Two Essential Search Channels To Boost Holiday Sales
Here are a couple important areas for Industrial Strength search marketers to focus on right now, both of which are feed-based: Google Product Search and Yahoo! Paid Inclusion. Below I outline why these channels matter more than ever this holiday season, and how they can help you capture substantial traffic and sales. Google Product Search is particularly important this year—actually essential for ecommerce sites—as the shopping season gets underway. If you’re not yet leveraging it, get a strategy together fast. Meanwhile it’s time to grab some loot off a sinking ship—and there’s quite a bit of loot to be had—via Yahoo!’s paid inclusion program, formerly called Search Submit Pro (and yes, the program is going away at the end of the year; more on that below).
Google Product Search: SEO’s new battle front
In some ways Google’s blended product results represent the new turf in competitive SEO. Traffic (and revenues) from Product Search for our clients are well above what we’ve seen before, with several sites experiencing record highs from the vertical. It’s no surprise: Google has been aggressively pushing its (relatively fledgling) comparison shopping search since at least early October. I have no doubt that Google plans something big here eventually, possibly a direct competitive solution to existing comparison shopping engines (CSEs) such as Shopping.com and BizRate.com. This is something my friend and colleague Aaron Shear has been predicting for awhile.
Partly owing to what I’m sure are plans by Google to directly compete in the CSE space, and partly due to more robust feeds from sites leveraging Google Base, the Product result listings are gaining prominence in general web search SERPs for competitive queries.
We’ve already seen Google blend results from Product Search into natural SERPs, but have yet to see it used as much as it is now. We’re also seeing more widespread adoption from sites submitting feeds, and beyond that, the space is simply maturing. The timing is perfect for Google to leverage this vertical during the peak shopping months.
See below for an example page on a very competitive term; the Product blend is prominently displayed and richly visual, squeezing out the top 3 natural results between paid listings:
Here’s a long-tail search example and the resultant SERP; notice how Google is providing prominent placement on this five-term query:
Google’s been actively exploring this space. Notably, back in early October they rolled out the shopping navigation facet and were sure to let the Web know about it.
This isn’t exactly good news for the giant CSE players such as Shopping.com and BizRate; for that matter, Amazon (who Google is directly competing with in some areas) will be closely watching this space. With its massive market share, sophisticated technology, inconceivable amount of user data and the power to launch competing services quickly, Google could take a large chunk out of the CSE market. Its Product Search already represents a potent source of traffic.
Bottom line: this is the time to take advantage of Google’s increasing focus on the product vertical as search marketers.
Here are four ways to start leveraging Google Base for ecommerce:
Make sure tracking is set for Product Search referrals. Every analytics package is different, from Coremetrics to Mint, so you’ll need to ensure that tracking is properly set up for the Product segment. If your company or clients use Google Analytics alongside an enterprise-level package, you’re in luck: there’s an easy filter to set up tracking.
Make sure your feeds are in order. The next step is auditing your Google Base feeds to ensure they are properly configured.
Use rich information and plenty of attributes. Clean feeds with rich information are the order of the day. Include all the attributes you can for your products, with plenty of high-quality images.
Be a big, well known brand. Not a surprise that large brands will have an advantage here, too.
This last one is especially important, and probably frustrating for small players. The advantage well established brands have is twofold:
First, large brands have already been using Google Base for some time, integrating it with their feed strategy, so to a large degree they have first-mover advantage. Smaller companies are less likely to look at diverse feed strategies, and more likely to focus solely on major traffic drivers such as classic SEO and PPC.
Second, Google needs well-known brands in Product Search to provide a good user experience. That’s right: Google needs you (if you work for a large brand). Users expect to see the brands and sites they visit regularly, and shop from, in Google’s Product Search results.
Anyone who’s behind in Product Search will be at a disadvantage this holiday season.
Farewell to a dinosaur: Yahoo! paid inclusion
In October, when Yahoo announced it would do away with paid inclusion at the end of the year, I thought to myself, now is the time to capitalize.
While Yahoo’s paid inclusion program has always gotten a lot of flak, justly, for blending sponsored placements into natural results without disclaimer, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Fact is, it does work and quite well for large digital inventories. Get in now before it goes away, and look for an extra bump in sales during the Q4 shopping months.
Bonus tip: Amazon product ads
Ecommerce sites looking to capture a bit of Amazon’s traffic would do well to test out a campaign with their product ads. Advertisers pay by the click to have their company listed on Amazon product pages as an alternative purchase option.
Amazon can generate some serious revenues for a small business. It is very effective for smaller niches especially, and for small to mid sized companies looking to broaden their reach. For well established brands, partnering with Amazon makes sense, but is a topic outside the current article (maybe something for a future column).
Wrapping it up
If you’re in the game for traffic and sales this holiday season (who isn’t), you’ll be served well by focusing on these alternative channels. Google Product Search is still free search, at least for now. A beta of paid placement in Product Search was spotted earlier this month.
While it’s free (and likely will remain free, with the option to pay something for prominent placement), it’s a competitive area that’s going to get much, much more competitive in the coming months. I see this as the new battleground for competitive SEOs. It’s already quite difficult for smaller players to gain visibility in competitive markets, however, niche markets are probably a good play here right now. As for Yahoo!, get it while the gettin’s good. Then, say good bye to it forever come January 1.
Here’s to prosperous and effective search marketing campaigns this holiday season!
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