Google Merchant Center Promotions

Google Merchant Center (GMC) Promotions are a great (free) way to make your products stand out and incentivize shoppers to click your ad in Google Shopping Ads (and increase your conversion rates!)

This guide has six sections:

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  1. The Basics of Google Merchant Center Promotions

  2. Google Merchant Center Promotions Account Setup

  3. Promotion Design

  4. Google Merchant Center Promotions Setup

  5. Troubleshooting Tips

  6. Quick Links to Help Files


Want the short and skinny of Google Promotions? Here’s Google’s Quick Reference Guide


  1. The Basics of Google Merchant Center Promotions


What is google merchant center promotions?

Google Merchant Center (GMC) Promotions is a free feature that lets you add promotions on your Google Shopping ads.

Your ad will show a “Special Offer” link under your ad details such as free shipping or 20% off. They can create urgency in shoppers by showing when the promotion expires.

The promotion will also appear inside the product listing ad (PLA).

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Why Use GMC Promotions?

GMC Promotions help you stand out from other advertisers with similar products and encourage shoppers to visit your sites. Promotions can:

  • Increase clickthrough rates by highlighting your promotion on your ad

  • Increase conversions by creating urgency in your shoppers (who doesn’t love a deal!)

  • Prequalify shopping traffic before you for the click, the ad is shown before your website is visited

  • Grab attention on mobile and desktop (these special offer links are shown on both traffic sources)

  • Help you stay organized: you can schedule the promotions in advance


What Kind of Promotions Can You Use on GMC Promotions?

You can offer the following kinds of promotions:

Percent Off

  • Cash back

  • Buy one get one free

  • Buy one get second one percent off

 Free Gifts

  • Free item or gift card for specified value

Shipping Discounts

  • Free or discounted shipping

Bundle Offers

  • You can combine promotions that might not be allowed on their own.

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TIPS

  • Discounts must be at least $5 or 5% off

  • Tiered discounts are allowed (ex. $x off $50, $y off $100, or $z off $150)

  • Floor discounts must be stated (ex. the minimum amount or percent saved – X% to Y% off

  • Cash discounts must show in your cart or checkout ($x cash back or $x cash rebates)

  • Free items have to describe the item clearly and can’t be samples or trials

  • Gift cards have to describe the gift card value and the gift card has to be from your own store

  • Free or discounted shipping has to include a valid redemption code (with the exception that no redemption code is needed when combined with another promotion – ex. free shipping + 10% off)

  • You can have up to 500 (!!) promotion running at once. You can have up to 10 Promotion IDs per item (Shopping Ads shows up to five promotions per item)

  • Promotions are limited to 6 months (183 days)


Examples of Promotion Types NOT Allowed

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What Countries Is GMC Promotions Available In?

Currently, GMC Promotions are only available in:

  • United States

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • France

  • UK

  • India


2. Google Merchant Center Promotions Account Setup


Before you can begin using Google Merchant Center Promotions you have to have an active product(s) feed and an AdWords account.

Fill out the Merchant Promotions Interest Form (it’s only seven basic account questions). You should hear back from Google in 24 hours to one week.

When you are approved you will see a link called “Promotions” appear on the left menu bar in your GMC account.

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TIPS

Google has an approval process to join the Promotions program that can take 24 hours to one week.

Additionally, there is an approval process for each promotion that can take 24 hours to three days. Plan ahead!


3. Promotion Design


Your first step in promotion design is to think about the reason for your promotion. Make sure you’re adding value for Google shoppers.

Google has certain rules (yes you know this already don’t you) regarding their promotions including Program Policies and Editorial Requirements.


Nine Program Policies Must Be Followed

1. Promotions Must Add Value

  • Promotions must provide a monetary discount or an additional good or service not normally associated with the purchase. All promotions are applied at checkout or point of sale.

  • Timeframe of promotion must be no more than 6 months (183 days)

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TIP

Review the Shopping AD Policies to remind yourself of the Google Rules.

2. Adhere to Shopping Ads Policies

  • In a nut-shell: no counterfeit, dangerous products, dishonest behavior, inappropriate content, misrepresentation of self or product.

3. Adhere to Google Editorial Requirements for Titles

  • Don’t trick or mislead shoppers. See Title Requirements below.

4. Follow Redemption Requirements

  • Make sure your promotion doesn’t ask for additional user requirements like signing up for a credit card, paid membership or survey participation in order to redeem the promotion.

5. Avoid Overly Restrictive Promotions

  • Promotions must be available for all shoppers. Don’t segment (ex. teachers, students, seniors, military, on-your-birthday, first time customers. Don’t restrict your promotion in other ways (ex. discount with social media like, discount with certain credit card, discount with survey participation). 

