Digital Marketing

Google’s Advanced Feed Management: The Good, The Bad and The New

As Google introduces new ad units, callouts and targeting options into the world of paid search, they are now revisiting the core elements that support their Shopping program – the product feed.

Over the past several months, Google has formally introduced a more flexible method for managing feed data within the Google Shopping environment and coined this update as Advanced Feed Management(AFM). At iProspect, our Structured Data and Feeds team sits at the forefront of the data processing ecosystem with our partners, clients, and in parallel with our Paid Search, and collective media channels we support. The topic of product feeds and Google Shopping can become convoluted to follow, especially with the increasing number of nuances across Shopping ad products and campaign structure based on the growing importance of feed elements.

The ability to manipulate product information using the previous title of Feed Rules was introduced in 2016 and had an infancy roll out due to the duplication of features that already existed in enterprise level feed management systems. The iProspect Structured Data and Feeds team has worked with the Google Shopping product team to test these changes while providing feedback throughout the evolution of this program. The fruit of which came during the recent 2018 update release of Advanced Feed Management. As with any progressive industry update, murmurs come into the equation of robots taking over, but we are still far away from that happening anytime soon. 

The biggest changes are centralizing the current data manipulation tool available in Google Merchant Center, called Feed Rules. The future of how data is processed in the Google product ecosystem is evolving and that list of features includes:

  • Formal naming conventions within Google Merchant Center outlining primary and supplemental feeds, their roles and how they uniquely support Shopping ad activations, optimizations and segmentation.
    • Primary Feeds – Used to add or revise product data, market targeting and applying manipulations using Feed Rules of your data or supplemental feed adjustments. This is the only category where products can be added or removed entirely.
    • Supplemental Feeds –Connect to existing primary feeds for providing additional or update to product information. It is required to have a Primary Feed to leverage Supplemental Feed data changes.
  • Require the use of primary and supplemental files to activate on the Local Inventory Ad units
  • The ability to use a single feed to sell products in multiple languages across multiple countries
  • Data manipulation options such as being able to extract keywords or terms, find and replace values across an entire feed or specific fields and standardization/normalization of specific values
    • i.e.
      • Set your age group” field to ‘adult’ for all products.

      • Find & Replace "Pumps" with "Pump heels" in your Title and Description.
  • Merge the ability to adjust feed data when also using the Content API for file delivery to Google Merchant Center.

The list of new tools available, implementation of best practices and how that information is segmented into your campaign structure is now layering into the rise of machine learning and signal processing being correlated to your product feed and media performance. This introduction of the Advanced Feed Management tool will provide improved flexibility around feed management, but only for Google, as the battle of comparison shopping between Walmart, Amazon and Google’s offering of Shopping Actions intensifies. Ensuring the support of your other cross-channel media programs is taking place still requires the use of a data feed management provider and that expertise can only be provided by an actual human.

How does this impact brands and retailers?

For smaller and medium-size businesses with less than 50,000 products, this tool can help lower the barriers of entry to begin advertising on Google for lean marketing and advertising teams. However, for larger brands having thousands or even millions of products, and adding the potential of multiple brands in their portfolio, this requires tools such as AFM alongside a dedicated data feed management tool and team.

This approach is further backed by the recent Google Marketing Live Keynote mention of their initiative for small businesses and Advanced Feed Management that will further support all businesses that have limited technology resources. This will ultimately bring more competition to Google Shopping and require enterprises to elevate the visibility agency feed teams have into online and offline product information. Using AFM Feed Rules, the cross population of product attributes across feed files also means there is an extensive requirement to clearly trace revisions and optimizations placed when any number of SKUs are adjusted, normalized or revised inside Google Merchant Center (while also not forgetting your other feed based channel programs). In AFM versioning control, changelog tracking and exporting your rules are not an available feature, in the same way as what’s similarly available in Google Ads(AdWords). This missing element of control makes information technology professionals and our team of data experts greatly concerned that safeguards are not in place to ensure media performance is not impacted. 

What else should you keep top of mind?

No matter the size of your business or new tools that are available for managing feed-based advertising programs, an increasing degree of human oversight into the management and control of your product data from start to finish is still required. The importance of your Paid Search and Structured Data and Feeds teams working together is more essential than ever as the need for custom and supportive technology tools to optimize campaigns can only exist outside of a media partners’ ecosystem.

When new data and technology tools are introduced into a budding partner ecosystem, our team evaluates those solutions to identify the overall advertising performance improvements it can produce. To ensure the appropriate data management levers are in place you should be leveraging a central feed processing technology in parallel to using new supportive tools such as AFM for the management of your product information.

What’s next?

The marrying of Advanced Feed Management and custom data processing tools or systems, such as the iProspect data feed management platform, is where Google Shopping campaigns now have fully customizable end-to-end support for Paid Search teams. The inclusion of layering the right feed processing tool ensures that data revisions, campaign adjustments, go-to market activation (case by case) and general revisions no longer requires weeks or month-long timeframes to complete and can now be applied within days or hours. 

So, what does this all mean? Well, the future of data processing, campaign optimizations and technology integrations into your media ecosystem will become more flexible. The main players in the game will continue working to reduce friction to onboard brands of all sizes to their platforms and engines as they each battle to control the new gold rush – product data. All of this should encourage the breakdown of silos between internal marketing and information technology departments working with agency teams as dedicated human oversight paired with your campaign strategies becomes the standard working model.