Recently, we were tasked with setting up several Google merchant shopping feeds to allow one of our UK based ecommerce clients to promote their range of over 1700 products to other English speaking countries. Google Merchant Shopping is an important sales channel and is one that UK based e-retailers can easily implement to increase the visibility of their products throughout the world. However, when creating these shopping feeds, retailers should be aware of best practice methods to ensure that the feed: 1. works properly, 2. doesn’t hinder the SEO performance of the website and 3. meets the specific requirements of Google.
The countries targeted as part of this exercise were:
- United Kingdom – Great British Pounds (GBP)
- Australia – Australian Dollars (AUD)
- Canada – Canadian Dollars (CAD)
- United States – United States Dollars (USD)
- Switzerland – Swiss Franc (CHF)
There are several keys to successfully setting up international Google Merchant Shopping:
1. Set up the Google feed file in currency of that country.
This is a pre-requisite of Google when selling internationally using their merchant shopping platform.
In an ideal world, a correct approach for this would be to have different and unique versions of a website – utilising the correct top level country code domain, language and currencies. This set-up would allow you to generate country specific Google merchant shopping feeds fairly easily for each country of choice.
However, in the case of our client, they have one UK English speaking website only. We had to come up with a solution that would allow our client to generate Google merchant feeds containing the correct currency by country with data taken only from .co.uk. Additionally, each feed file generated would link to a daily currency conversion solution that used GBP to convert product prices into other currencies i.e. AUD, CAD, USD and CHF.
For any established developer, this might sound fairly easy to set-up but one major concern that we had was how to do this whilst avoiding duplicate content issues.
If we recollect, the Google merchant feed files were to be created in English with the only change being to that of the currency chosen. Google would or might consider any pages generated in English with only the currency changing to be duplicate content which could (in theory) jeopardise existing and / or future SEO rankings that the UK version of the site currently has. This was a major issue for the client and ourselves as we had no wish to impact in a negative way on hard won SEO rankings that have been achieved over the years.
2. Address potential duplicate content issues
After researching duplicate content concerns online and asking question on various SEO forums and blogs etc we decided on a solution that would allow us to produce product URLs without generating duplicate content pages. We did this using URL query string values, cookies and 301 re-directs.
We first created a separate feed file for each country. The feed contained the currency information for that country with a modified product URL. The product URL contained a query string value for the appropriate currency i.e.
When the website encountered these URLs, it read the query string value and set a cookie on the user’s PC. The cookie then informed the website what currency should be displayed based on the query string chosen i.e. the currency choice.
Modified URLs then displayed the products with the correct currency values. For example, this would allow someone using Google merchant shopping in Australia to view the products in Google merchant shopping with the correct currency format i.e. AUD.
Thereafter, if the user from Australia then clicked on the product, they would be redirected to the UK page version of the product page using a 301 Re-direct (no duplicate content issues) that highlighted the product of choice but more importantly in the correct currency of choice. 301 redirects are used for a number of SEO scenarios and more information on them can be found here – http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=93633
3. Ensure that the pricing on the feed matches the website
Currency conversion was set up to take place once a day to ensure that Google did not identify any price variations with the website and feed. For example, the prices displaying within a Google feed could be potentially different to prices on the website based on the time or how often the currency conversion changed and updated to the website.
How do we know this? Well, the currency conversion was originally set to be one hour for all feeds and this worked fairly well until Google noticed that prices were sometimes different on the feeds to that of the website. As a result of this feedback from Google, currency conversion updates were changed to once a day and scheduled to coincide with Google fetching the shopping feeds at a similar time to ensure synergy between the pricing in the feeds and on the website.
Note, a website that is English can only feature on Google Merchant Shopping in countries that Google identifies as an “english speaking country”. These countries include the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and Switzerland.
As a result of the Google Merchant Shopping feed setup, our client now has over 1700 products displaying in several countries. This venture has been highly successful in driving new traffic and generating improved revenue.
It is appreciated that this set-up is aimed at English speaking countries that Google merchant shopping caters for but what is great about this set-up is that our client and their entire online product range now have fantastic exposure in several more countries that they did previously. All products are presented to perspective buyers in the correct currency using only one website to do it.
Through the use of 301 redirects, query string values and cookies are client is now selling internationally, with no duplicate content concerns or ranking penalties. From one country to several with the help of our development team; our client is now taking their ecommerce online channels international and reaping the rewards as a result.
If you would like to find out more about integration of our ecommerce websites with online channels to market or ecommerce development in general, please get in touch. Please pop in for a chat at our Edinburgh office. Alternatively, please call or email us using the details below.
Tel: 0131 668 0800