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google product categories and taxonomies: an introduction

Google Product Categories: make taxing taxonomies easy and automated

Defining Google product categories is one of the most simultaneously crucial and confusing steps in managing a product data feed.

Product taxonomies describe in which product category a given item belongs. The Google taxonomy uses over 6,000 categories to help Google departmentalize products in a given Google Shopping feed. They play a key role in making product ads surface with relevant searches, as they tell Google which products in a product feed best match a given query. Whether it’s a winter hat or a video game, the taxonomy makes sure each product ends up grouped with similar products. By doing so, it can better help shoppers find their way to the right item.

Most retailers will have already categorized their products for their online shops. However, these categories are likely not going to directly match Google’s taxonomy. Most retailers will need to adapt their product data to Google’s taxonomies.

Mapping Google taxonomies isn’t the most exciting task in the world. It can and will take time to connect each and every product to the right category. But proper taxonomies also bring better results for online retailers. Here’s what you need to know to get started, and make your Google Shopping campaigns more powerful than ever.

Google Product Categories: the basics

What is a Google product category?

The google_product_category field is required for some but not all types of products uploaded to the Google Merchant Center. Even if the product doesn’t absolutely require this attribute, submitting it can still drive clicks and sales.

The google_product_category field is required for these types of categories:

  • Apparel and Accessories
  • Media
  • Software

If the product you’re uploading falls into these categories, then it’s mandatory to add the correct google_product_category attribute to your data feed. Otherwise the product may be rejected. If your product doesn’t fall into these categories, you can move forward without adding the category attribute to your data feed. However, it’s still recommended to add Google taxonomies to your product data feed whenever possible.

The taxonomy of a taxonomy

There’s no hard-set rule about how detailed a google taxonomy should be, but retailers should be thorough and include any and all options that come to mind. The most important data will be in the first two to three category levels. Beyond that, it isn’t entirely necessary to go more granular, but doing so can lead to better bidding accuracy.

Note that simply listing the most granular option isn’t allowed, so submitting only a specific subcategory won’t be accepted. The entire path is required in order to make this attribute valid. Plus, the exact Google product categories must be used. For example, the term “handbags & cases” isn’t the same as “handbags, wallets & cases.” Every word counts, and this is usually a manual task of populating attribute fields. This may be a job to outsource or, with the right feed management software, you could even automate it as much as possible.

How a Google product category may look:

  • Apparel & Accessories > Handbags, Wallets & Cases > Handbags
  • Animals & Pet Supplies > Fish Supplies > Aquariums
  • Arts & Entertainment > Hobbies & Creative Arts > Arts & Crafting Materials > Embellishments & Trims > Sew-in Labels

This product doesn’t easily fit into a category!
Some products don’t have a clear category. This is completely normal. If there are multiple categories that describe the product, opt for the category that describes the product’s main or most central function. In the case of a bundle, select the category most relevant to the bundle’s main product.

What’s the difference between product_type and google_product_category?

Be careful not to confuse “google_product_category” with “product_type.” The google_product_category attribute includes product taxonomy according to Google’s supported groupings. Product_type, on the other hand, includes a product’s taxonomy according to the owner of the data. If a retailer internally categorizes all their shoe products as Feet Clothes, that should be recorded in the product type attribute.

Like many other attributes, though not required, product_type can still help retailers achieve better results. Including this data can help optimize bidding and reporting in AdWords.

Google product category

Product type

  • Required for some products*

  • Optional for all products

  • Defined by Google

  • Defined by product data owner

*Apparel & accessories, media, and software

Sometimes the product_type and the google_product_category may be the same, but this isn’t always the case. More importantly, regardless of what the product_type attribute says, the google_product_category attribute must always be a valid, supported Google category.