6. Make Promoted Products Clear to The Shopper

  • If your promotion is for specific products, those products must be identified in your product feed(s).

  • If your promotion is for a bundle, you have to clearly state which products (and ALL of the products) must be included to quality.

7. Make Confirmation of Promotion Receipt Clear

  • A shopper’s receipt of promotions must be clearly confirmed by the point of purchase, and given in the cart or at checkout (NOT on the product landing page).

  • Do not put the promotion on your landing page(s). The way Google sees it, it’s not an added value promotion if it’s already on your landing page.

  • Do not update your product feed(s) with the promotion price.

  • The promotion should happen at the point of purchase in the cart or during checkout

  • Free items (ex. gifts, gift cards, e-cards) can be displayed on your landing page, and must ALSO be in the cart/basket or on the checkout page.

8. Include Redemption Code for Shipping Promotions

  • You must include a valid redemption code for a shipping promotion.

  • If you offer free shipping at a certain threshold (ex. free shipping for items over $100), you can offer a shipping promotion at a lower threshold (ex. Use free shipping code FALLFREE18 for free shipping on all items over $50 in September)

  • Make sure the items tied to the promotion are at the item price threshold. For example, if you’re offering free shipping for items over $50, don’t include the shipping promotion code in your product feed(s) for items under a price of $50.

  • For example, if free shipping is already given for orders $45+ (without code) and you would like for free shipping to be given at $35+ with code, the promotion should only be mapped to items that are priced below $45.

9. Follow Combined Promotions Policies

  • You can combine some promotions that you couldn’t offer as stand-alone promotions. Here’s some examples:

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Editorial Requirements: FIVE Title Guidelines

1. Value of the Promotion

  • Values in titles must reflect the specific promotion that is applied at checkout

  • Monetary discount must be reflected in the specified area’s currency symbol or code (e.g. $5,300 INR, 15 AUD, etc.)

  • Free shipping and discounted shipping promotions need to include a redemption code in the Promotions feed, not in the title

  • Titles must have specific promotion value and discount, and can not be generic promotional text (e.g. “Spring shoe sale”)

  • Free items must be described in the title and include a dollar value when possible:

    • No: Free item with purchase

    • Yes: Free memory card with purchase

    • No: Gift card/voucher with purchase

    • Yes: Free $25 gift card/voucher with purchase

2. How the Promotion is Applied

  • If a promotion requires a minimum purchase, it must be stated in the title (e.g., $5 off purchases over $20).

  • If a promotion is good for certain items or types of items, don't create a misleading title that implies otherwise.

  • Titles should be consistent with the applicability set in your promotion attribute. For example, if the title says “$15 off all products,” or “$15 off all orders,” then the product applicability should be set to ALL_PRODUCTS

  • If the promotion is applicable for specific products (e.g. "20% off on baby sneakers only,") the product applicability should be set to SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS

3. Tiered Promotions and the Lowest Possible Value

  • If a promotion includes tiered discounts, promotions should never show the highest possible value (e.g. the "ceiling").

    • NO: Up to $20 off

    • Yes: $10 - $20 off or $10+ off

    • Yes: $10+ off

  • Tiered promotions can be submitted as one promotion or multiple. If you submit a tiered promotion as a single promotion, the title must be within the 60-character limit and state the “floor” promotion.

4. If There’s Room…State Maximum Discount Available

  • Example: 30% off organic household products (maximum discount $20).

5. Don’t Include Specific Redemption Details in the Promotion Title

  • Codes: Redemption codes should only be entered in the fields designed specifically for them in the Promotions feed, not in the title

  • Redemption dates: Do not include dates


Editorial Requirements: Title Formatting

  • Maximum 60 Characters for Title

  • Match currency to country

  • No gimmicky repetition of words or unnecessary or irrelevant text

  • Examples of what NOT to do:

    • Extra extra savings >>>>> Not allowed: Gimmicky repetition of words

    • Buy more save more! 50% off all jeans >>>>> Not allowed: Unnecessary text (e.g. Buy more, save more!)

    • Save today - $10 off orders of $75+ >>>>> Not allowed: Unnecessary text (e.g. Save today)

    • Happy holidays! Get 10% off your order >>>>>Not allowed: Irrelevant text (e.g. Happy holidays!)

