If you’ve been searching the net for tips and tricks on how to attain success on the major CSEs (Comparison Shopping Engines) I’m sure you haven’t found much advice. In this post I hope to provide some simple tips and suggestions to get you on the right path. Please feel free to post comments and feedback about your experience with CSEs, as well as ranking strategies.
Feed File Formatting
To get started with CSE submissions, you have to export your product catalog from your shopping cart into spreadsheet format (should be very easy). The problem is transitioning between the default shopping cart export format to the format expected by each engine. Since every CSE uses a different header row and are expecting different attributes, producing a correctly formatted feed file can be labor intensive if done manually. Thankfully each CSE provides a guide for setting up your feed file’s format, specifically for the types of products on your site.
Be prepared to provide most of the following attributes in your feed, and possibly more:
- Product Name
- Product Description
- Product URL
- Image URL
- Stock Status
- Quantity Available
- Shipping Weight
- Shipping Cost
- Product Category
- Manufacturer Part Number
- Retail Price
- Sale Price
- Product Classification
- Condition (New, Used, Refurbished)
Truly, the list goes on and on. Some of the more simple engines require 10 or less attributes, but some of the more elaborate engines require 15+. Once you’ve completed your product feed with all the required attributes, you’re ready for submission.
Descriptive Titles & Descriptions
Just wait a minute though. Even though ‘technically’ your file now can be submitted, it doesn’t mean you are “ready” for submission. The product titles and descriptions that are listed in your shopping cart are most likely different from how you would want your customer to see them. Before anxiously submitting your product file, make sure to review each product to make sure your titles and descriptions are descriptively written and include some of the most important keywords searchers would use to find each product.
CSEs differ from traditional search engines in that users can navigate to products through categories without using keywords. If your products aren’t correctly listed in the category your target audience would use to find your product, chances are you won’t get any traffic and surely you will not sell any product. As with feed formats, each CSE categorizes products in a different manner, some simple, some complex. Generally an extra column will be required in the product feed file for category, but can be left blank in-case some of your products don’t fit into the pre-established categories. Each engine should also have a guide for formatting this data, and it will be different for each. I’ve listed some of the popular formats below.
- Home > Computers & Software > Laptop Computers (bread crumb)
- Laptop Computers (keyword category)
- 63943156877 (Numeric code established by the engine)
- Or, categorized by an algorithm using keywords in your titles & descriptions
DO NOT LEAVE IT BLANK. If you leave the category blank, most likely your products will end up in the miscellaneous category. Most shoppers will not navigate into the ‘MISC’ category to sort through thousands of unrelated products.
The second way shoppers can find your products is through the engine’s search function. If you come from a SEO or SEM background you should be familiar with copy writing strategies to incorporate high priority keywords. Similar strategies can improve the ranking of your products on these CSEs as well. It’s important to note that not all shopping engines search the entire site when the search bar is used. So it’s still very important to make sure your listings are correctly categorized, even if your titles & descriptions are well optimized.
You’ll notice that with a more specific query, Shopping.com search function searches in a more specific category. If your product isn’t listed in this category, you’ll have no chance of being considered.
Tracking is absolutely necessary for performing and evaluating successful tests. If you’re blindly listing your product catalog without knowing the return, there’s plenty of optimization that can be done, no doubt. Tracking will allow you to measure tests done on titles & descriptions, category changes, promotional offers, bid adjustments, etc. Testing will be the only way to know if you’re getting the most from your budget.