Mapping data from product_type to google_product_category isn’t always as clear as it seems. There are a number of ways to define and group products, making this step a bit complicated. This is clear with the shoe product example above. Depending on the specific type of shoe, the Google product category could look like any of these:

  • Apparel & Accessories > Shoes
  • Apparel & Accessories > Costumes & Accessories > Costume Shoes
  • Sporting Goods > Outdoor Recreation > Winter Sports & Activities > Snowshoeing > Snowshoes

Conversions, bottom line, and your Google Product Categories

Sometimes, a user has a particular item in mind. For example, they want “size 7 toffee suede Women’s Katalina Espadrilles shoes.” That should be easy for Google to locate based simply on the title. But what if the needs are a bit more general? When the user wants to browse shoes, Google will have to leverage more than just the product title. Because a product title can include a number of varied terms–from sandals to boots to heels–Google uses the product category attribute to make sure each product gets put in the right group.

Now, when that user browses “shoes,” anything with the “Apparel & Accessories > Shoes” categorization will appear. This also means that less relevant products are less likely to show up in results. Someone searching for costume shoes shouldn’t be shown practical daily shoes–and definitely not vice versa.

In short, proper categories are all about CTR.

While lazy or rushed product categorization will certainly save time initially, it will also undermine your product sales in two key ways. The goal is surfacing the most relevant ads to the most relevant shoppers.

  • Missed opportunities: Improper or bare-bones taxonomies make ads less likely to appear to shoppers who would be easy sells.
  • Better bidding: How do you test and segment products for bidding? Grouping product by category is a great way to increase accuracy and returns.

Particularly for retailers with large product inventories, mapping products to Google’s taxonomy is a painful task that requires a significant amount of time and patience. Did you know, there is a way to automate the Google product category mapping process?

Productsup offers the simplest way to automate category mapping

Traditionally, retailers have mapped their product categories for Google manually. This involved personally reviewing huge amounts of data to assign and enter product categories. However, this manual process was not only annoying, but it also caused two major problems for retailers: wasted time and numerous mistakes.

That’s why automation is increasingly valuable for product category mapping–especially for marketers with no coding skills. Productsup offers the most comprehensive automation options available to retailers. Because this process is critical to saving time and enhancing product listings, we wanted to make it as easy as possible.

Category mapping with Productsup provides:

  • Certainty that your products match Google’s supported categories
  • Options to apply changes in bulk
  • Easy mapping to new languages, products, and updated categories

Category mapping with Productsup

Using Productsup, there’s three basic steps to pull data from an existing feed and populate the google_product_category attribute.

Start by choosing an existing field to pull data from. For example, the product_type or title. These fields generally include information that can help quickly identify the product category. This data will be used to create a “Category Mapping list.” You can then select the taxonomy you want to deliver (for example, Google DE – German) and trigger the import to populate the list like that seen on the left side of the image below.

product category mapping list for Google

On the right side of the image, you can see the Replace Term options. Here, you can easily locate and select the most relevant Google product category. Because Productsup only lists categories supported by Google in the selected taxonomy, you can be sure your products’ categories will be approved. Plus, there are several features to help make this process easier. Just search for similar products, like those including “kitchen” or “table” in the title, and find all products with those terms instantly.

*Productsup will also analyze your data to alert you to missing or problematic fields. Should your categories be missing or outdated, Productsup will let you know immediately (and help you fix them, fast).

Lastly, once your categories are mapped and ready to go, you need only apply the list to your data feed using a box called Category Mapping. Here, you can select the name of the list you created previously. There are numerous ways to leverage this data in your feed–you can even apply rules to translate your google_product_categories to another language.

Keep on top of updates and changes

Google is regularly applying updates to their product categories. These are generally smaller changes and additions rather than complete overhauls. Still, it’s crucial your categories are kept up to date to ensure that your products aren’t rejected (and are optimized for clicks!).

The latest categories and numbers can always be found at Google here. Should you submit a product feed where the categories have not yet been updated, Google will still attempt to match these categories to the newest ones.

Google Shopping Errors Free Guide

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