Search Engine Marketing: Use an XML Feed to Boost Paid-Inclusion Results
Paid inclusion, the least-recognized type of search engine marketing, is a powerful channel that may drive additional online sales for catalogers. But to efficiently drive the most sales, you’ll need to utilize all the tools in the paid-inclusion toolbox. Extensible markup language (XML) feeds can allow you to submit robust product information more easily and effectively.
For those new to paid inclusion, this tactic differs from paid placement, or sponsored listings. Marketers can submit all of the URLs in their sites to a search engine on a cost-per-click or per-URL basis with guaranteed inclusion in natural search results, without the listing being marked as an advertisement. While inclusion is guaranteed, ranking isn’t. You’ll still have to optimize your submission to get the best results.
One of the best things about paid inclusion is that you can batch-submit URLs to the search engines via an XML file. XML allows you to create a customized file that more easily enables the definition, transmission, validation and interpretation of data between your site and the search engine.
If you’ve got a massive catalog with thousands of products and unique URLs for each product, paid placement would be a laborious and very expensive task. With paid inclusion, you can create an XML file of your pages. This can be a spreadsheet converted to XML, which would be populated with information such as product names, descriptions, keywords and body copy for each URL you’re submitting. This offers you significantly more control than search engine optimization (SEO) regarding how searchers find your pages and what they see in the search engines. The specifications for the XML file will be provided by the search engines and may differ from engine to engine.
While an XML feed will take care of distributing content to the search engine, it can’t ensure that your content will appear high among results when end users search for content relevant to your feed. Optimizing your feed content to address the engine’s search algorithm then becomes critical. This sounds much harder than it is. Make sure your spreadsheet includes accurate, well-written titles, descriptions and body copy for each item. If this copy is peppered with relevant, descriptive keywords, you’ll greatly improve your chances of landing higher rankings.
For example, if you’re submitting the jackets from your outerwear catalog, include relevant terms such as “jacket,” “waterproof, insulated anorak,” or “fleece-lined pullover.” All of these are terms prospects might plug into a search engine.
Once completed, the XML will either live on your server or that of your search engine marketing firm, and will be picked up by the search engine spiders. The search engines frequently update (about every 48 hours) so it shouldn’t take long for your listings or subsequent changes to appear.
Programs like Yahoo’s Search Submit Express give you access to Yahoo’s reporting dashboard to track and analyze your results, so you can tweak your campaigns and improve your return on investment. Another advantage of using Yahoo’s Search Submit Express is that it’s powered by Inktomi, a popular paid-inclusion engine used by several search engines. By submitting your feed to Yahoo, your pages also will appear in AltaVista, AllTheWeb and other search engines.
Ultimately, the ideal online marketing campaign should include paid placement, SEO and paid inclusion. Each has distinct advantages. While paid placement can guarantee a prominent listing among search engine results (with the right keyword and bid), not all searchers will click on sponsored ads. By adding paid inclusion to your search engine marketing mix and ensuring that your listings appear among natural-search results, you’re adding to the likelihood that you’ll get the qualified clicks you want.
Scott Delea is senior vice president and general manager of e-marketing services for DigitalGrit, a Boonton, N.J.-based Web marketing and techology provider. He can be reached at (973) 316-9696 or via his Web site, http://www.digitalgrit.com.