Since this article was drafted, Google have announced that thier Google Product Search offering will become a paid-for service.
What is Google Merchant Center?
Google Merchant Center is a centralised way of uploading and managing product listings to appear in Google Commerce Search, AdWords, Google Product Search and other Google streams.
What happened to Google Base?
A lot of people reading this will have heard of Google Base. Google Base started life in 2005 which allowed users to upload any type of information, along with “attributes” which described them further. Users could upload content such as product information, jobs, reviews and the like.
This data was then used to power Google Streams, such as the Froogle Marketplace. The Google Base product was hailed a success as it allowed for users to better mark-up and structure content they supplied to Google, and allowed consumers a more streamlined search experience through its link to other key Google products.
In 2009, Google split Google Base, and all commercial product information moved over to Google Merchant Center to power Google Product Search and Google Commerce Search. Google Base still exists, but it is only for non-commercial information and as of June 1st 2011, no longer has an API.
Why use Google Merchant Feed?
Google Product Search allows consumers to easily find product listings and compare products on Google.
As a seller, Google Product Search provides many benefits. The main one is being able to attract more potential buyers. Google Product Search helps sellers reach shoppers while they are specifically searching for items to buy through the search engine. You’re not competing on brand key terms etc, you’re specifically showing you stock a product at a set price.
The Merchant Center “Feed” supplied by a seller also allows full control of your product information. You can maintain the accuracy of your product information, meaning customers aren’t left diappointed by generic searches, and you are more likely to have the product available and customers can find the most relevant items that they’re looking for.
Google Product Search is currently available in the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Japan, China, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.
Getting the most out of your Google Merchant “Feed”
Google offers two ways of preparing your feed to the Merchant Center. Firstly (and most common) is to provide a feed file.
A data feed is a file made-up of a product information, which uses groups of attributes which define each product in a unique way. Attributes, such as ‘condition’ and ‘availability’, can have standardised values, and some attributes can been open to fill with whatever is required. The accuracy of this data allows users to search and find items more easily.
When creating your data feed, remember to save your file in one of the supported filetypes with the appropriate filename extension:
- .txt: text
- .xml: XML
- .gz: Gnu zip, compressed text or XML
- .zip: Zip, compressed text or XML
- .bz2: Bzip2, compressed text or XML
The Google Content API – an overview
The Google Content API allows content owners / developers to pass information to Google in a more ad-hoc manner. Product information doesn’t need to be updated in one big update as with data feed files – items are updated / added / removed individually.
Example requests to the Google Content API
Google shows the following example of a data item which describes a red wool sweater for sale in the US:
Comfortable and soft, this sweater will keep you warm on those cold winter nights. Red and blue stripes.
Clothing & Accessories > Clothing > Outerwear > Sweaters
red / blue
Speedy Shipping - Ground
Speedy Shipping - Air
Requests for specific processes are as follows:
To retrieve a list of all the items in your merchant centre, where 12345 is your customer ID (via GET):
Retrieiving an individual item – where 12345 is your customer ID and id1234 is the ID of your (via GET):
Inserting an item (via POST)
Updating an item (via PUT)
Deleting an item (via DELETE)
As well as allowing you to manipulate product data via the API, it also allows you to gain insight into usage via product performance data, and Google actually provides an entire separate API for accessing the Data Quality Feed for your account (to be able to check issues with the items in your account)
For more information, take a look through the Getting Started with Content API page.