  • Check your grammar and spelling (Google will!) – Don’t use acronyms (ex. BOGO or MSRP), don’t shorten words (ex. Min can’t replace Minimum)

  • Check spacing between characters/words – make sure you have a space after commas, don’t use inappropriate spacing in words (ex. F r e e)

  • Check punctuation and avoid all symbols – don’t use gimmicky punctuation or exclamation marks (ex. Don’t do this: ***30% off wood furniture 4 kitchens!!***)

  • Check your capitalization – don’t use all capital letters, you can capitalize the first letter of every word in the offer title if you are consistent.

  • Identify the product items you will be associating with your promotion. Either ALL items or a subset of items. You will need to add a field called promotion_id and assign the Promo ID to all the items for your specific product promotion. More on this in the section Google Merchant Center Promotions Setup below.

Use the tips above to design or review your promotions before setting up GMC Promotions.


4. Google Merchant Center Promotions Setup


There are two options to setup your GMC Promotions:

Option 1 – The Promotion Tool - Use this option if you have a limited number of promotions you want to run.

Option 2 – The Promotions Feed - Use this option if you have a large number of promotions you want to run (this will save you a lot of time), or if you want to use additional fields like promotion display dates, minimum purchase amount and generic redemption code.

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TIPS

TIP: There is no way to create the promotion itself only within your inventory products feed. Submitting any promotion information (other than the promotion_id) within the product-feed is a policy violation and is grounds for disapproval or account suspension.

TIP: Give yourself at least five days before the actual start of your promotion on your website. This will give you time to troubleshoot and resubmit if necessary.

TIP: Make sure you promotion runs as expected as mentioned in your promotion, check redemption at checkout and make sure the product’s promotion price is NOT on your landing page.

TIP: Add a product group on AdWords for promotion eligible products. You can view a detailed report on the performance of your promotion, and you are able to start/stop showing the products on your website.

TIP: Segment your shopping campaigns by click type. The “Shopping-Product-Coupon” click type will tell you the number of impressions you received from the “Special Offer” link.

 

Option 1 – The Promotion Tool

If you only have a few promotions, use the GMC Promotion Tool in GMC.

Have access to your GMC ID, logo (or the URL), and your promotion details on hand.

Click on the Promotion Link on the left menu bar, then click on “Create New Promotions Feed” button to create a promotion.

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Fill out the offer terms, short and long title, dates of the promotion and the coupon code (if you’re using a coupon). See descriptions and tips below.

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Promotion ID

  • A Promo ID can be 1-60 characters

  • Use a unique identifier for each different promotion

  • Use case-specific identifiers for your promotion ID (ex. abc123 is different from ABC123)

  • Don’t change your promotion ID once you’ve assigned it (if you do, you will overwrite the promotion and history)

  • Don’t use spaces in the Promo ID

  • Don’t use symbols in the Promo ID (ex. $, %, *, &, !, #)

  • Don’t use Unicode characters.

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TIPS

Tip: NEVER REUSE an active or stopped promotion ID

TIP: If you are going to create a promotion for specific products (as opposed to ALL products) take note of the Promo ID you enter. You will need to add this Promo ID to the specific products in your feed.

TIP: You can create up to ten promotions for one item

Country and Language

  • Select your target country and language

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Title

  • This is what your shoppers will see when they they click on the “Special Offer” link to find out more about your promotion.

  • You have only 60 characters so make them count!

  • See the Title Guidelines and Title Formatting sections of this guide. 

Redemption Code

  • The text code customers can use online (ex. EXTRA20).

  • Remember: ALL shipping promotions must include a valid redemption code.

  • While a redemption code is optional, it is often recommended.

  • Double check this code before saving your promotion online to make absolutely certain it matches the actual sale code exactly.

Product Applicability

  • Select one of the radio buttons:

    • All Products - no changes required to your Products Feed.

    • Specific Products - you MUST add a column for promotion_id to identify which specific products to apply the promotion to. If you don’t update your Products Feed with this information your promotion will be rejected.

Effective Date Range

  • Add the promotion start and date times. Adjust the time and time zone as needed.

  • Your promotion MUST be active on your website BEFORE Google validates and tests, otherwise your promotion will not be approved.

  • Once your promotion start date and time are met, THEN Google will start the SKU approval process. It can take one to two hours to get approval on the promotion.

  • If the promotion start date and time are not IDENTICAL to the start date and time on your website, Google’s robots will go check your site and see it’s not live yet, and the promotion will be rejected.

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Check & Double Check All Fields and Data

Make sure everything you’ve entered is accurate.

Finally…Click CREATE

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Google Merchant Promotions Review

Google’s review of your promotion can take up to 24 hours (plan ahead!)

Review Your Promotion Approval Status

Go to the Promotions page in GMC and click “List. The status of each promotion will be listed.

