Checking Out Shopping SERPs: Put Yourself In A Search Engine’s Shoes

With the advent of Google moving to a paid inclusion model, many folks must be wondering what they can do to optimize their data or product feeds to make themselves findable. Whether you are in a paid vertical or free one, Google has to serve up relevant information.

So, how about putting yourself in a search engine’s shoes?

No one wants to be spammed or fed invalid data, so all information needs to be clean, verified and preferably from more than one source (all semantic Web or named entity extraction type philosophies).

From a search engine’s perspective, it wants (and needs) to serve up not just relevant information, but also information that is valid and verified from their end.

Search engines need to ensure that the user has a good experience on the site.

Details for products, and types of products, are essential to optimize the user experience and make your products appear in listings. After all, even if you have to “pay to play” in the game, you still have to know the rules of play, and have your items exist in the indexes and data sets that search engines maintain!

This may sound somewhat esoteric, but let me now jump to an example in Google Shopping.

Upon a search for “red pumps” in Google Shopping, I received the following display:


What you see is a very attractive display of “visually similar” items, and it helps create a great shopping experience. You may be asking yourself, “How does Google do this?”

Image recognition is still a hard problem to solve. Facial recognition was a research problem in the artificial intelligence arena in the 1990’s. Now, it is in everyday items like iphoto. Does this sound boring? Not if you can benefit from it by understanding it.

A search on Amazon provides a similar type of result, illustrated directly below.


Scrolling further down on the Amazon results page for “red pumps,” one then gets the option for “see visually similar items.”

Selecting a specific “visually similar” option leads to more of them, and a mechanism for honing in on the selection from a visual perspective.


Going back to Google shopping, I then did a search for “black dress,” which yielded the following result:


This time in the screenshot above, I included the search options on the left hand side. The very top item, BTW, is a check box under show only “in stock nearby.” This would be indicative of an edge over say, Amazon, or other e-tailers, were they going to directly compete with them. (I would actually believe that is a valid assumption.)

As a further incremental example in that line of reasoning, I had the luxury recently of obtaining a Nexus 7 tablet and playing with it. I did notice the absence of Amazon Prime for movies, etc., and could not even find it in the app store. (However, there was a Google version as part of the default OS and UI).

Back to going down our list on the left hand side, the other items listed are fields required for data feeds for apparel, ranging from color to brand and more. Ensuring accurate details are filled in and populated will make your items findable and appear in these eye-catching presentations.

I selected the first item on the top left hand side (the picture of the dress, not a search option) and received the following:


My assumption here is that Google is using results from the deprecated which was actually the result of the acquisition by Google. It was an image recognition engine that turned to a focus on apparel such as handbags and other items with great success.

Under the “visually similar items,” I actually had a couple of pages of results. Scrolling down from the above screen capture, I have depicted the remainder of the results below:


Of note, is the line at the bottom of the page, which I will reiterate here in case the image is too small to read:

“Google is compensated by some of these merchants. Payment is one of several factors used to rank these results. Tax and shipping costs are estimates.”

Moving away from apparel and to electronics, I tried a search for a 60 inch LED TV.  This was a generic search, as I neglected to select the “Shopping” option.


The results on the right hand side yield a knowledge graph type display. Selecting the shopping option gives the typical Google shopping results, with many relevant searchable fields on the right hand side.


In this category, however, selecting an item does not give “visually similar” results as they are not in the apparel category.

However, the moral of the story is as follows: Supply as much accurate information as possible in any data feed sent to Google or other search or shopping engines. Ensure you add structured/semantic markup to your webpages and that it matches the data supplied in your feeds. Also, make sure you have good clean images and they are also marked up on your webpages.

For Google image search alone, it states they are using a combination of both computer vision techniques as well as text and semantic markup.

Google’s recent post, “On Web Semantics,” made it very clear that adding Semantic Markup is the professional thing to do. Add as much valid markup as possible, ensuring the information is displayed to both bots and users alike! It is leveraged by all the major search and social engines.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | Search & Retail | Search Engines: Shopping Search Engines


About The Author: of SemanticFuse is a semantic strategist and software engineer. providing semantic SEO and other related consulting services. Starr is a technology expert and software designer specifically in the semantic search and semantic Web arenas.

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  • Fukushima

    Great article.

  • Sannel

    The shopping items is Interventioned by google or is nature, and what’s the Principle that how to Sort with Google

  • Grant Crowell

    What’s confusing is Google’s language of disclosure on it’s shopping search results embedded in their universal SERPs, aka “Sponsored Links.” They say that they’re compensated by “some” of the merchants, yet Danny Sullivan has said here at SearchEngineLand that all of Google’s shopping search engine results are a pay-to-play program, i.e. “paid inclusion.” So which is it? All of it or some of it?

  • George Michie

    Grant, right now it’s a hybrid of “free” listings from Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads from the AdWords platform, so their description is accurate.  After September it will be all paid with the same feed powering both “shopping only” results and the image links on the Universal SERP.  We’re in a hybrid transition period right now.

  • Grant Crowell

    Thanks for explaining that to me, George. I do remember now that being the case. The question I have for Google is, will the pop-language in their Sponsored Links explanation change to reflect this come September?

  • Giovanni Tummarello

    Yup, i would agree on the analysis that while the specific algorithms will be always somehow changing, those providing either money or good quality metadata will have an edge. Afterall users do prefer to see less results but also less noise when it comes to an engine so if metadata is considered of bad quality its understandable that exclusion can happen.

  • Susan Zhang

    The analysis data is quite useful for me. I will generate them and markets this page isabel marant sneakers.


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