use exactly the category definition included in Google’s taxonomy.

Automatically filling in this information in ProductCart would require substantial changes to the system, as you would have to specify a mapping between a ProductCart category and the Google taxonomy at the category or item level.

Therefore, at this time, if you are getting an error indicating that this attribute is required, you have two options:

  1. Contact Google and explain that your products do not fall into one of the categories for which this attribute is required
  2. **Manually Edit the File” as follows:
    1. Download the data feed to your computer
    2. Open it in MS Excel (it is a tab-delimited file)
    3. Add a column with the value “google_product_category” in the first row (the header row)
    4. Add the values to the products for which this attribute is required, consistent with the Google’s taxonomy.
    5. Save the file in its current (*.txt) format.
    6. Submit the edited data feed

We understand that manually editing the data feed is certainly not an ideal solution, and we are looking for the best way to automate this process in ProductCart. As mentioned above, this will require changes both at the source code and database level, so it is not something that can be implemented immediately.


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