14 May 2013

Google Shopping Feed: Easitill's Guide to listing products in Google Shopping from Easitill Back Office

Introduction

One of the best-kept “secrets” for creating incremental traffic to online retail sites is actually Google Shopping. The conversion rates are often higher than the more widely used channels.

First, you will need to open a Google Merchant account within Google. If you already have a company Google Adwords account you use, I would use the same login credentials to open the Google Merchant Account to keep your accounts and management process streamlined.

Once you set up your account, you will need to verify and claim your url, create your product data automated feed and launch the store.

Here is some in-depth information on how you can set up your Google Merchant Store.

Once you are running a Google Shopping program on your own or through a provider, there are some great opportunities available for advertisers that are on Google Adwords and are also running Google Shopping.

What is Google Shopping?

Google Shopping allows you to submit your products for inclusion in their search results under the "shopping" search results. Google uses the data feed product information you send to the Google Merchant Center to populate Google Shopping listing information.

People searching in google for a product can use google shopping results to search for specific products and order by price and other criteria.

They appear in general google search page results as below (often ahead of organic search page results):

For further explanation of Google Shopping and getting your products listed watch this Google Video
http://www.google.com/ads/shopping

Google Adwords linking with Google Shopping

Previously listing your product's on Google Shopping used to be free, however Google has now phased out free listings on its comparison shopping engine, Google Product Search, and transitioning to paid listings built on Product Listing Ads (Google Adwords) for its new initiative, Google Shopping. Google explained its shift in "Building a better shopping experience," a May 31 2012 blog post.

Google’s stance as stated in the announcement is that "having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date" which "should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants."

Google Shopping results  merchant rankings will be based on both bid price and relevance, with a ranking algorithm similar to paid search.

Data Quality is key

One of the most important things to rember about embarking on listing your products in google through the data feed, is that the listings will only be accepted by Google if they meet their Data Guidelines.
If you do not meet these, your products may not be listed, repeated ignorance and trying to upload regardless may also result in you being blocked.

Easitill enables you to create a Google Data Feed export from Easitill Back Office for Google Shopping, however it will only be as good as the product data you have input. Easitill cannot be held responsible for incorrect data exported from your system, so it is key that you make sure that all products meet the following criteria:


All products to be exported to Google Shopping must:

·         Have been exported to your website
·         Have a brand assigned
·         Have a description (Product or Internet Description) with more than 3 characters
·         Have an Internet Text 1 Field with more than 3 characters
·         Have a Main Product Image attached
·         Have a retail Sell Price greater than zero

Products must also have:
Either:
·         A valid supplier/manufacturer barcode (not beginning with 399 or 20) stored in the Product record or its associated Supplier Data
Or:
·         A Preferred Supplier whose Supplier Type includes Manufacturer (not Supplier Only), in which case the Preferred Supplier's Product Code MUST be the Manufacturer's Part Number (MPN)

Items will not be included in the Data Feed if:

·         The item is Discontinued and out of stock
·         The item is Not Available and out of stock
·         The item is flagged as ‘Do not show if out of stock’ and is out of stock

Products in the Data Feed will be rejected on importing to Google if:

·         The image path(s) contain any unusual characters such as [ ]


Other Google specifications you should also be aware of:

Descriptions and Internet Text

Block capitals and promotional material, such as offering free delivery, should not be included in Descriptions or the Internet Text 1 field. Bear in mind that at the time of export you have the option of whether to use the Product or Internet Description for your Google Export and we have a function to ‘Convert Internet Descriptions to Title Case’. However the routine will not recognise brand names or acronyms and will convert them to Title Case regardless e.g. NAF will become Naf.

The Google product title is generated automatically for you, but is limited to 70 characters. We take the Product or Internet Description (depending on the option selected at the time of export) truncated, with colour/size descriptions appended automatically. To ensure the best results, limit your descriptions so that when Itemcode A and B are appended, it will not exceed 70 characters.


Availability

·        Availability is dependent upon stock units for the Internet Site at the time of export. For this reason, fresh data should be exported to Google regularly. Note that with the Real-Time stock option on Easi-Web, the item may no longer be available on your website and the appropriate actions will be taken on the webpages and the checkout page depending on the option chosen.

Sell Prices

·        Sell Price is Gross Sell Price in GBP. If you have queued up Special Prices, those prices and their effective dates will also be exported to Google and will be implemented for the selected timescale only. Note that Google can only handle offers where the unit price is reduced and cannot process Mix & Match or Multi-Buy offers.
·       It is imperative that the sell prices and offer prices in your Google Data Feeds match those on your website. For this reason, fresh data should be exported to Google regularly.


Merchants must also adhere to all Google Shopping policies.



