Optimize Google Product Search

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

Google Product Search helps shoppers find and buy products across the web using communications between online merchants and the Google Product Search Engine. Online merchants (that’s you) can submit products along with their image, description, price and location to Google Product Search, allowing shoppers to find your site quickly and easily. This practice connects products to the shoppers searching for them quickly and efficiently, helping drive traffic and sales to an online store.

Although submitting every product in a given line may sound like a long, endless uphill climb, all it really takes is a little time, focus and organization. The results are more than well worth it. Getting started simply involves creating a data feed that will include all products and their respective information. 

Creating a data feed

A data feed is a file made up of a grouping of attributes that define each one of your products in a unique way that allows customers to search and find those products. The feed is submitted in one of two ways, both of which are easy to create and understand. The first option is tab delimited format—that is, data arranged in rows and columns, such as in a spreadsheet. An XML format is the other choice—standing for Extensible Markup Language, these files are similar to an HTML extension but are designed to transport and store data rather than to display it.

For the sake of simplicity, as well as for creating a feed that is easy to maintain and backup, I recommend creating data feeds using Excel or any other program that can generate a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet can then be exported into a text file in a tab delimited format that Google can read. 

So now that we know how to organize the data, let’s look at what that data should comprise for Google to read the information. The requirements include:

Identification—provide a unique numeric/alphanumeric identifier for each item such as a product number or, in retail terms, a personalized skew number.

Title—the name of the product itself should be keyword-friendly but cannot include any promotional text. Keep this simple, as in women’s cut or herringbone golf shirt, for example.

Link—provide the Web page where the products reside and Google Product Search provides one-click access from search results directly to the product.

Price—though it’s difficult to provide a blind quote in this custom marketplace built on personalization and bulk discounts, use the base price in this case and then present personalized quotes directly to customers.

Description—this should also be keyword-friendly but cannot include any promotional text such as buy now, free shipping and so on. Google Product Search is about speed and keyword management suits that cause.

Condition—there are only three accepted values to choose from: new, used and refurbished.

Additional attributes ranging from shipping weight to manufacturer are also accepted with your feed if you decide to utilize them. A full list of attributes can be reviewed at http://www.google.com/support/merchants/bin/answer.py?answer=188494. 

Google also provides a sample file to help get started. Download the file from http://base.google.com/base/products.txt, import it into your spreadsheet software and start editing with your own data.

Once your data feed file has been exported into the tab delimited format, visit http://www.google.com/merchants/newfeed and follow the prompts to submit it to Google. You will be notified of any time delays that may occur for processing the feed and/or any errors that may have been encountered.

Optimize results

Although promotional text is frowned upon in Google Product Search, there are a few points to consider for optimizing your feed using clever and concise keywords related to your products. In product descriptions, for example, describe products using keywords that your customers would actually use to search for your products such as color, fabric, sizes available or manufacturer. Update your feed during the holidays to increase your traffic by adding other keywords to your titles and descriptions such as “Mother’s Day gift” or “Christmas gift.” Finally, be sure to use high-quality images to make a good impression and ensure shoppers are seeing a clear picture of your products.

Adding offerings to Google Product Search not only provides another channel for generating online sales, but it also provides value in gaining more exposure to products, adding more keywords and links directed to your website and increasing overall online marketing efforts within the search engine landscape.