Google Shopping Categories: What Are They?

Google Shopping Categories are a fundamental element of all Google shopping campaigns. In the competitive landscape of Google Shopping advertising, certain elements of your product data, such as your Google Product Category taxonomy can have a massive impact on your return on ad spend (ROAS). Since 2022, Google Shopping has generated 85.3% of all Google Ads clicks, as well as driving 76% of ad spend for the eCommerce industry. By making use of every attribute of your shopping feed, including shopping categories, you can make sure you get the best results out of your ads. 

In this blog, we will be looking at what Google shopping categories are, and why you should be spending more time optimising your product feed information. Here at Embryo, we understand that product feed optimisation is an important foundation for any ecommerce client and forms a vital part of our digital marketing strategy.  To learn more about what we can do for your business, feel free to get in touch by phone at 0161 327 2635 or email [email protected]

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What Are Google Shopping Categories?

Google has its own system of categorisation or taxonomy.  Google shopping categories are used to describe the departmentalisation of any type of product in a shopping feed. Google’s product category taxonomy consists of over 6,000 categories in the UK.  

In the past, the Google product category field was a required attribute for products within your Google shopping feed, however, to simplify this process for merchants, Google implemented automated categorisation. By using your product’s data such as titles and GTINs, Google will automatically assign a category for each product you submit. 

While the Google product category field is now an optional attribute for submitted products, it is still highly recommended to manually add Google taxonomies to your product data feed. This is even more evident for certain ecommerce industries, such as clothing & accessories or media & software where Google shopping categories are still required. Shopping categories still have a large impact on your Google Shopping campaign performance by ensuring your products match with the correct categories, otherwise, you may end up with shoppers unable to find what they are looking for.

While most online retailers have their products categorised online, these don’t necessarily match with Google’s taxonomy. Mapping Google’s shopping categories to your products takes time but will bring better results for ecommerce businesses.  When optimising your product data feed, you want to choose the best option from Google’s taxonomy that provides your target customers with the most relevant products. For example, when a shopper is looking for a pair of men’s shorts and your category only includes “Clothing & Accessories” instead of “Clothing & Accessories > Clothing > Shorts”, your ad may not show for that search query leading to fewer clicks for that product.

Why Are Google Shopping Categories Important?

While it is no longer mandatory to include categories for every product in your shopping product feed, excluding some specific categories like software or clothing, here are some reasons why you should leverage Google shopping categories:

  1. Aids Google in deciding which search terms and queries your products will be displayed for. This allows your ads to reach your target audience more easily.
  2. Helps shoppers and potential customers find your business and brand. When your product matches their search criteria, they are more likely to visit your website and purchase.
  3. Your ads become more relevant, leading to cheaper cost-per-clicks (CPC) as well as improving your click-through rate (CTR).
  4. Any advertising policies or tax rates that may be applicable to your products are correctly applied due to their product category.
  5. Can help in creating well-structured campaigns based on the products category or type. This allows more room for optimisation & more effective PPC strategy to serve the most relevant ad to your customers.
  6. Multiple platforms such as Bing & Facebook use Google product categories, so if you are looking to adopt an omnichannel retail strategy, optimising your shopping categories can help improve overall effectiveness across the board.

How To Use Google Shopping Categories

There is no set and fast rule for implementing Google shopping categories, however, the most important data is within the first two to three category levels. Going more granular isn’t necessary but can lead to stronger bidding accuracy. Google’s product categories must go in order to be a valid product attribute, so only listing one subcategory won’t be accepted. For example, for a dress, the shopping category ‘Google_product_category’ should be filled with: ‘Clothing & Accessories > Clothing > Dresses’ ; And cannot be populated only with: ‘Dresses’. 

Here are some other tips & tricks surrounding implementing Google shopping categories:

  • For some products that don’t have a clear category, such as they have multiple categories that can accurately describe the product, we recommend selecting the category that describes the product’s main function, or the closest matching category.
  • Make sure your category is as specific as possible. While it can be tempting to attribute to a more generic category to save time – it is better to have your ads shown for best relevant searches as this is more likely to lead to sales.
  • You can use a Product Type [product_type] attribute for a product when Google’s predefined categories don’t match well. We never recommend using a product category not generated by Google, as this can limit performance.

Google Shopping Categorisation Challenges

With any process, there are some challenges you may encounter with the Google product taxonomy. While automatic categorisation has eased regulation around product categorisation, there is a likelihood that your products will be labelled incorrectly, or be labelled generically. This may cause item disapproval and the ads displaying for irrelevant search queries. Luckily we are able to override the automatic product categorisation through the ‘google_product_category’ attribute.

Secondly, as Google’s shopping product taxonomy consists of over 6000 categories, it can be a tedious task to categorise all products within a data feed, especially if there are hundreds or thousands of products. Moreover manually completing categorisation is time-consuming.

Finally, different product categories are treated in different ways by Google when it comes to advertising and editorial policies. All products are required to have the brand attribute field completed, for example, except for movies, books and recordings which may need a publisher as the brand attribute instead. Small idiosyncrasies such as these mean you need to be careful and specify the correct Google Product category, and then ensure all other attributes are correct as well, otherwise your product will become disapproved.

Google Shopping Categories: Are They Worthwhile?

Having accurate Google shopping categories is a small optimisation that can lead to a massive impact on your PPC advertising. Ensuring your products are properly categorised improves your target audience’s overall shopping experience as they can easily find your products and make the purchase. Simply, optimised Google shopping categories can have a large positive effect on your online retail website. 

Want to optimise your product feed and increase revenue for your ecommerce business? Get in touch with our team today by phone at 0161 327 2635 or email [email protected].

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