Exporting a Google Data Feed from Easitill

Easitill will need to help set up the export process settings the first time you wish to start using this facility. Once this is done you will then simply need to go to export internet data> export google data feed.

You will need to export a new data feed every time you upload new data to your website for google to pick up. This will ensure your website and Google Shopping listings match.






 

 


 

Ecommerce Trends Point to Bright Future

Over the past five years, ecommerce has grown at a pace at least twice as fast as total retail sales and that trend will continue over the next five years, according to published reports. In 2012, ecommerce had a healthy 14.8 percent growth rate over 2011, easily eclipsing the total retail sales growth rate of 5.3 percent. By 2017, the Internet will account for ten percent of all U.S. retail sales when online sales will reach $370 billion, up from $231 billion this year, according to Forrester Research. Growth is coming mainly from existing customers, who are spending more money online, rather than from new shoppers.

What's Driving Growth?

Brick and mortar retailers are getting better at multi-channel offerings. In-store pickup and store returns for items purchased online are examples of how these merchants are accommodating customer wishes. Those with good online execution are seeing their online growth outpace their store sales growth.
For online-only merchants, publishing customer reviews and presenting 360-degree product views make shoppers feel more comfortable about buying online. Personalization helps to increase sales to existing customers.

Tablets Rule M-commerce

The increased penetration of web-enabled smartphones and tablets increases the amount of time consumers spend online. While the rapid growth in purchases from mobile devices has caught both analysts and some merchants off guard, it's clear that customers feel comfortable buying via mobile devices, especially tablets, which provide better visual experiences. Twenty percent of visits to leading ecommerce websites originate on mobile devices according to Monetate, a provider of personalization technology.
Research firm eMarketer reports that this year, 62.5 percent of all mobile commerce will come from tablets, despite the fact that they have a lower penetration rate than smartphones. That figure will rise to 71.5 percent in 2017. Mobile users’ share of U.S. retail ecommerce sales will rise from 15 percent in 2013 to 25 percent in 2017. And people purchasing via mobile devices tend to make higher average orders.

Overseas Sales

Ecommerce sales are booming in Asia-Pacific with China, India, and Indonesia setting the pace, according to eMarketer. Business-to-consumer sales will grow more than 30 percent this year and China will replace Japan as the region's largest ecommerce market. In 2012, online retail sales in China totaled $179 billion, up 42.2 percent from $126 billion in the previous year, according to the China Ministry of Commerce. Forrester Research estimated Chinese ecommerce sales even higher, at $219 billion. The largest ecommerce company in the world — Alibaba — is based in China. The privately held company facilitated $173 billion in sales in 2012. That's more than eBay and Amazon combined.
Total Asia-Pacific direct-to-consumer ecommerce sales totaled $378 billion in 2012. Amazon alone had $8.8 billion in sales in Asia in 2012. This year Asia-Pacific is expected to overtake North America as the region with the most business-to-consumer ecommerce sales.
In the U.S., computer and consumer electronics is the category with the most online sales, with expected 2013 revenues of $56.8 billion, according to eMarketer. However, by 2016, apparel and fashion accessories will catch up, with each pulling in about $88 billion. Between 2012 and 2017, apparel and fashion accessories along with food and beverage will have the highest compound growth rates, at 17.2 percent and 17.0 percent respectively. What's driving growth in the apparel sector? Social media opinion sharing and better visuals such as body scanning technology, online runway videos, and 360-degree product views.

Trends that Have Cooled

Daily deals from companies such as Groupon and Living Social have lost their luster. Celebrity curation has also waned. Shoppers seem to trust recommendations from family and friends more than those from paid celebrities.
Subscription ecommerce is still raking in venture capital investments but there is a belief that consumers may be tiring of this business model as well and some online merchants have abandoned it.

Takeaway for Ecommerce Merchants

Most people who feel comfortable purchasing online are already doing so and Forrester Research predicts only 4 million new ecommerce customers this year. Therefore merchants should focus marketing efforts on retaining existing customers rather than trying to lure new customers. Implementing loyalty programs is a good way to minimize customer churn.
Making sure that the customer has a good mobile shopping experience is more important than ever. Merchants should consider responsive web design, a technique that renders content in a visually pleasing, usable format on any device.


Taken from: http://www.practicalecommerce.com


SEO Essentials for Startups in under 10 minutes

Taken from: Google Webmaster Central http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk


Wondering how to be search-friendly but lacking time for SEO research? We’d like to help! Meta keywords tag? Google Search ignores it. Meta description? Good to include.
If you:
  • Work on a company website that’s under 50ish pages.
  • Hope to rank well for your company name and a handful of related terms (not lots of terms like a news agency or e-commerce site).
  • Want to be smart about search engines and attracting searchers, but haven’t kept up with the latest search news.
Then perhaps set aside ten minutes for this video (or just the slides) and gain SEO peace of mind.


