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).
As the Rimm Kaufman Group (RKG) pointed out a while back, when Google displayed Extension Ads at the top of the page (above organic listings), Google usually used the advertiser name next to the plus box. When the Extension Ad was on the side of the page, Google usually referred to the advertiser as just an advertiser.
From the RKG blog:
When the keyword has a lower click volume, then the keyword can move to the right panel and the message will change to “Show products from this advertiser”. While that data is difficult to tease out on a query by query basis, we are generalizing that lower click volume keywords are often appearing on the right panel, as compared to those analyzed in the “top 50” group defined above.
For the first time I’m seeing Google refer to the advertiser as the site/brand name on the side bar. In the image below, you’ll see that Target gets their name and ACityDiscount.com gets plain old ‘advertiser’ next to the plus box.
In November of 2009, Google made Product Extensions available to all US merchants.
…product extensions are a way for you to enrich your existing AdWords ads with more relevant and specific information. Product extensions allow you to use your existing Google Merchant Center account to highlight your products directly in your search ads. When your AdWords text ad appears, and your Google Merchant Center account contains products that are relevant to the searcher’s query, product extensions show the images, titles, and prices of your products in a plusbox under your ad.
There are two formats for Product Extensions, depending on the placement
Format 1: Top placement. See it in action.
Format 2: Side placement. See it in action.
This is a great opportunity for all merchants and Google as data from Google and Rimm Kaufman Group has shown that Product Extensions increase click through rate (CTR). With this new ad format, Google gets more clicks, which makes them more money, and the merchant gets more click throughs, which means more sales (assuming on site conversion remains constant – and no one has said anything to the contrary).
Product Extensions is an AdWords product which means that merchants are charged on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis, as they would be for their normal AdWords ad. A merchant is only charged when a searcher clicks through on a listing, not when a searcher clicks the + or – sign.
To get started with Product Extension ads, a merchants need to connect their AdWords and Google Merchant Center accounts. This is done within Google Merchant Center. Just click on Settings > AdWords and enter your AdWords Customer ID:
It might take 24hrs for the hookup to take effect.
What most merchants don’t realize, though, is that there are important ways to control and target the Extension ads
What’s more, product extensions give you the option to prefer which products are displayed when a user’s query triggers your ads. For example, you may sell dozens of laptop computers but you want to promote the newest or best selling inventory using product extensions when a user searches for ‘laptop computer’ on Google.com. By making a simple addition to your Merchant Center account, you can easily control the products that display for certain queries. Of course, you can always use automatic targeting, and let AdWords determine the most relevant products in your account to a user’s query.
This targeting takes place by adding attributes to the Google Merchant Center data feed. We strongly encourage you to read the directions here. Here are the accepted attributes:
The adwords_prefer_for_query is especially powerful as it allows a merchant to target the exact offer for a specific query.
In November of 2009, Google started testing a new ad format called Google Product Lising Ads. I will refer to the ad format as Product Listing Ads or just Product Listings. While Product Listings was announced on the Google AdWords blog and is called a new feature of Adwords in this Google Ad Innovations video, it’s easier to consider this a Google Affiliate Network product as the merchant pays on a Cost Per Acquisition/Action (CPA) basis.
Regardless of which unit within Google owns this product at this point, here are the important details:
Whenever analysts ask me about Google’s commerce ambitions, I tell them to watch Epic 2014 or 2015. Not all of Epic’s predictions have panned out and many aren’t applicable to ecommerce, but it’s a thought provoking starting point for this blog.
Go ahead, click on the pic below. You might have seen the video before, but it’s an important 8min reminder of Google’s potential in many areas.
Epic 2015′s focus isn’t commerce, but 4:36 into the video, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson imagine the creation of Googlezon:
Google and Amazon join forces forming Googlezon. Google supplies the Google Grid and unparralleled search technology. Amazon supplies the social recommendation engine and its huge commercial infrastructure. Together they use their detailed knowledge of every user’s social network, demographics, buying habits, and reading interests to provide total customization of content and advertising.
What Robin and Matt didn’t imagine is that Google itself would create its own commercial infrastructure, Googe Checkout. In June of 2006, Google Checkout launched in the US. This provides Google with all it needs to provide an end to end commerce experience imagined in Epic 2015. Google has the search technology, social recommendation engine (think Google Product Reviews program), commercial infrastructure (think Google App Engine and Google Checkout), and detailed knowledge of every user’s social network (think Facebook Connect), demographics (think Google Analytics), and buying habits (think Google Checkout).
The key is tying all of these pieces together to provide “total customization of content and advertising.” You can see Google starting to do this with Google Merchant Center and the Google Merchant Center data feed. While not the lynchpin of Google’s commerce efforts, the Google Merchant Center data feed is damn close.
The Google Merchant Center data feed powers Google Shopping (aka Google Product Search), Extension Ads (a Google AdWords product), Google Product Ads (a Google Affiliate Network product), Google Commerce Search, Google Mobile Shopping (Blue dots!), and it’s easy to make the leap to believe that the Google Merchant Center data feed will also power Google Places, Google’s updated version of Local Business Center (it is now powered by a separate Business Feed). I joked early on that SingleFeed’s tag line should be ‘One Feed to Rule them All’ and it seems it would be an equally appropriate tag line for Google Merchant Center. With GMC’s (yes, it’s time for an acronym) hooks into other Google produts, you can start to picture of all the ways Google could power or enable commerce for merchants.
Don’t worry, I’ll explain all of these pieces in more detail and give plenty of examples. That is in fact the point of this blog!