Manufacturer center initiatives are a promising start for 2019 Google updates
New features give manufacturers valuable search query and competitor insights, as well as new product information to highlight in Google Shopping.
Earlier this month, Google revealed two new updates to the Manufacturer Center: more in-depth analytics for products; and a new “From the Manufacturer” offering. These are the first updates Google has released for the Manufacturer Center since deciding to make it more of a focus last year.
New updates provide more data, greater control over product data
The new analytics offerings provide insights into product performance that are different from what’s available through any other Google Ads platform. One of these reports is called “Top products with shared impressions” and shows, for a given child or parent SKU, which other products show alongside your ads and how frequently they appear. This data can be segmented to look specifically at competitors, which helps provide additional context for the competitive landscape of the search engine results page (SERP).
There is also a “top search terms” report that shows, for your selected parent or child SKU, the percentage of clicks or impressions that a particular search term drove and the resulting click-through rate. This is Google’s first offering that provides insights into the direct connections between products and search terms. Google Ads currently provides search term data for Shopping campaigns, but it’s only available at the ad group or campaign level. Having product-level insights can help advertisers understand what terms or search language resonates best with their customers to make title optimizations at the product level. Combining these two new reports can give manufacturers an idea of their search term diversification and how the competitive landscape looks for those searches.
The “From the Manufacturer” content offering gives more control to manufacturers on the information presented to consumers. The new visual content options offered by Google, like videos and additional images, grab consumers’ attention in a way that excites the user while also providing them pivotal product specifications. According to WebCollage, “across the web, WebCollage has seen 10 percent more conversions for their clients when more visual content is shown at retailers based on an A/B test.” In addition to new visual content, manufacturers can add the “feature_description” column to their feed to call out specific product features that might not otherwise be mentioned in the product’s title or description. The yellow box in Google’s image below shows where the feature_description data will appear.
Image from Google help pages
While a step in the right direction, new features have some limitations
While these Manufacturer Center updates are largely positive, they do have their drawbacks. The new analytics are limited to only 7- or 30-day look-back windows; looking at insights for a specific period like Black Friday through Christmas is not possible. So, while providing valuable insights, this lack of flexibility restricts advertisers’ ability to glean actionable data. The tool does give a period-over-period comparison, which is helpful to see general trends. But, due to the strict lookback windows provided, ad hoc analyses are not currently available.
The “From The Manufacturer” tool also has its own shortcomings. The snappy visual content shown by Google on its press release about the update is managed by a third party. To get the visualization shown, manufacturers will need to work with WebCollage to really see the benefit of this tool. For advertisers not interested in going that route, the feature_description field still provides exciting new options for adding relevant product features to listings. However, with that information showing less prominently than the product title, description, and image, it’s unclear how many consumers will actually read it before clicking through.
Overall, these changes increase the functionality of the Manufacturer Center. They provide new data views for products, new insights into the competitive landscape for PLAs, and a new ad extension only available to manufacturers. While it still isn’t at the point where it can be a stand-alone analytics platform, it does serve as a nice supplement to the other Google Ads offerings.
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