In this episode of the Ecommerce Essentials video series, Google focuses on the relationship between Search and Merchant Center - specifically, how to use Merchant Center to improve your presence in the search results. The tips focus around getting the most out of Merchant Center, which can be a more reliable way of making sure Google extracts your product data correctly. Note, structured data should still be used on product pages, even if you provide data directly to Google via Merchant Center.
Google Developer Advocate Alan Ken presents 6 best practice tips:
1. Ensure your product pages are indexed
Googlebot can miss pages when crawling your site if they're not linked to other pages. This can happen with ecommerce sites where some product pages are only reached by an in-site search.
Creating a Merchant Center product feed will help Google discover all the product pages on your website. The product page URLs are shared with the Googlebot crawler to use potentially as starting points for crawls of additional pages.
One caveat: this and some other Merchant Center features are not available in all countries. Merchant Center Help provides information on which features are available where.
2. Check your prices are correct
It’s worth checking that Google is displaying your pricing correctly, with any discounts or price drops you’ve implemented. If Google incorrectly extracts pricing data from your product page, it may show your original price.
To check, test a sample of results using a simple search, and you’ll see the price if rich results are displayed. Or, search using site:URL for your product page to return the page as a search result.
To make sure you provide accurate, up-to-date pricing information, Google recommends adding structured data to your page and providing Merchant Center with structured feeds of your product data. This helps Google to interpret pricing shown on your product pages correctly.
3. Minimize inconsistencies in price and availability
Googlebot has its own schedule for crawling pages on your site and changes and updates on your site may not be noticed until the next crawl. This means search results may lag behind site changes such as availability or pricing.
Merchant Center feeds, however, can be updated on a fixed schedule, such as daily or hourly, which means pages are more up-to-date, reflecting any changes you may have entered on your site.
You can also enable automatic item updates in Merchant Center. This means it will automatically update collected pricing and stock level data based on web page contents when it detects a discrepancy.
4. Make sure your products are eligible for rich product results
You can check if your products are getting rich results treatment by using the site:URL query.
To be eligible for rich product results, Google recommends you provide both structured data in your product pages and a product feed to Merchant Center. This helps ensure Google understands how to extract product data from your product pages to display rich results.
However, it's worth noting that rich results are displayed at Google's discretion.
5. Share local product inventory data
If you have a physical store, you want to be sure your products are found by people using a local query such as near me. You can test this by searching for your product when physically near your store.
Register your physical store locations in your Google business profile and then provide a local inventory feed to Merchant Center. This will include product identifiers and store codes, enabling Google to know where your inventory is physically located.
Google also recommends checking out Pointy, which connects to your in-store point of sale system and automatically keeps Google updated of inventory data from your physical store.
6. Sign up for Google Shopping tab
You may find your products are available in search results but not appearing in the Shopping tab. You can check by going to the Shopping tab and searching for them there.
Structured data and product pages alone are not enough for inclusion in the Shopping tab. You have to provide product feeds via Merchant Center and opt into Surfaces Across Google in order to be eligible for the Shopping tab.
Watch Google's full video here: