One of the main frustrations that come along with running Shopping campaigns is that you need a compatible feed with all of the necessary attributes to import into the Google Merchant Centre.

A product feed is typically exported from a CMS to product a somewhat ugly spreadsheet of values (such as product titles, descriptions and prices), which is then uploaded to the Merchant centre to push these values into Shopping campaigns. In many instances, the values that a CMS will assign each value in the feed are not compatible with what Google will require. For example, the product ID might be exported as "productcode", whereas Google would require the attribute to be called "id". In such an instance, this feed would need to somehow be re-written, which drags along any associated development costs with it.

As a result of this, a plethora of feed management services have arisen over the past few years, which would help solve this issue of feed rewriting. Whilst a feed management service can provide value over and above the attribute re-writing (think bid adjustments and content management), this rewriting is now part of the offering in the Merchant Centre.

Introducing Feed Rules.

If you navigate to Merchant Centre > Feeds you will see a "Feed Rules" tab at the top. Under this tab you'll see all of the attributes listed that aren't present in your current feed, with the option to create rules for each. For example:

In the instance above, the product feed that has been uploaded has not got any of the listed attribute names: availability, brand, condition or gtin.

For each of these instances, you have an option to create a rule. The rule will simply specify which feed attribute you want Google to read instead. Looking at the feed above, the availability attribute has been labeled as "stockstatus". For this, I will want to create a rule to tell the feed to look for "stockstatus" instead of "availability".

When creating rules, you have multiple options. You can choose to select a different attribute name to use, or you can choose a fixed value. As an example below, I've created a rule for the availability attribute:

Choosing the first option, "Use values from an existing column" (which would be the standard option if you're looking to re-write columns), you choose which column attribute you want to use from the drop down. In this case, the current column attribute with the availability option is called "stockstatus".

The standard values for availability in Google are "in stock", "out of stock" and "preorder". However in this feed, products in stock are labelled as "No", and out of stock as "Yes". As shown in the above screenshot, Google allows you to specify which of the values represent in or out of stock. Once these values have been assigned, click the continue button, and that rule will be saved.

Another attribute which wasn't already in this feed was condition. Because this particular feed was related to garden plants, the client has no need to introduce a "condition" column into the feed - however for the Merchant Centre this is a mandatory field. In this instance, I created a rule for the condition attribute, with a fixed value of "new" to assign this to all products on the feed:

Once all of your rules have been created, click save at the bottom of the page, and the feed will be reprocessed. If all of the rules have submitted correctly, you'll see all of the previous attribute errors disappear on the "status" tab, and you'll see all of the rules appear in green as below:

Whilst this rule creation tool has been in beta for a long while, on Tuesday Google rolled out the product across all Merchant Centre accounts. It's a great addition which will help overcome a lot of feed formatting issues which seem to crop up regularly with ecommerce clients, and hopefully ease back on any development time/cost previously needed to make feed adjustments to produce a compatible feed.