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Google Merchant Center

Changing Google Shopping Feed Providers? You Desperately Need a Roadmap

Changing Google Shopping Feed Providers? You Desperately Need a Roadmap

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

Post Summary

Have you ever wanted to change feed providers for your Google Shopping product feed? You may be working with a feed provider who is more expensive than the level of service you actually need. Or perhaps you simply want to change to a Shopify app such as Simprosys so you have direct API access (which means your products get automatically updated in Google Merchant Center when you change them on your site, rather than having to wait until the next time your feed provider sends the file to Google, or Google pulls it from the feed provider). 

It is possible, and even sometimes a good idea, to change feed providers for your Google Shopping Product Feed but there are significant reasons you should proceed with caution and it is essential to ensure that you walk through a specific process in order to minimize the potential performance disruption to your Google Shopping campaigns by being too hasty in making a feed change.

Below, I have included an example letter (some edits are included from the time it was originally sent, as well as any private details removed) to a client who was requesting a feed transition. This includes things to consider, as well as specific steps to take. Feel free to use it as a template for your own feed transition (perhaps you need to send this to a boss who is insisting you switch feed providers to save a couple of bucks a month and you are rightfully concerned that is a mistake and could impact performance!), or just something from which to learn.

In this below example, the client is switching from one Shopify shopping app to the Simprosys Shopify app. The steps (and especially concerns) would be similar if switching from one provider to another.

Email of Things to Consider in a Google Shopping Product Feed Transition To a New Provider

Hello {client name}, I'll start this email by noting, it is absolutely crucial we stick to the roadmap below for Feed changes. Please do NOT change anything to the feed apps within Shopify until we are ready, as each step relies heavily on timing. We've had well-intentioned clients switch feed apps before we were ready (even though we asked them not to!) and it tanked traffic. Just starting with this, so it's clear from the beginning :) 

We've had multiple internal discussions within ZATO on the feed as we prep a roadmap for switching to a better solution, so I thought it would be helpful to loop you in on those, and share our insights before your next call. Our goal here is to keep you informed, and help process out our roadmap on paper for all of our sakes since there is a bit of complexity involved! This email is a little lengthy, but that is due to the importance of communicating, understanding, and documenting the important facts and steps of this transition.


Why a new feed? 

The short of it, is there is no easy way to manipulate the feed in your current Feed source (Shopify App). This has resulted in multiple hacked solutions from your past agencies that all come short of solving the main issues. There are multiple supplemental feeds and feed rules set up, and the more hacks that get set up, the greater the possibility of things being missed or broken in the future. 

As an example of where things can go wrong, the previous agency was running multiple campaigns that serve outdated or incorrect custom labels or product types. We need to fix these moving forward, which also means re-targeting the campaigns correctly. 

Our new feed app Simprosys will solve this by putting everything in one place, that is overall fairly easy to edit, which is served directly from Shopify and integrates immediately with Google Merchant Center through the API. We will then also make the corresponding targeting changes in Google Ads Shopping and PMax Campaigns once the feed is correct.

PROBLEMS: What are the main Concerns to consider in switching to a new feed?

In making this switch, it's important to be aware of three key issues that can arise, all of them related to Google's machine learning system.

First: an interruption in product history can occur in switching feed containers. Our goal is to leave the Content API feed container alone within Google Merchant Center, but we still wanted to communicate this risk (this would be especially true if switching from an FTP file fetch to Content API). A change in feed containers can result in a drop on product traffic, but does not always. It could be that it doesn't really impact serving at all.  This is certainly a risk, however the greater risk in our minds is continuing with the current feed solution as it is not set up well, and will only limit you in the long-term. It could actually improve things as we can now edit the feed to better target the products. 

EDIT: As a note for this article, it is worth pointing out that Google Ads Liaison Ginny Marvin has confirmed directly that uploading the new feed container first should minimize the impact a new feed container has, as referenced in these tweets. PLEASE still proceed with caution here, however, as I cannot tell you the number of times something in Google Ads is “supposed” to work a certain way and still ends up inexplicably impacting performance. 

Second: In regard to how this will impact Google Ads campaigns, changing targeting for PMax can interrupt the machine learning period and push the campaigns back into learning mode. We don't have much we can do here as we have to change Product Types moving forward (per our previous discussion), but we are going to minimize this impact by phasing the Product Type changes as described below. 

Third: changing the feed can mess up feed attributes and throw Google off its targeting. ZATO is minimizing this risk, by going attribute by attribute, and settings by settings to keep the feed as close as possible to the previous feed. Item ID and Titles are crucial attributes here that we will maintain from feed to feed when we make the change.

ROADMAP: What is the Process for switching to a new feed?

PHASE 1 - Today

It will minimize the risk throughout this process by manually switching Product Types BEFORE the new feed is turned on. 

  • We also want to minimize the risk of PMax campaigns dropping traffic simultaneously. 
  • We also want to get as early as possible for stability heading into your high season next month. 

We are therefore going to start by changing Product Types for only [redacted] terms, and correcting the targeting on only the PMax [redacted] campaign to begin with. It's a low spend campaign and we'll keep an eye on it, but it should be more than okay. We just wanted to get it started as soon as possible to get the machine learning pointed in the right direction for [redacted] season!

PHASE 2 - In 1 Week

We will change the Product Types for all PMax campaigns EXCEPT [redacted] (already done), and [redacted core] (the campaign driving the most performance in your account).

This will give us the chance to see how these additional campaigns navigate the change, without impacting our main PMax campaign. 

PHASE 3 - In 2 Weeks

We will finish the Product Type overhaul by correcting the targeting for the PMax [redacted core] campaign and then let it rest as it re-enters the learning period. 

There may be a traffic or sales dip for a period of time (Google will sometimes say 1-2 weeks, but we've found it just depends on the account and we can see this bounce back as quickly as 72 hours. It depends, I’m sorry to say, but you have enough conversions coming into the account that we have high hopes of a quick recovery). 

PHASE 4 - in 3 Weeks

Once our PMax targeting is set correctly, and we haven't had any emergencies to focus on, we can then actually make the Simprosys feed change!

We will ensure the Product Types we manually created to ease the transition get added into the new Simproys feed so we don't have any campaign serving interruption due to targeting.

We will walk closely with you on this transition as this gets closer so we ensure the correct settings are set within Simprosys. 

Please do not make any app changes until we are ready! Let’s connect to plan a specific date/time to make the App change so we can immediately get in there and edit the feed to keep it as close to the old feed as normal. 

PHASE 5 - After Feed Transition

Once the feed transition is completely over, we can then focus on the other Google Ads campaign optimization questions you had such as pricing, title testing and edits, and everything else that we may think of! 

This new feed will be the thing that allows us to actually make better optimizations moving forward.

I realize you have a call on Thursday with your assigned ZATO team, so please let us know if you have any questions on this email or the process itself.

Apologies for the lengthy email, but I've found sometimes it's better to just get everything detailed out right away on big transitions like this. 

We’re excited to help walk you through this transition to make it as smooth as possible. And if anything does happen during this plan, we will of course, adapt accordingly and communicate with you the whole way through.

Let me know if any immediate questions arise, have a great week!

Kirk Williams

Owner, ZATO PPC Marketing

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Kirk Williams
@PPCKirk - Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter or Linkedin.

In 2023, Kirk had the privilege of speaking at the TEDx Billings on one of his many passions, Stop the Scale: Redefining Business Success.

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