Dominate search results using Google Merchant Center Part 2

Last week, in Dominate search results using Google Merchant Center Part 1, we looked at a sample search results page in Google, and pointed out that over half the viewable area was dominated by listings that came directly from the Google Merchant Center.  We illustrated to e-commerce site owners the importance of getting a feed set up for a quick, regular new stream of high converting visitors.  We pointed out that these “free” Google listings would immediately appear in the Google “Product Search” results, and possibly in the normal Google search results as “Shopping Results” directly above the organic listings.

This week, in Part 2, we’ll cover how to get your product listings into the rest of these highlighted areas:

Directly above the organic listings are the “Shopping Results”, which anyone running a feed in the Google Merchant Center is eligible for, and for which there is no cost-per-click. To be eligible to run your listings in those other three areas, you need an Adwords account. The highlighted area in the top right of the image above contains “Product Listings”, while the remaining areas are two different forms of “Product Extensions”. Here is how Google describes the difference:

“Product Ads allow you to show the pictures, prices, and descriptions of the products you sell next to related searches on Product Ads have 2 available formats – Extensions, which allow you to enhance your keyword-targeted text ads with product information, and Listings, a standalone format that requires no keywords or ad text.”

If you already have an Adwords account, all you need to do to utilize the Product Extensions is link to your Merchant Account from within your Adwords dashboard. Then, your ads will be automatically appended with specific product information when relevant. Doing so is at least worth experimenting with immediately – most advertisers are seeing much higher click-through-rates and better conversion rates as a result, and it literally takes no more than a click of a checkbox in your Adwords dashboard.

If you don’t already have an Adwords account, you can still utilize Product Listing ads without having to run a full-fledged Adwords campaign. You do need to create an Adwords account, but rather than set up keyword lists and ads, you just link your Merchant Center listings, and when people search for your products in Google they will appear in the upper right portion of the search results page.

Unlike Shopping Results, Product Listings and Extensions operate on a CPC basis. if you already have an Adwords account, linking your Merchant Account could very well bring your cost down by increasing your CTR. If you don’t have an Adwords account, setting up a Product-Listing-only Adwords account is pretty modest investment since product-based ads are typically much cheaper and convert much higher than normal text ads. If you are looking to invest in some online marketing for your e-commerce site, this would be a great place to begin.

Clearly the importance of having a Google Merchant Center account cannot be overstated. If you are an e-commerce advertiser and are not using it yet, or have something set up that you don’t really attend to or actively manage, you are missing out on a large portion of high-converting traffic.

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Dominate search results using Google Merchant Center Part 1

Question: What do the blue highlighted listings in this image have in common?

Answer: All of these listings are pulled from Google Merchant Center accounts. If you aren’t actively managing a Google Merchant Center account, your products don’t have a chance of appearing in any of these areas.

For years, Google has provided advertisers with a free way to list their products in the “Product Search” section of their website by joining the Merchant Center program and uploading a product feed. These listings have been slowly creeping into Google’s normal search results, but the past year some radical changes have been occurring, and product listings from the Merchant Center are suddenly being thrust into the limelight. Merchant Center listings are so strongly integrated into Google’s normal search results now, that in some cases they can take up more than half of the viewable area, as the screenshot above shows.

Thankfully, joining and listing products in the Merchant Center is still free. However, to take advantage of most of that highlighted area you need an Adwords account. For now we’ll focus on the free area, and leave the paid stuff for Part 2.

The non-paid Merchant Center listings appear in between the paid listings and organic listings (in the above screenshot, it is the 5-product block under “Shopping Results for coffee maker single cup”). Anyone with an active Google Merchant Center account is eligible to appear in this block. As with normal organic listings, getting to these top spots takes some careful optimization, but if you can get to the top, it can provide an enormous boost in traffic with no click costs. Furthermore, conversion rates for product ads are generally much higher than any other type of listing due to their high degree of specificity and relevance to the user’s search.  Either way, your listings are guaranteed to appear in Google’s Product Search section, which is a great source of high converting traffic in its own right.

Joining the Google Merchant Center always provides a boost in relevant traffic, often an instant, very significant boost, and there are no click charges.  If you have an e-commerce website, you should consider this a very high priority.  Getting a feed set up is quick and easy and can often be done manually if you have a small inventory.  Feeds do need to be updated regularly to reflect what is actually being sold on the site, so you’ll probably want to have an experienced firm help you out here.  Unless your database is a complete mess, it usually does not take long to set up a script that will automatically create your feed and upload it to Google.  A cron job can be set up on the server to trigger this script at regular intervals, so your feeds will be created and uploaded automatically for you.   Since all clicks are free, it usually does not take long at all the recoup the small expenses involved in getting your scripts set up.  Then you can just sit back and watch the high converting traffic roll in at no cost to you.

Next week, in Part 2, we’ll dig into how your Merchant Center account can be tied into your Adwords account for total search result domination!

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