Product Feed

Product mix and new product feeds are one of the key challenges when managing a paid search (PPC) campaign for a retailer. The retailer may have hundreds or thousands of products on their site, and they could change at any time. Regular and accurate communication of changes is frequently hard to come by, and you’ll often find products running in PPC that have been removed from the site, or new products added to the site and not yet in your PPC campaign. The problem gets even worse when you want to add pricing or stock information to your creatives – how do you know when those values are changed?

Thankfully there’s an easy solution. Most retailers produce feed files on a daily basis to provide to their affiliate networks or price comparison partners. These feed files, combined with a piece of freeware, can tell you all you need to regularly and reliably keep up to date with the latest product changes.

Starting Off – Sourcing the Feed File
A product feed is simply a text file containing a list of all of the products on the site. Retailers regularly produce these feed files to power price comparison engines, or affiliate networks. The easiest route would be to ask your client to provide you with one of their existing feed files – these can come in a number of formats: CSV (comma separated), TSV (tab separated) or pipe-delimited.

There are three ways that you can receive such a feed file from your client:

Once you’ve got your feed file, save it somewhere sensible and name it with today’s date. Then, a few days or a week later, go back and get the latest version. You now have two versions, and need to compare them to find out what’s changed.

Finding Out What’s Changed
To find which products have been added, removed or changed in the product feeds, you need a feed comparison tool. I’ve developed a freeware app to do this, imaginatively called the Product Feed Comparison Tool.
Download it, install it and fire it up.

The first screen you’ll see is the intro screen. Click on the Next button to get to the first stage of the comparison process. You’ll be presented with the following options:

 

In the Older Feed File box, you’ll need to select the feed file you saved a few days ago. This is the file you want to compare from. In the Latest Feed File box, you’ll need to select the latest version of the feed you downloaded. Now click on Next, and you’ll see the following options:

 

The Separated By option lets you select how different fields in your feed file are separated. Your client should be able to tell you which option to select, but if not simply try out different options and have a look at the results in the Preview window. Similarly with text delimiter – this will usually be ” or blank. Try a couple of values and see what you get – if all the options are enclosed in quotation marks you probably need to use “.

If the first row of the results are the field names, click on the “First row contains column headings” tickbox. If the first row just contains product details, untick this box.

Finally, when you’re happy with the results in the preview window, in the Unique Product Code dropdown select the column that uniquely identifies each product in the feed. You can also optionally select the field that describes the product title – this makes it easier to read the results later on.

Now click on Next, and then Start Comparison. The tool will tick away for a while, working out the latest changes, and present you with results like this:

 

You can see that one product was added, and two products were changed. Clicking on any of the results will fill out the bottom half of the results screen with more details on exactly what was changed:

 

You can see that on the N95 product, the title was changed from “N95″ to “N95 8Gb”. You could then go into Adwords and change any necessary keywords or creatives.

Finally, you can use the View HTML button to display an HTML version of the results. You can paste these results into an e-mail or document, and send them to the client or others working on the account.

End Note
Product feeds can provide a very quick and easy way to keep your PPC campaigns up to date. The best way to make good use of this sort of tool is to put effort into your account structure – having logically layed out campaigns and adgroups will help you easily match the changes in the feeds to the changes required in your account.