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How to optimise for Google Products

Right. Firstly; please be gentle with me. As you will be aware in three words time, this is my first ever blog post. A surprising fact when you take into account how long I have worked at Verve Search, especially having sat next to the bloglific Sam Murray and Lisa Myers for the majority of it.

Lisa has been gently coercing me for about a year now to finally put down on paper my experiences with optimising Google Products (base, shopping etc) feeds. So I suppose this post is aimed at providing an introduction into the set-up, and I hope, more insightfully, some techniques and ideas I apply to increasing ranking positions within Google Product results.

Why worry about Google Products

You want me to rank 1st for a keyphrase? Really?

If you do the amount of keyword and competitor research that I do, in fact if you have been paying any attention to search results over the past year; you will have noticed universal search’s hostile SERP invasion. OneBox product results are seemingly constantly being associated with new products and product groups.

As an SEO, the BIG idea here is that of an alternate route to first page visibility. Now I am not saying you should drop everything and spend all your time editing and re-editing your product feed but every SEO worth their socks will approach ranking challenges from different angles, and Google Products provides that angle. If your keyword research shows product feeds are triggered, why not allocate a bit of time to creating an XML feed?

Google Product optimisation, a grey area

Unlike other elements of SEO, optimisation for Google Products is seemingly not a hugely written about subject. I appreciate that when talking about Google and algorithms, the word ‘speculation’ cannot be used enough. Therefor I must add; the suggestions I make are solely due to me having had success from these techniques and are importantly based on real clients, real experiences and real XML feeds.

Keyword research

Who_stole_my_oneboxThe foundation for most SEO disciplines, Google Products is no different. Obviously search volume should be a concern, but importantly whether the keyword triggers OneBox.

There is no harm speculatively creating feeds on the off chance that said keyword will trigger shopping results in the future. Although, if you are optimising for the now; then don’t spend time on terms which won’t trigger product listings in the search results.

XML vs CMS

Most CMS ecommerce solutions such as Magento have Google Product feed functionality built in; and requires you to map out attributes and assign values (more information can be found here) Unfortunately the ones we have worked with use product database attributes to populate the Google Products feed. So, whilst being an extremely efficient way of creating a product feed, what you gain in efficiency you lose in customisation.

For this post I am assuming you are creating a standalone XML or text/tab delimited feed.

Google Merchant account

You will need one of these. If you haven’t set one up already, what are you waiting for…

The Tips

1. Use an example

Let’s be honest; the prospect of setting up an XML RSS 2.0 feed is a little daunting, especially from scratch. Luckily Google does provide you with an example, which from a coding perspective makes a lot more sense if you ‘view source’.

2. Attributes, attributes, attributes

He who has more, less, well you get the picture...

Google uses a number of product ‘attributes’ to determine firstly for what search terms a product should be visible and secondly to generate supporting information; be that price, dimensions, or the fact that each tin of cat food contains 4 grams of organic chick peas. Sorry.

Google uses a number of product ‘attributes’ to determine firstly for what search terms a product should be visible and secondly to generate supporting information; be that price, dimensions, or the fact that each tin of cat food contains 4 grams of organic chick peas. Sorry.

There are essentially three different types of attributes:

Required, Recommended & Custom

Required attributes, as the name suggests are attributes which must be included in order for your feed to be successfully uploaded. Recommended attributes are those which Google suggests you add to your feed in order to better it match your products to search queries. Check out the full list of required and recommended attributes for more info.

Custom attributes allow you to add an unlimited number of additional product attributes.

My tip is to add as much product information as possible. Firstly, because if Google has to choose between multiple similar products it will it seems pick the one with the most comprehensive description. Secondly by adding as much product detail as you can, you give that product a greater chance of ranking for more long tail terms.

3. Use the 70 title characters

In my experience the item’s title is one of the biggest ranking determinants. You are allowed to add up to 70 characters, so if you can (without being spammy) put as much product detail in as possible.

