Your PLA images are very important. They play the biggest part in a customer’s decision to purchase an item whilst using Google Shopping. Not having the best shopping image can drastically lower the quality of your feed and hinder your overall results.
The image is the largest part of the ad so it’s important it is not only compliant with requirements, but also looks good to your customer (many of whom typically decide on a product by looking at the following PLA attributes; image, price, title).
Let’s look at the best ways to overcome issues, the best practices and the absolute image requirements set out by Google...
Google Shopping Image Requirements, Best Practices and Errors to Avoid
Not using the correct requirements or simply not having one could cause a disapproval from Google.
1. Firstly, an image link (a URL link to the image itself) is a required part of the feed. If there is no image for the product, do not list it in your feed.
2. The same goes for placeholder images, they are not allowed aside from two exceptions:
- Within the categories Hardware or Vehicle & Parts. Illustrations are allowed here where necessary.
- Paint, in any category. With these products, single color images are accepted.
3. You must accurately represent the item you’re selling - this may seem obvious, but make sure that props or backgrounds aren’t overshadowing the item.
Whilst you know your product very well, keep in mind that this could be the first time a potential customer has seen it. For example, the product below is a ball of chunky yarn. However, this is made unclear by the yarn appearing already knitted into a blanket:
4. Only the following formats are accepted: GIF (.gif) (non-animated), JPEG (.jpg/.jpeg), PNG (.png), BMP (.bmp) and TIFF (.tif/.tiff)
- The maximum image size is 64 megapixels. Maximum file size is 16MB.
- Make sure the image is clear. This is essential for clothing items where you need to use an image that’s at least 250x250 pixels. For other non-clothing items, the image must be at least 100x100 pixels.
- Avoid using borders, watermarks or promotional text.
- The image should ideally take up 75% of the image.
5. In a post within Google’s advertiser community, an advertiser asked why their images were appearing off-center or cropped. The answer? It was to do with the image requirements not being met.
6. Lastly, you will need to consider the requirements for the URL. It is important to remember that Google will look at images and their links using crawlers and an algorithm, therefore getting the URL right is essential. The URL requirements include:
- Referring to the above, remember to ensure the URL is fully crawlable (robots.txt configuration allowing Googlebot and Googlebot-image). In a question posed on Google’s advertiser community, the advertiser asked why they were seeing an error message. It all came down to the fact the link submitted was for a page, not the image URL.
- Using the [image_link] category in your feed, the URL must link to the main image for the product.
- The URL must start with either http or https.
- The URL must be in line with RFC 2396 or RFC 1738 - examples:
- A space would be %20
- A quotation mark (“) is %22
- An octothorpe (#) is %23
Google Shopping Images Best Practices
Now that we know what is required and essential for a Google Shopping image, let’s explore some best practices and tips for picking the best image possible:
7. Image size
Despite Google’s minimum size sitting at 100x100 pixels (250x250 for clothing & apparel) larger, high-quality images typically outperform smaller images.
CPC Strategy suggest using images 800x800 pixels or larger. These are more visually appealing and often depict exactly what the product is/does better than smaller images. For example, the images below display the positive impact of using the recommended image sizes.
Remember that you want to catch the buyer’s eye over your competitors PLAs.
Make sure your image is clear and easy to see. Get the right lighting and the best angle.
SEMRush recommends using a plain white background with no marks or logos (excluding any logos on the product itself) to help your image stand out in the crowd.
For example, the shopping listing image below is for a mug. However, the props make it harder for the product to stand out.
If you are creating the images themselves, for a more professional image, try to get your images retouched. For example, in a post by Jeff Delacruz for Shopify images that are photographed against a white background with the correct exposure typically come out with a light grey tint to the background. Retouching this can help to create a white background and a clearer image.
Above image: example of an image prior to retouching. Credit: Shopify
Above image: the same image after retouching. Credit: Shopify
8. Use the right image
Again, this sounds simple, however, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right images for the right product. This means setting up and parent/child attributes with all the right images too. It seldom works to show a customer the wrong colour, size, etc. - for example, you’re unlikely to get a sale by showing an image of a red dress when the customer has searched for a black dress.
After putting in all that effort with pulling together a feed and picking the best images, the last thing you want to see is a big red disapproval caused by your selected images. Let’s explore the common pitfalls and how you can avoid them:
9. Broken links
Google must be able to read the link. If it can’t access the link, it won’t be shown, simple as that. Avoid adding spaces or other unreadable elements to your URL. Also make sure you double-check the URL is still valid and hasn’t been moved or removed altogether.
10. Your image size
Too small an image can impact your sales or even get disapproved. However, too large and you can also get disapproved.
A watermark or promotional text may seem like a great idea for branding but it is an easy way to land yourself a disapproval. If you want to add extra text, utilise the product description section.
12. Generic Images
Beware of the "generic images" disapproval! This happens when for some reason you don't have images for a product and you fill the image_link field with a default image, usually simply your company logo.
13. Additional Images
Make use of the additional_image_link attribute and add up to 10 extra images to your PLAs. Usually, additional images show the product from a different angle or with product staging elements.
Fixing those pesky disapprovals
So, you’ve set up your feed and your campaigns, to your dismay, Google has disapproved some of your ads… now what?
The best thing to do is to fix the issue straight away.
There will normally be a disapproval reason given which will help you identify what you need to do to sort out the issue. Once you’ve done this, re-upload your feed. The reapproval of items will take up to 12 hours as Google will want to ensure all issues are fixed. If you feel that this is no error within the feed, you can request a manual review. This can, however, take up to 7 days. Once items in the feed have been reviewed and approved, they can begin to show up within 24 hours.
You may also come across a pre-emptive item disapproval. This is where Google have run a manual review of the products and if they find something that doesn’t adhere to the requirements (such as watermarks), you will receive an email asking for the issues to be fixed with examples of products with the issue. If you are unable to make the fixes in the timeframe given by Google, you will find other items will start to get disapproved if Google think they are likely to have a requirement issue.
All the Google Shopping image optimisation tips we gave are essential for an ongoing feed management strategy.