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Automating feeds for Google Shopping

 12:55 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi all,
I'd liek to start by saying I realize that this is better suited to the google Shopping sub-forum, I just didnt want to take a chance on having to wait for an answer as I've got a time-sensitive issue on my hands!

This morning I recieved aan email message from google Shopping Center stating that our products had been manually reviewed and they violate a standard policy. Let me explain, We have been creating our feeds manually for years, simply writing them into an excel spreadsheet. Our products are mostly clothing which means they come in various sizes. It became very hard for us to manage sizes coming in and out of stock and being able to update them manually to always reflect the site. However we are very good at making sure entire products are correctly marked in our out of stock, it's just the sizes that are difficult as the department that makes our products out of stock is not the department that updates data feed and conveying that information would take many additional hours per week.

My question is... and this may seem so rudimentary to some of you, so I apologize, but What program or programming do we need to automate this? I know they exist but I cant seem to find one for us (we are a Canadian company). Is there something we can integrate into our website that will automatically update the merchant center as to what products are in stock and out of stock without manual updating?

I have until April 3rd to fix this and I honestly don't see how we could do it manually in that time as we have feeds in the USA, Canada, Austraila and Sweden!

Thank you so much for any information or resources you can pass along to me as I'm sure I am not the only one out there who's got a small-medium sized business who still does some things manually.


Andy Langton

 12:59 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

What system are you using for your shopping cart? Is it in-house or an off-the-shelf thing?


 1:12 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

We do it for the client Magento site that we oversee; we basically wrote a script to pull it out of the database and add the fields/tracking/labels/groups we want, and then Google (and Bing) come and picking it up once a week or so. All the other ones I do manually, because there are a lot fewer products and they don't change much.

As Andy Langton says, what needs to be done depends what your shopping cart is.


 1:37 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't do the developing on the site (I do the marketing) so I have limited knowledge on the shopping cart side of things. But I do know that it is php based and it has been designed by our developers, which would make it fairly custom.


 2:01 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Then they should be able to pull a feed out of the database, add the fields and variables you need, and set up a cron job to run it on a regular schedule (cron is what tells what script, program or task to run when).

What I would do if I were you is to create a file manually, and then give it to the developers and ask them if they can make it happen.


 2:31 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

thanks netmeg, now i think we're getting somewhere. I'd like to understand a little more about this 'cron job' you speak of. We're heading into a territory where i feel a bit like i'm learning a new language on the fly, so bare with me.

Should I be approaching my web developers about this or my server host? who would have the access to all of this data? And to clarify, I would simply list for them the attributes that google requires for each product, so that they can create a program that pulls that information? What about the product category listings attribute, this is a place where we would manually choose the correct category, I'm not sure how this would work as our site is not set up categorically in the exact same manner that google predefine its product categories.

You mention we shold create a feed manually and then give to developers, but we already have a feed, and at this point with all 4 countries and all of our products/sizes were are talking about 80,000 lines spread over about 15 excel spreadsheets. This isnt exactly something we could recreate by starting from scratch. it would take weeks or longer.

As well, If our developers could pull this data would we have to have them pull this information on a daily basis to keep our feeds up to date or is this something that can be automated. and if so, how exactly do we submit that to google. I do apologize for the rudimentary questions, but I want to be thorough and as I mentioned, we've been clicking that manual upload button for so long now, anything else seems out of our element.

Thank you again for your valuable input.

Andy Langton

 2:56 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Here's a question to help determine the technical requirements:

Is the content you want in the feed displayed on each product page?

If it is (even if you might need to cut description text down etc.) then you can write a fairly simple spec for your devs to simply pull out that data in the format required.

If you're non-technical but have good developers, then the easiest request is for them to pull product data out of the database in accordance with the published spec:


That spec itself is sufficient for a good developer to give you a quote for cost/time to complete.

Cron is the equvalent of a taks scheduler on windows. Basically you set a process (to create an updated feed) that runs on a particular schedule (e.g. weekly). That way you automatically submit a feed URL to Google that is always up to date.


 3:01 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

It might help if you do it in stages. And it will be the developers who create this, the host probably won't have anything to do with it unless they work on your actual site code.

For example, for my Magento client, we have some products that are really easy - just a widget, no attributes, colors or sizes. But we have some items that are a lot more complicated, with lots of options, attributes and add-ons. (And none of them really conformed to Google's categories, so we had to kind of extrapolate)

So we started with just the simplest products first, and wrote a feed for that. Once we got that working and accepted, we starting banging away on the more complicated stuff. And there are some products we'll probably never be able to shoehorn into Google's system, but that doesn't mean we can't do the best we can.

So start with half a dozen of your simplest products, and make a sample feed. You shouldn't have to put ALL the products in - you're just telling them what you want the finished feed to look like.

Also send them to this link:

What they'll be doing is pulling the product data out of your database, and adding the various Google requirements to make a working feed.

Have them generate a small test feed for you and give you the file, and then submit it manually to make sure it works okay. Once you get one that's accepted and working, you can work on the scheduling.

Next tell them that you want to be able to have this feed generated on a scheduled basis (you can tell them to generate it daily if you want, but Google will only pick it up once a week. If you want to submit it daily, you'll have to submit it manually) They should be able to use cron (that's the scheduling program on the server) to generate the file. Then you can tell Google to come pick it up every week, or you can submit it yourself.

Once you get your first products up and running, you have the basic technology in place, and then you start working on your more complicated products.

I can't help you with the countries; all my stuff is US only.


 3:02 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

opps, Andy slipped in.

Andy Langton

 3:15 pm on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well, at least we seem to be agreeing with each other ;)


 11:49 am on Mar 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks guys, a real great help infact. Will this mean that for each country I am targeting I will have only 1 feed? Currently we have 5 feeds for the USA based on their limit of 10k lines per feed.

Wether I upload manually or Automatically, will I have to rename the data feeds? I just want to make sure on this part.

Also, Any idea on the id codes? for instance when it comes to product id, and the group id we simply generated a list of sequential numbers in the Excel spreadsheet, so these are not on our website anywhere, I am assuming all of our product ids would have to change becasue of this to match the ID on the site as it would be easier. As well, the google product type is not on the site.

Is the best way to sort this out, assign a google product category to each of our website categories and simply give that list to our developers? This would also have to apply to our adwords product groupings I suppose as well.

Thanks again, I really like to be thorough and ask a lot of questions so I really understand what I'm doing here before I start telling our developers what we'll need.



 12:30 pm on Mar 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well.. you're kind of getting into more detail than I have time to deal with. I don't know about other countries, so I can't help you there. You can name the feed anything you want. For ID codes, I use the identifying number in the database. You probably have one, you just don't know what it is. We went through and matched all our categories to Google categories (as close as could) and then I went through and assigned AdWords Groups and Labels to products so I could bid on them separately (the products range from $9 to $9995 so we have a wide range of bids) Hope that helps.


 1:19 pm on Mar 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thank you netmeg, it certainly does help. And we do appreciate it!

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