Shopping Search Tactics

Aug 19, 2008 - 3:08 pm 0 by

Learn how content from your e-commerce or merchant site can - and should! - be included in shopping search engines.

Moderator: * Brian A. Smith, Analyst, ComparisonEngines Speakers: * Aaron Shear, Partner, Boost Search Marketing * Brian Mark, CTO, * Greg Hintz, General Manager, Yahoo! Shopping * Paul Dillon, Director, Director Commercial Search, Live Search

Brian Smith: We have some great panelists, we are missing one so I am stepping in at the end.

So, I want to set the framework for these guys and give you a sense of the landscape out there. Shopping engines are great for ecommerce, 16 million passed through during the holiday season. Online sales grew 17%-20% year over year. Shopping engines increased 20%-50% year over year for the 2007 holiday season. All major search engines are promoting their own shopping engines.

Here's a search I did for Timberland Work Boots - you can see Google promoting shopping in their product search results which is a great place to be, and it's free for merchants so you want to be in there. Here's a Yahoo search - you can see where there results are, some of the results bring you to Yahoo shopping and there are other merchants as well. You can see on the PPC listings that NextTag, BixRate, PriceScan are in there.

Really quickly, a data feed is just how you get on the shopping engines. It's a big list of your products with all the attributes, and the different engines have different required and optional attributes for you to submit.

So, with that said, here is our agenda for this session. Aaron will talk about what you can learn from the shopping engines. Brian Mark is going to give us what retailers like and don't like on the engines; Greg from Yahoo Shopping is going to talk about their features, and then I am going to tie everything together at the end with some tips.

So first up is Aaron.

Aaron Shear: Lots of merchants here in the audience, how many are getting at least 50% traffic from natural search? If you are not you should be ashamed of yourself, it's pretty easy. Many sites out there, whether you are Amazon or a small merchant, tend to have a fairly difficult navigation and really heavily on internal search to get around the site. But Google is looking at the navigational path and user experience. So how shopping engines works - a merchant submits a feed, an engine tries to classify it, they may go the extra step and provide custom descriptions, and they will aggregate your description with others out there to get a great page to rank well.

Many engines will try to give you multiple navigation paths - an easy way to get to the same product from multiple paths. This is very important and a lot of sites do a great job of organizing this content.

If you look at the taxonomy of a shopping engine - they copy data and steal data - merchants should be doing the same thing! ShopWiki is putting in a lot of great content on products and relying on users in the community to do a lot of the work.

Many sites use session IDs making it difficult to crawl content. Shopping engines have the benefit of organizing the content - and taking the credit for it. So look at what they are doing to allow the content to be successful in their areas.

BizRate has a review system - they will collect the data and store it in their systems and get a lot of SEO credit. You can do this yourselves. Shopping engines are getting a lot of benefit from the content you could be asking for from your own client.

Site performance: Shopping engines are typically much faster than ecommerce sites. They spend a lot of money making sure the sites are fast and open. Search engines put a lot of precedence on their ability to handle multiple search engines and threads at the same time.

Simple URLs are also very important.

Brian Mark: Hi, I am CTO of Shopping engines are great at SEO and PPC. They are taking care of the marketing for you. The conversion rates from a shopping engine are great because visitors are already interested in the product. The customers are already looking. If you are not there, your competitors are. This is also a safety net approach. We went through a redesign, and used 301s, and a lot of our content was not indexed. But we had the shopping engines, so the effect was not as dramatic, we still had some sales.

Get included: Create a text or XML file, and do them to the spec provided. And transfer your data feeds regularly. If you need help getting this done, don't be ashamed to look for a partner to help you. You really only need to do one data feed, and not one for every company out there.

Time is money, if you are looking at this year's holiday season, you want to give yourself plenty of time so you don't miss out on a lot of potential sales. Start with the super value - Google. Look where your competitors are. Could be a good place to start - if everyone's there, could be a lot of traffic there, there is a reason they are all there.

Evaluate your ROI goals and start conservative. Then fine tune from there. Obviously you need to set up tracking. Be careful of some of the ROI trackers though because they can be monitored. Take advantage of CPA instead of CPC, it's less management and easy to justify.

