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Google Feed Rules Offer Value, but Can’t Replace Enterprise Options

Not long ago, Google launched a feed management support tool within the Google Merchant Center, making it easier for users to optimize data feeds used for Google Shopping and Express. The latest feature can be found in the Merchant Center by navigating to products > feeds > clicking on an active feed file > and finally, rules. These features allow for feed manipulations of any of the fields Google recognizes within its product data specifications

This tool offers a variety of options to prepend, append, standardize, find and replace, split and choose, or clear data fields. For smaller businesses with only a few thousand SKUs, Google's tool can offer support for automating bulk manipulations in instances that formerly would have required these businesses to manually make changes in Excel and then re-upload the files to Google.

The following chart provides examples of the types of manipulations supported with the change.

Google Merchant Center Feed Rules

Google also offers flexibility for the expert feed manager. Users can build logic for full product feeds, supplemental feeds, and content APIs, allowing for easier manipulation. APIs, for example, can pose a challenge if a user doesn’t have easy access to manipulate feed data often managed and exported directly by development teams.

At the agency level, we’ve experienced this challenge during some new client launches. When a process from a retailer is set up to port directly into the Merchant Center, there are often additional processes that take time to build out so that Merkle can integrate them into the process to optimize the retailer’s feed data. Google offers a solution to these challenges through feed rules.

Feed Rules Screenshot

Google has been working to add more complex features such as regular expressions, which allow for manipulation of specific character strings and recently became available. The example below shows how this could be used to extract instances where product description text follows the pattern of two numbers proceeded by an x and another two numbers, such as 10x14, 12x15, etc.  After hovering over the item id, you can see a current “active” and draft version of the manipulated field.

Feed Rules Regular Expression

Although the platform offers helpful capabilities, it isn’t without its challenges. The user interface is not intuitive as it lacks clear instructions and warning alerts. To the new user, it can often be unclear why the ‘okay’ and ‘save as a draft’ options are sometimes unavailable. This happens when Google knows the rule is incomplete, but neither an error nor a suggestion is offered to advance the user to finalize the rule.

In the example below, a user has not established a condition, and the rule is written to extract something unspecified from a feed. Since the user has not stated what to extract, the rule cannot be saved. Providing an interstitial or a warning that the rule is not complete, with suggestions on how to finalize, can lead to a much more user-friendly experience.

Feed Rules Regular Expression

In instances where changes are complicated or need to be implemented quickly, enterprise-level agency tools like our partner Feedonomics are still likely more advantageous. Still, the tool can be useful for some adjustments. Let’s take a look at how to make a simple text adjustment with rules.                

Walkthrough: Adjusting Title Text from Indoor/Outdoor to Indoor-Outdoor

To test these news feed management tools, I modified an existing 150 SKU feed by replacing the title from Indoor/Outdoor to Indoor-Outdoor.

  • Select create rule
  • Choose the title attribute under All attributes > Basic Product Data > Title
  • Add a modification block by selecting conditions and choosing primary feed. Include the text you wish to find & replace. In this example, I’ve replaced Indoor/Outdoor.
Feed Rules Title Text 1
  • Select Find & Replace
  • Find Indoor/Outdoor and replace with Indoor-Outdoor with whole words only
Feed Rules Title Text 2
  • If other fields or feeds are not leveraged (title from the primary feed in this example), cancel the data sources rule block, which will allow the rule to be saved.
  • Save as a Draft

As with any feed manipulations, it’s recommended to review optimizations before the change goes into production. When running such a test on a new rule, an alert noted that it could take between 10-20 minutes to review the rule for a 150 SKU feed.

Feed Rules Title Text 3

Googles feed rules are a good starting point for establishing new data manipulation tools in the Merchant Center. There is excitement in the capability of future updates. However, currently, Google hasn’t caught up with the interface and flexibility that agency-level feed platforms can offer.

Again, this tool can be helpful for some advertisers with smaller, less complex feeds, but remains limited in its capacity to meet the needs of advertisers with more extensive selections of products which require more complex optimizations.