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Google Commerce Continues to Ramp Up for Holiday Shopping

Over the past month (even the past week!), Google has made lots of Commerce related updates/announcement that retailers might have missed, so I thought I’d sum them up really quickly.

1.  Google Merchant Center (GMC) updated its data feed specifications, significantly cutting the list of attributes.  As far as SingleFeed knows, all attributes which were formerly listed are still supported, but Google Product Search might not be highlighting those attributes for refinement purposes.

2.  Google Checkout is accepting holiday promotions!  While Geckout is no longer footing the bill for these types of promotions, this is still a great opportunity for merchants.  From the blog post: “Last holiday season, merchants who ran a Checkout promotion increased their Google Checkout sales by an average of 209%, compared to a 25% increase for merchants who did not participate.”  Merchants who set up a holiday promotion will benefit from a special badge and what sounds like a ton of promotion from Google: Google will market the promotion through AdWords ads, emails to buyers, and social networking posts…Social Networking Posts???

If you participate, we’ll change your standard Google Checkout button on your website to the special promotional Checkout button that features an orange starburst labeled with the promotion discount. When the minimum cart requirement is met, the discount will automatically appear for buyers when they shop with Google Checkout from November 23, 2010 at 4:00 PM Pacific to December 16, 2010, at 4:00 PM Pacific.

Additionally, if you are an AdWords advertiser, Google will change the standard Checkout badge appearing on your Google.com AdWords ads to a new badge that features the promotion discount. These badges have been introduced to enable shoppers who search on Google.com to easily identify and take advantage of promotional offers.

3.  Data Feeds now influence your SEO listings.  While I’ve talked for years about the opportunity to mine your data feed for keywords for SEO and PPC, Google one upped me by putting the GMC feed content in organic results.  This is the Rich Snippets program (microformats).  For you non-webmasters, I’m not talking about the OneBox listings, I’m talking about rich product information within merchant organic listings. Check out the highlighted sections below for Amazon, HSN, and Williams-Sonoma rich snippet info garnered from the data feed.

Merchants can take advantage of this as follows: 1) providing a data feed and specifying rel=canonical (merchants need a lot more info on rel=canonical…way too many unanswered questions) on product pages, 2) providing markup to your site, and 3) through the Product Reviews program.  Read the Rich Snippets for Shopping blog post to find out more.

4.  Google Boost – Advertise your local business in San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago.  Local store information (location, hours, coupons, etc.) is going to become more and more critical as Google continues to help offline merchants make more money through local and mobile applications.  Assuming you’ve claimed your free Google Places listings (for any city – this is a must), it’s now time to test advertising through Boost.

Boost enables business owners to easily create online search ads from directly within their Google Places account. No ongoing management is needed after the initial set up, and this beta is currently available to select local businesses in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago.

And with Google’s recent Android updates for Maps, this local information will be even more critical for the holidays.

5.  Product Ads.  In case you feel behind the ball in understanding Product Ads, don’t worry, there are more changes.  Google has hardened up its Product Ads attributes for the GMC data feed (stop using that prefer_for_query attribute!).  And Google is giving merchants more control of Product Ads through GMC (no data feed changes required).

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