When you are tracking, make sure you know all of the domains that are sending you traffic. You can put on tracking parameters.

Watch for partners. A lot of engines have API's so products are showing up on different sites and sub-domains.

Shopping engines will help build brand awareness. Searches for your site name could be influenced. Set a cookie tracking session. Make sure you track.

This is not a set and forget, just like SEO you need to work on it, don't just set up a feed and be done. You need to see what products are selling and how. Why might someone be landing on your product and leaving…pricing? The image is not good? Is it the product info? Shipping policy? Seller ratings are also very important, if you don't have one it could impact your conversions.

You definitely want to track how the shopping engines are doing vs. your overall conversion rate. When you use them carefully they can be really successful. We get about 20% of our new customers from shopping engines.

The better shopping engines do, the better you will do. They are not going away. You want to work on getting the most out of each customer, and shopping engines are helpful. Often shopping engines lead to repeat customers coming directly back to your site.

Greg Hintz, General Manager, Yahoo Shopping: Yahoo Shopping is a comparison shopping engine, we spend a lot of time focusing on our site to make a better user experience, and have been rewarded with tremendous growth. We have 250 million monthly page views and 100 million products, so we have a massive reach across the internet. We focus quite a bit on our actual site, but our merchants that participate in Yahoo Product Submit really get their products out there.

It's an easy process to get into Yahoo Product Submit. You can open up a Yahoo store, then open and fund a product submit account and we will take your products, so you don't need to worry about uploading a feed. If you already have a platform enabled, you can use our feed upload and your products will appear on Yahoo Shopping. You are charged on a CPC basis.

A few tips:

1. Feed your feed. Ensure you are providing relevant, comprehensive, fresh data. Favor factual information over marketing language in product descriptions (i.e. "brown leather jacket" instead of "stylish leather jacket"). Make sure you include all the specs in your descriptions. It will drive your CTR.

2. Focus on your merchant rating. At Yahoo shopping we use three factors to determine your rankings: relevance, merchant ranking, and bid. So there are ways to go about improving merchant ratings. Don't do bait and switch, we get a lot of complaints about that, and that tends to result in much lower ratings. Also don't try to aggressive up-sell, saying you can't buy x without y. Read the reviews your customers are leaving about you and try to tend to the issues.

3. Participate in category level bidding. If you bid higher, you will get more traffic. Improve your product prominence.

Product Submit: Category Building - we have a lot of options for you to go deeper into your product description.

Your current bid is not always going to be your current cost. We only charge you one penny above your closest competitor.

Reporting for Product Submit: shows the number of products in each category and the average costs.

Just to recap, comparison shopping engines are very large. It's important to play in the space for maximum reach. We can send you a ton of traffic but where the value comes from is giving your customer a great experience. Focus on the basics of good customer service, fast shipping, and it will help increase ROI as well.

Brian Smith: Top 10 ways to die a quick death on shopping engines:

1. Not tracking properly. Track and test and track and test. 2. Not reading the specs, assuming they are correct. Put time into it. 3. Assuming your data feed is up and running. Go and check. Be careful about this. 4. Not including unique IDs (MPN, UPC, ISBN). You might not show up on a skewed list of products. 5. Bidding (like you do in PPC campaigns) - be careful. Sometimes you are bidding on a product or category, it's not keyword bidding. We see people throw tons of money away. 6. Going ga-ga over ad-ons - little things like logos can really increase your costs - it's an easy sell for the shopping engines so be cognizant. Rather than spending the extra 10 cents on a logo, spend 10 cents to increase your bid to get better placement. 7. Don't assume that submitting all products to all engines will work. Think before you send out the feed. If you make $1 on product and that's what the bid cost is - it doesn't make sense. And all engines have different types of traffic so pay attention. 8. Categorization: You must categorize on shopping engines. Some do, some don't. If they don't require it, you should do it anyway because otherwise you might end up in the miscellaneous section. And a lot of times the uncategorized products will end up at the bottom of search results. 9. Engine level quantitative data feed optimization (DFO) - see what engines are and are not working. And if it's not working, why? Look at the data you are submitting. 10. The biggest mistake we see is the "submit and forget" mentality. Think about actively improving your results.

Session coverage contributed by Sheara Wilensky of Promediacorp.


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