Google Product Feed – Expanded structured data markup

In version 9.4.0 of the Google Product Feed extension we introduced a new beta feature called Expanded Structured Data.

DO NOT enable this without speaking to our support team first. This is an experimental feature and should only be enabled if you are addressing structured data problems with validating your feed, and are happy to manage structured data changes on your site.
This article explains why we’ve introduced the feature, how it works, when you should consider enabling it, and how to identify and feed back on any issues that may be caused adding the feature to your site.

The problem

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The Google Product Feed extension submits a detailed feed of product information to Google Merchant Centre. This includes a record for each product in your store, including (for variable products) a product record for each individual variation. Once Google process the feed, they cross-check the information in the feed against the product pages themselves to verify that the product data is accurate. This includes looking at both the visible product page content, but also at “hidden” structured data markup (also referred to as “schema” markup) that embeds product information in the source of your product pages. This structured data markup is generated automatically by the core WooCommerce platform, and the Google Product Feed enriches it with product-feed specific information where relevant. This process works well for simple products, but there are sometimes issues with variable products. The reason is that WooCommerce currently, for performance reasons, only outputs a single aggregated product information block for variable products. This has a number of drawbacks:
  • variation-specific product data such as GTIN, MPN and SKU aren’t output
  • a single price-range is output covering the cheapest to most expensive variation, but not individual variation prices
While these issues don’t cause issues for the vast majority of stores, occasionally Google fails to validate variable products, citing mismatches in pricing between the per-variation prices in the feed, and the aggregate pricing displayed online.

Introducing “Expanded structured data”

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The new “expanded structured data” feature aims to address the drawbacks in the standard WooCommerce core approach by providing an additional set of structured markup on the product pages of your store. The existing standard markup is maintained, so your pages will still contain a structured data record indicating the aggregate product. However, alongside that, additional structured data will be added for each individual variation. For each variation, this markup contains:
  • variation-specific price (both inclusive and exclusive of taxes)
  • variation-specific product page URL
  • variation-specific product titles
  • brand
  • condition
  • GTIN
  • MPN
  • SKU

Should I enable Expanded Structured Data?

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Google’s specifications on what structured data they expect, and how they use it to validate product data aren’t 100% clear, so we expect that there will be iterations to the feature based on customer feedback. Over time, we expect to refine the feature, and eventually activate it by default for all stores (potentially moving some of the features into WooCommerce core). If your products are being validated by Google Merchant Centre without any issues, then we would not recommend activating the feature at this time. There are two situations in which we would recommend activating the feature:
  1. You are experiencing product validation issues, and our support team have recommended that you activate the feature
  2. You want to help with refining the feature and are willing to handle issues, and undertake detailed review of structured data feedback from Google Search Console & Google Merchant Centre
If you are having problems with product validation, then please reach out to the support team who will look at the problems you are having and recommend whether or not Expanded Structured Data might help.

Activating Expanded Structured Data

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Before you activate the feature, make sure you have read and understand the points below:
  • Structured data is not only used to validate product data uploaded to Google Merchant Centre, it’s also used by Google (and other search engines) as part of understanding your site, and changing the structured data on your product pages may affect not only product data validation, but also your visibility (positively, or negatively) in general search results from Google and other search engines.
  • You should ensure that you have Google Search Console Tools set up for your site. This provides a number of reports covering structured data discovered on your site, that are useful in tracking and identifying impact of the feature.
  • As Google’s specification on structure data is not comprehensive, these changes may impact on product validation both positively and negatively.
  • The processing required to generate structured data for multiple variations, and include them in the page could decrease performance of your product pages. In order to mitigate this:
    • expanded structured data is only generated for products containing up to 50 variations. This threshold can be modified via a filter, contact support for details.
    • once generated, the expanded structured data is cached, rather than being calculated every time a page is accessed, but you should take care to monitor the performance of your site once the feature is active.
If you have feedback on the feature, positive or negative, please let our support team know.