Review and Fix Rejected Promotions

If your promotion has been rejected

If you see a “Rejected” status on your promotion, click the bubble on the far right to get more information on why the promotion was rejected.

Request a Retest of Your Promotion

If your promotion was rejected, fix the errors as requested by Google, then click on the Request a retest blue link in the bubble message.

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Option 2 – The Promotions Feed

Google suggests that you use a promotions feed if you have a large number of promotions. You can do this with

  1. A spreadsheet

  2. An XML file

This guide will explain how to use a spreadsheet as a Promotion Feed.

Create a spreadsheet with the following attributes (See the Feed Template in Google Sheets).

Minimum Attributes

promotion_id

Your unique Promo ID (see details above)

If submitting multiple promotion_id value for an item, submit the values separated by commas; you can include up to 10.

TIP: When using multiple promotion_id, the order the promotions appear are set by the order they appear in the Product_applicability field: SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS are prioritized before ALL_PRODUCTS.

TIP: Google.com will only show one promotion.

product_applicability

ALL_PRODUCTS

or

SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS

If SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS is submitted, you must have a promotion_id associated with the promotion items in your products feed. See Step 3: Choose Products for Your Promotions

TIP: If you’re using SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS and your products feed does not have the promotion_id field mapped, your promotion will be rejected.

TIP: If you’re using SPECIFIC_PRODUCTS you should NOT submit a NEW product feed, simply edit the current produts feed to add the new promotion_id attribute with specific values.

TIP: if the promotion is for all products, you do not need to add promotion_id.

offer_type Use NO_CODE or GENERIC_CODE

If you use GENERIC_CODE you must include optional field generic_redemption_code with the text code customers can use online (ex. EXTRA20). ALL shipping promotions must include a valid redemption code.

long_title 60 characters maximum

Follow the Editorial Guidelines in the Google Merchant Center Promotion Design portion of this guide.

promotion_effective_dates Separate start date and start time with the letter “T”

Calculate GMT as the time zone (EST = -5 GMT, PST= -8 GMT)

Separate the start date and end date with a forward slash (/)

YYYY-MM-DDT00:00+-00:00/YYYY-MM-DDT00:00+-00:00

(Ex. If your promotion was valid from 3:00 AM on 10/01/18 to 9:00 PM on 10/31/18 you would submit: 2018-10-01T03:00:00-05:00/2018-10-31T21:00:00-05:00)

redemption_channel Use ONLINE

OPTIONAL Attributes

promotion_display_dates If you want to specify the date and time when the promotion is to go live on Google.com and in Shopping Ads use this optional attribute. This gives you the option to let Google review your promotion in advance of the effective date (Remember: you need to have the promotion IDs mapped in your product feed at the time of review by Google.

Otherwise the “live” date and time will be the promotion_effective_dates.

TIP: make sure your promotion is live on your website BEFORE the promotion_effective_dates start date/time or promotion_display_dates start date/time or Google will not approve your promotion.

minimum_purchase_amount Describe the minimum amount of purchase that must be made for the offer to apply.

Remember to use the currency of the specified locales (ex. USA = 20 USD)

generic_redemption_code The text code customers use online to activate the promotion in thier shopping cart (ex. EXTRA20).

Remember: ALL shipping promotions must include a valid redemption code.


Update Your Products Feed

REMEMBER: Add the the promotion_id attribute to your Products Feed to map the products to the product specific promotions!


Upload Your Promotions Feed

The final step is to upload your Promotions Feed to GMC. Follow the steps outlined by Google in Step 4: Register and Upload Your Feed.


5. Troubleshooting Tips


Edit a Promotion

  • You can only edit a promotion that hasn’t already been approved.       

  • Be careful when filling out the GMC Promotion Tool. If you submit a promotion and it gets approved and you have a change you want to make, the only thing you can do is to stop the promotion and create another one (and have to wait for Google approval again).

Promotion not showing up

  • If your promotion is approved and is within the promotion_effective_dates, there may be a delay of a few hours before you can see the promo on all products. You may want to get everything set up and approved before the actual promotion start date.

    • TIP: Google will perform two reviews:

      • Policy Review - usually completed the same day, Google checks for policy and editorial requirements.

      • SKU Review - this only begins once the promotion effective start date is met, hence the several hour delay.

Promotion Rejected

  • Common reasons for promotion rejection by Google include:

    • Violation of the policies and requirements

    • Price on your landing page is the promotion price (this is not creating value in Google’s mind), the promotion price needs to appear in the cart or at checkout.

Server Error

“Server Error” has two possible errors:

1.     Promotion_effective_date attribute is incorrect. See Promotions Feed Specification Article.

2.     Your feed template is out of date. See Current Feed Template.