Product Search for Webmasters

Hi webmasters, my name is Maile Ohye, and today I’d like to talk to you about Product Search. In today’s agenda, we’ll cover four main areas. First, we’ll talk about the benefits and background of product search. Next, we’ll immediately get into the best practices when submitting information. Third, I’ll answer some of your frequently asked questions, and last, the custom webmasters have discussed difficulty when creating or submitting feeds.

We’ll talk about how to heal some of those pain points. First, let’s talk about the benefits of product search. Product search offers webmaster’s free submission, so there’s no cost to merchants to submit your product, and have them eligible to be returned in product search result.

Also, product search has unbiased rankings, meaning that just because you’re an AdWord customer or a checkout customer, you won’t have any additional ranking boost because of those two factors. And third, product search is a comprehensive marketplace for users, so users can come to product search, research items, get information like the description and reviews, so that when they make a purchase, they become a very informed consumer of your product.

Product search results can show in universal search and this can happen for the United States, the United Kingdom or Germany where product search is available. So in this query, a user entered step pedometer, and you can see there are three results being shown. To where it said shopping result for step pedometer, that shopping link will actually bring the user to the product search information itself. So often, if you have a product, say a step pedometer, it can now be featured in universal search.

Once a user clicks on the shopping link, they can be brought to a product search product page. And here is an aggregate view of things like the seller, the item, specifications, as well as ratings. In this example, you can also see there’s tax and shipping information.

So this is the great place for users to be able to research their products more carefully. This is available for things like electronics, videos, and books. Now that you’ve seen some of Google’s product search results, you might be asking, “How did Google get this information?”

Well, let me give you some background on product search. It’s actually supported by Google Base and its backend. Meaning, that Google Base which is a repository for structured information, actually contains all of the items and then attributes about those items. So, consider it like an XML database where you might see something like, item, and then attribute, attribute, attribute.

So, you might have a G1 phone as the item, and then something like, price, $200, condition, new, and then the description. On the next row, would have something like, Blackberry, price, $300, condition new and then the description. So, it’s a list of items and then all these attributes for those items.

So now when there’s a user on Google, and they enter a query that has to do with the product’s query, such as a mobile phone prizes. We can then query off of our database–Google base, and then return to the user some of those items so that they can make a better purchasing decision.

Now that you see how Google product search is supported by Google Base, it begs the question, “How do I get my product into Google Base?” Well, there’s four major ways that you can submit your product to Google Base.

The first is manual submission and this is actually going to Google Base on the web, and then clicking through the screens individually to submit each item and each item’s attributes, so we’d only recommend that if you have say, fewer than five items.

If you have more than say, five products, the second way you can submit your information is through a feed, and there’s two types of feeds, one, is just a text file, that’s going to be tab-delimited with items and their attributes, and the other feed would be an xml feed. Both of those are pretty much the same, although a text file might be easier for you if you’re not as tech-savvy. The third way you can submit information is through store connector.

So, if you already have an existing store, say, on yahoo or eBay, you can use store connector to actually upload those items to also be available in Google Base, and then eligible for product search. So, that’s an immediate way if you already have an existing store.

The fourth way is actually using the Google Base API, and so, through the API, you can programmatically update, modify, and delete items that you have in Google Base. So those are the four ways to submit your information. Now that you know a little bit more about feed submission, let’s talk about some of the best practices when submitting a feed.

You want to strive for an accurate and descriptive representation of your product, that’s by far the most important thing. So product search gives you some recommended attributes when submitting information, and you actually want to include as many of those as possible because the more descriptive you make it, the better we can return it for users.

Also keep in mind that just including more attributes doesn’t increase your rankings. Again, you want to strive for the accurate representation. You don’t really need to overload it with unnecessary information. And the third part is really to gain positive reputation as a merchant that will help you as well.

All right, so what are some good things to include in your feed? Well first, there’s the UPC, which is the Universal Product Code, next, MPN, next the brand, condition, and then of course an accurate and high-quality description. And one more thing is the image.

A quality image is always helpful to users, so, important to include a quality image and no placeholder images. I know for myself, I find it frustrating when I see a silhouette of a man, and then some italicized, no image available. So really include quality images with your product. We have covered some of the background on product search, how to submit information, and what good things to include in your feed.

But now let’s cover some of your frequently asked questions. A lot of webmasters ask, “How are different sites sorted when there are multiple results for the same product?” That’s a great question, and truly, the most important factor we have in ranking is your feed topicality, or the relevance of the result.

So, the more descriptive and accurate you can make your feed, that each of the items can really match up with the user’s query well, and the better chance that has of ranking. And you can see this in our earlier screen shot about step pedometer where, as the user enter the query, step pedometer, all of those results look very relevant to that user’s intent.

Another frequently asked question has to do with Checkout and PayPal. Webmasters might ask, “Why doesn’t Google badge PayPal merchants as well as Google Checkout merchant?” And first of all, keep in mind that we will not boost in ranking a merchant, just because they used Google Checkout.

But the reason why we’re able to badge Checkout merchants is because Google runs the product search as well as Checkout, so because of this, we can actually verify Checkout merchants, and we show that Checkout badge to help users to make a simpler purchase.

We can’t do the same to verify PayPal unless we actually made an individual purchase from each merchant. You might also be asking, “Does it help rankings to add custom attributes to my products?” Keep in mind; it’s most important to submit timely and accurate information.

Of course we welcome custom attribute when they’re not covered in the spec, but just including them, it just going to boost your rankings by itself. Our two last questions have to do with expiration and frequency. So, if you’re asking, “Is it true that listings expire after 30 days?”

The answer is yes and as well if you’re asking, “How often should I submit information?” We recommend that you submit information as often as possible. Many merchants that have evolving inventory actually submit daily, if not, more often. My last objective is to help heal some of your pain points.

So, we’ve heard from merchants who say, “Hey, can Google help me verify some of my data? I created this feed but I’m not sure if all the information is correct.” Well, yes we can. In the United States and now also the UK and Germany, we have a data quality tab in product search. And if you click on data quality, you can actually see information, or try to verify your UPCs, and if we find things like your titles are too long of too short, we’ll let you know about that as well.

Now, if you also have further questions like, “You know, I’m actually having problems creating,” or maybe, “I can’t really submit my feed, I keep getting an error.” Well, we also want to let you know about the Google base help center and discussion group.

So, if you’re having problems creating a feed, you can go to the help center to see some of the documented information, and you can also go to discussion group, and there you can find other users who might have had similar problems and can help you through yours. Thanks for reading this presentation on product search. For more tips and discussion, please visit Google Webmaster Central at google.com/webmasters..

Product Search for Webmasters

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