5 Common Problems (and solutions) with Google Base

“Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up”

After my usual reminder from Bas about my blogging deadline fast approaching, instead of wiping the sleep from my eyes and staring into the distance trying to think of a topic, I unusually sprung to life and typed two words onto the open word document:

Google Base


Unlike an arch nemesis, the two words do not send a shiver down my spine as I had experienced my issues and come out the other side with the much coveted solutions. However, I remembered how many issues I encountered when creating feeds for clients (especially if you are using a CMS and not a custom xml feed for 50 or so products) and also how many questions posted by other people were left unanswered.  So after going through the frustration myself I decided to compile a list of the 5 commonly experienced problems when dealing with Google Base:

1.     No Images showing in your Merchant Account

If you are manually creating your xml product feed then usually people experience no problems with images, however, if you are using a CMS then this may not be the case. This issue can often be resolved by:

–    Checking the image dimensions you have set. Google Base doesn’t accept images that are 90×90 or smaller. It is recommended that images are around 400×400.

–    Ensuring images are not kept within a folder that your robots txt file prevents spiders accessing.

–    Make sure that your images are in a supported format and the associated URL links to an image file.

2.   Tracking how many visitors you receive via Google Shopping

Google Base like Google Places gives you an overview of how many impressions your product has had and also how many clicks it has received. BUT if you have tracked listings in Google Places before you will know this is not entirely accurate. So if you want to track visitors then simply:

–    Use the URL builder when specifying the destination URL. You can use 3 different parameters which will all be highlighted within analytics if there was any traffic.  The parameters are; source, medium and campaign.

http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578

*replace %2B coding with underscores for cleaner code as this sometimes causes problems with the tracking

3.   Assigning Product Attributes

You know Google Base requires certain industry specific attributes but how do you write the code and if you are uploading via a CMS how would you provide them?

Product Feed

–    If you are manually uploading a product feed then you will need to use two separate attribute identifiers; Google required and Custom. (*these are not the only attributes you should use just examples)

Google example
<item>
<title>example</title>
<g:image_link>http://www.example.co.uk </g:image_link>
<g:price>example</g:price>
<g:condition>new</g:condition>
</item>

Custom example
<item>
<c:promo_offer type=”string”>£200 off online</c:promo_offer>
</item>

Exporting from CMS

–    Use the manage attribute feature (found within the Magento platform) or similar feature in your CMS. Once you have this you can map what your CMS attributes to the Google Base attributes. For example a common one is CMS’s giving products the attribute “SKU” which is the equivalent to “id” in Google Base.

Also I think that it is worth mentioning that the attribute ‘condition’ is now a compulsory requirement for Google Base, and that it isn’t included by default in the Magento configurator.

If you want to add additional attributes (custom) that you can’t map out then you can add a variable field within the meta data of the product. For example, if your feed was for a clothing retailer you could add the attributes; product_type, style, made_in

4.   Identifying Errors
Occasionally you might submit your product feed to Google Base which contains errors. The merchant centre does have a data quality section which allows you to see if you have submitted any products with missing identifiers or values. This is found within the merchant account on the left hand navigation titled “Data Quality”

5.    Duplicate Issue in CMS
Unfortunately, this is firmly based around the CMS platform Magento so I apologise if this doesn’t help you. If you do have another CMS and have this problem then I suggest reading message boards and help forums surrounding your platform.

If you get the red line saying “Expected response code 200, got 400” when you have tried to upload products to Google Base then there are various things you can do. I have found not all of them work for everyone and it is very relevant to what type of platform you run so it is a matter of trial and error.

–    The problem might be attribute mapping. Make sure yours are within the parameters of Google Base
–    Add the following  code to app/code/core/Mage/GoogleBase/Model/Service/Item.php in the _setUniversalData() function after $entry = $this->getEntry(); line247

if ($object->getId ()) {
$this->_setAttribute(‘id’,$object->getId ());
}

I have not tried the code myself but people using Magento platforms have commented on the success of implementing it here  http://www.magentocommerce.com/boards/viewthread/23995/P15

More importantly if you found soemthing else worked for you then please share and help the State Of Search community.

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About Sam Murray

Sam Murray graduated from University with a BA (Hons) in Marketing in 2007 and wrote his 10,000 word dissertation on Search Marketing. Sam is a freelance search manager.