When you have your own online store, you're competing with thousands of other merchants to woo buyers into purchasing products from you. Having good, quality items at competitive prices is just part of the "selling" equation. You also need to provide a great buyer experience. But in order to do that, first you have to ensure buyers will be able to find your items. And in a world in which "Googling" has become a verb, the search engine to focus on is Google.
"In Germany, Google represents 96 percent of the market, so if you do it right for Google, the others search engines will take it, too," says Matthias Klappenbach, eBay's manager of Search. At the recent eBay's Developers Conference, he discussed how to get items "Google ready."
We'll share more of Klappenbach's insights into optimizing listings in Part Two of this series. First, we'll take you through a process to put your items on Google's radar: submitting feeds to Google Merchant Center. We'll also introduce you to a shopping search engine called TheFind, which recently became the second most popular, according to Search Engine Land. It seems TheFind really is helping people find the products they want and need.
All the top-selling Auctiva Commerce merchants regularly submit feeds to Google Merchant Center—as every online store owner should
Leverage the power of Google
Google Merchant Center is an online seller's best friend. For those not familiar with this tool, this is a free service that helps drive traffic to your items by allowing you to upload product data right to Google. This makes items easier to find on Google Product Search, Google AdWords and other Google services.
Google has been a significant source of traffic for Auctiva Commerce stores, says Product Lead Chris Eckland. All the top-selling Auctiva Commerce merchants regularly submit feeds to Google Merchant Center—as every online store owner should, Eckland notes. It can make a huge difference, as one Auctiva Commerce seller discovered when he reached the top spot on Google during the holiday season in searches for football-themed Snuggies.
Setting up a feed will take some leg work, but the results will make your efforts worthwhile. Here's how in just four steps:
Step 1: Create your feed. Your feed will contain all of your products, their names, item descriptions, and the appropriate price, and URL for each of these. You can use either text or XML format, but we suggest text because it's relatively easy to do. Just create a spreadsheet listing all of your products, and organize the product information in columns with the headings "title," "description," "price" and "link." It's important to note that Google doesn't accept Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, but if you use this program to create your feed, you can convert your Excel document into a spreadsheet Google will accept.
As you craft your descriptions, be sure to use lots of attributes such as exact color, price range, size, brand name, etc. Google users typically use these as they look for the items they want, so Google will expect you to do the same.
"A Google Product Search item with no attributes will be as hard for users to find as a page on the Web with no title or description," notes Google's help documentation.
Step 2: Register your feed. Once you've listed all your items in your spreadsheet with the pertinent information, you're ready to register it with Google Merchant Center. You will need to have a Google account to do this. If you don't have one, create one now. It takes seconds—and these accounts are free.
You'll not only have a great way to get your products shown on Google, you'll also have access to performance reports
Now sign into Google Merchant Center, select your business' location (you won't be able to change this, so be diligent), accept the terms and conditions, and specify your account settings. Once you've added this information, save it so you can go on and specify your target audience, and enter the name of the feed you will be submitting. That's right; you get to specify your target audience. Another plus to using Google Merchant Center!
Step 3: Submit your feed. Now submit that feed you created in Step 1. All you have to do here is sign into your Google account and click the "Data feeds" link, then find your feed from the list of registered files and upload the appropriate one by clicking the "Upload File" link. This could take several minutes, depending on the file's size and your Internet connection, so be patient. But don't worry; you'll get a notification on your screen once the upload is complete.
Step 4: Verify your site. You're almost done! All you have to do now is verify and claim your site. Google recently added this requirement to ensure the folks submitting feeds were indeed the Web sites' owners.
Verifying your site is simple enough: Go to Google Webmaster Tools, click "Add a site" and enter your store's URL, then click "Verify this site." This will give you a Meta tag you'll need to paste onto your site's home page. Then you'll need to go back into your Google Merchant Center account to claim your URL.
Once you've completed this step, you're done. Now you'll not only have a great way to get your products shown on Google, you'll also have access to performance reports to see how your product listings are doing, and if they need any tweaking.
An estimated 11.8 million shoppers use TheFind every month to look for the items they want
Get found with TheFind
You should also consider submitting your products to TheFind, a shopping search engine that's making itself known in a big way. After years of quietly building visitor traffic, this shopping search engine recently surpassed Yahoo! Shopping to become the second-most popular comparison-shopping tool in terms of average daily users. Shoppers can find more than 500,000 online and brick-and-mortar shops here with about 400 million products. But the best part for sellers is that an estimated 11.8 million shoppers use TheFind every month to look for the items they want.
As with Google, it's free to submit products to TheFind. All you have to do is create a merchant account. Go to https://merchant.thefind.com, click "Create a Merchant Account" and enter your store's information. Then you can begin submitting your Google Merchant Center feeds. That's right—you can use the very same feeds for TheFind that you've just created for Google. It will take about 72 hours for your products to show up on TheFind, but once your items are there, you'll have access to millions of new buyers. Sounds appealing, doesn't it? Well, get to it!
In Part Two of this series, we'll let you in on a few tricks to optimize your listings. Get ready for your store to be buzzing with buyers!