On the Web: 14 Things You Should Know About Google Shopping
If you have any sort of search engine optimization or pay-per-click program, chances are you've heard about the "new" Google Shopping. "New" is in quotes because it's not really new — it's just different. To improve the shopping experience on Google (translation: to help Google make more money), Google Product Search recently transitioned into a comparison shopping engine (think PriceGrabber or NexTag) based on product listing ads (PLAs) and will now be known as Google Shopping. Here are 14 things you should know about Google Shopping and how you can use it to improve your customer acquisition program:
1. Follow Google's rules. This sounds overly simplistic, but I mention it because far too few folks are doing it. You already know that every product you submit needs to adhere to Google's AdWords' policies, but you should look at its other "musts" too. Google outlines what it wants for your links and landing pages, family status, product data, and more. The search engine will also tell you what level compliance you are — shoot for 100 percent, no less.
2. Include your shipping information, especially if you offer free shipping.Google is big into the premise that shipping is the No. 1 reason why people abandon an online shopping cart, so it's allowing users to sort by free shipping in its left-hand faceted navigation. Therefore, if you offer free shipping or are running a free shipping deal, promote it. Don't want to show your shipping costs? Sorry, you don't have much of a choice. When users compare products, they get a listing of the product price as well as the applicable taxes and shipping fees they'll need to pay.
3. The same goes for new items and their availability. Users can also sort by new products or "products that are available in stock nearby," so it's worth it to include that information in your data feeds as well.
4. Promote your special offers. One of the best things about Google Shopping is that it allows you to promote special deals or offers, so be sure to include them in your data feed. This really helps you stand out from your competitors that are selling the same product.
5. The more information the better. Speaking of facets, search for "televisions" on Google Shopping and you'll understand why fleshing out your product copy will really help. Consumers won't necessarily read the copy, but it's worth it to be very comprehensive anyway because Google Shopping will definitely use that information in its refinements and facets. Google's Merchant Help Center has a list of every attribute you can/should include in your data feed. It's worth it to take advantage of as many of them as you can. In fact, Google recommends it! Feeling overwhelmed by all the information Google wants? Concentrate on the top 10 percent of your products first.
6. Star ratings and product reviews are included in Google Shopping's search results, and "review score" is one of the refinement drop-down menus in Google Shopping Search. If you aren't working your ratings and reviews, now is definitely the time.
7. Pictures are critical. One of the best ways to better your Google Shopping campaign is to improve the quality of your photos. Take your top items and search for them on Google Shopping. See what type of photographs your competitors are using, then figure out how you could outsell them. Remember, it's not just other e-commerce companies you're competing with; you're also competing with folks who are selling on eBay, Buy.com and some of the other engines.
8. Google only requires you to use two of its three unique identifiers (universal product code, manufacturer's part number and brand), but use all three if you can. Many folks choose to send Google the first two but not include brand. You should definitely include brand, as it's one of the categories used in display ads in traditional search results. (Search for "telescopes" to see an example.)
9. Send Google frequent updates. For most retailers, this is a big deal and shouldn't be underestimated. Google makes no secret that it likes up-to-date and accurate information. To give it what it wants, it's likely that you'll need to update your data feeds frequently — more often than you probably thought, in fact.
Merchants who have been most successful using comparison search engines (Google and otherwise) know that you should send updates whenever your information changes, especially during your busy season. For example, it's not uncommon to see some retailers submitting hourly updates during the holidays. Also, be sure to test your data feeds before you send them. It's worth it because it will keep you from getting Google-spanked, which often takes time and effort to undo.
10. Add an identifier to your URLs for tracking purposes. Separate your Google Shopping results from your other SEO results — and be sure to put them in different tracking buckets. Need help? Use Google Analytics URL Builder.
11. Your new Google Shopping ads will likely be seen at the top of the page or on the right-hand side of the page, replacing some of the AdWords' listings. This could impact your PPC results if you're in a competitive product category, so be sure to coordinate the two programs for maximum efficiency.
12. Position is determined by bid rate and relevance. When you first start out using Google Shopping, make sure to keep your relevancy factor as high as you can. Folks are saying they can't compete on Google Shopping because it's heavily biased toward brick-and-mortar retailers. That's not the case. Yes, Google Shopping does allow you to locate in-stock items nearby (based on a mile radius), but there's also a section for online stores as well. It's important to note that when Google Shopping says "113 stores," it doesn't just mean brick-and-mortar stores; it also includes online retailers.
13. Google Wallet — a virtual wallet that stores your payment cards, offers and more on your phone and online — is a refinement choice you're offered when using Google Shopping (new items and free shipping are the others). This is something to look into, especially if you get a lot of mobile traffic.
14. There's an expectation that Google Shopping will be heavily promoted on smartphones and tablets. This is just another reason why you should make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices and your abandoned cart program is ready to go. The number of abandons from mobile devices is a lot greater than the number of abandons from desktops, so all types of abandoned cart programs are key (as is collecting mobile phone numbers for text messaging and profiling purposes).