4. Keep an eye on the attribute list

Things move fast in the world of Google Products, and from my experience unless you keep one eye on the Google webmaster development blog you often miss things. For example Google often update their ‘recommended attribute’ lists or create market specific feed examples. I tend to dedicate about an hour per week to researching recent changes and working out if there are any workable angles for my client feeds.

5. Use Google checkout if you can

If you can; use Google checkout

Now who would ever suggest that Google would favour products which utilise Google’s own checkout system… If you can set-up a Google checkout account, make sure you do. I know that some more bespoke ecommerce systems find it difficult to integrate, but if you are able to; make it a priority.

6. Product reviews – which sites to get them from

It is no surprise that customer reviews in a similar way to Google Places, are one of the biggest ranking factors for Google Products. If you have a Google Checkout account you will hopefully already be receiving reviews. But in my opinion; the larger the variety of review sites your product is referenced by the better, so go out and submit your product (and company if it isn’t already).

But where do I find the review sites to submit too?

Fair enough, I asked the same question. Google doesn’t pull reviews from every review site out there, and from my experience references different review sites for different markets and products. There is an easy way to find out which review sites are being referenced for your competitors:

1. Search products for the search term you wish to rank for
2. Find a product listing with reviews
3. Click on the ‘seller ratings’ link – which will take you to a page containing all reviews for that product
4. In the top right (usually) there will be the list of all the review sites from which Google is pulling data from – which are thus the site which you should set-up an account with.

7. Add tracking code

I know the majority of you reading this (hopefully) would rather go noodling for catfish than consider not adding tracking code to the online marketing material you control.  But sometimes things get forgotten, and there is a lot to remember when setting up a feed. Spend a minute, build a tracking URL or prepare to speculate… a lot.

8. Update your feed

I usually try to update my product feed at least once a month, usually correlating feed updates and my monthly feed change research. It seems that Google holds updated products in a brighter light than those which aren’t updated very frequently. If due to the sectors you work in and the products you are selling your feed needs to change daily; you are in a good position. If however your product details simply won’t change in time, consider holding some attributes back.

I tend to make a list of all the potential attributes I can associate with a product, then try to determine which I will need to include initially in order to rank competitively (if the market is saturated you will need to add more etc etc). The rest I divide up and gradually add to my product listing over time, ensuring Google always associates new information with each product.

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9 thoughts on “How to optimise for Google Products

  1. James

    Thanks for that. I’m re building my feed at the moment as to use G’s categories – would you recommend using the category name in the Title as well or target more long tale terms?

    Reply
    1. Nick Williams Post author

      Sorry for the delay James. It depends on the products and the categories you are talking about. From my experience I have had more success adding detailed product descriptions in the title (model number, colour, dimension etc) rather than try to cram the category in. I don’t know what the category you are talking about is and how it relates to your product but it often looks spammy when you start trying to incorporate them.

      I would do some keyword research and see if there are any long tail opportunities; then decide the title based on the findings. I think you will find that if you name your product precisely and really concentrate on adding as many recommended and custom variables as possible; you will stand a good chance of appearing for long tail keywords anyway.

      Reply
  2. Suzie May

    Thanks so much for this post. I consider myself above average on SEO but google products has been baffling me for a while. I must agree that I think getting reviews is a major factor. I’ve noticed that our competitors that have many reviews, and mostly from google checkout, consistently appear highly for searches of products we both sell.

    Reply
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  4. New Epic Media

    Nick, I really enjoyed this post. We are an SEO company in Florida that has just recently begun managing ecommerce campaigns and handling datafeeds. There are two of us that work full time doing this, and it can be quite daunting. Your tips were true to what we have learned so far, and validation goes a long way to ease the uncertainty of the channels, especially Google. We have found the resources at CPC strategy to be instrumental in helping us out. You may want to check them out: http://blog.cpcstrategy.com/. Thanks for the great first time article!

    Reply
  5. Pingback: How to optimise for Google Products | Google Products SEO tips | Nick Williams