Everything I’d tell a startup if I had ten minutes as their SEO consultant.

More tips at developers.google.com/startups. Best of luck!


13 May 2013

Google's Guide to Ranking in Search Results

For your site to perform well in search, Google needs to be able to discover and understand your pages. Here's how to create rich, Google-friendly content.




Algorithmic search

Search is about giving people the answer they’re looking for—whether it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map. Google’s search engineers design algorithms that analyze millions of pages and return timely, high-quality, relevant answers to people’s questions. More information about Google Web Search.

What about ads?

Search results (sometimes called "organic" results) appear in the middle of the Google.com results page, and are never paid for. Paid ads appear on the right hand side and sometimes at the top, and are always clearly labeled.
Google maintains a strict separation between our search business and our advertising business, and doesn't give special treatment to our advertisers. Our view is that if we provide the best search results, people will continue to choose to use Google over other search engines. More information about ads.

Openness

Google's committed to transparency. That's why we created Webmaster Tools: to give webmasters as much information as we can about how we crawl and index sites. More information about transparency.





Check that your site is indexed

To see if Google already knows about your site, do a "site:" search, like this: [ site:example.com ].
  • If pages from your site show up, your site (or a part of it) is already in Google’s index.

  • If it doesn't show up, and it's very new, it's possible that Google hasn't discovered it yet. Use the Submit Your Content page to expedite our discovery of it. Be sure to check out specific Google products and services for businesses, publishers, and public agencies. More information.

  • If your site doesn't show up, and it used to, it may be in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. Our guidelines are designed to help webmasters create useful, Google-friendly sites that are good for users and the web.

  • If it's showing up, but pages appear lower than they used to, see possible reasons why.






A user’s experience with your site begins with its listing in the search results. While our search is algorithmic and automated, you can have a lot of influence over how your site is listed. Here's some ways you can help create compelling listings that users are more likely to click:
  • Create useful page titles. Make sure that your title is useful, descriptive, and relevant to the actual page itself. More information.

  • Use informative URLs. The URL (web address) of a page appears below the title, with words from the user’s query in bold. Your URLs should be simple and human readable. Which do you find more informative: http://example.com/products/shoes/high_heels/pumps.html or http://example.com/product_id=123458? More information.

  • Provide relevant page descriptions. The descriptive text under the URL is usually taken from the description meta tag on the page. Descriptions should be different and unique to each area of your site. More information.

  • Add your business to Google Places, to help Google display location information in results.

  • Manage your sitelinks. Sitelinks (sub-links to individual pages on your site) are meant to help users navigate your site. Sitelinks are automatically generated. This means that you can't specify a sitelink, but you can use Webmaster Tools to ask Google to demote sitelinks you don't like. More information.





One key element of creating a successful site is not to worry about Google's ranking algorithms or signals, but to concentrate on delivering the best possible experience for your user by creating content that other sites will link to naturally—just because it's great.
When you're writing a post or article, think about:
  • Would you trust the information in this article?
  • Is the article useful and informative, with content beyond the merely obvious? Does it provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • Does it provide more substantial value than other pages in search results?
  • Would you expect to see this in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Is your site a recognized authority on the subject?
Keep an eye out for the following problems:

  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites?
  • Does this article have an excessive number of ads that interfere with the main content?
  • Are the articles short or lacking in helpful specifics
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines outline practices that could negatively impact your performance in the search results, or remove you from the search results entirely. If we detect problematic content on your site, we’ll notify you using Webmaster Tools. We strongly recommend becoming familiar with our guidelines, as well as our tips for creating Google-friendly sites.
If your site contains user generated content, make sure to have a firm spam policy in place early. Check out this video for more tips on keeping sites with user generated content spam-free:


Read more

Help Google understand your content


People love images and video, but search engines are designed for text.  The more information you give us about your images and video, the better.  Check out our guidelines for publishing images and video, but in general, follow these guidelines:
  • Use descriptive file names. The file name black-fender-guitar.jpg tells us a lot more than image1.jpg.

  • Create great alt text. Alt text is used to describe the contents of an image file. It’s great for human readers, but it also provides search engines with useful information about the target image or video.

  • Give your images and video context. Google can infer a great deal about your image or video from the content surrounding it. For example, a picture of a guitar on a page about the history of guitars sends a strong signal to search engines that black-fender-guitar.jpg is about guitars.

  • Provide a great user experience. Try not to make users scroll to see your images and video, and use high-quality source files.

  • Upload your video content to YouTube to reach a wider audience.
You can give Google extra information about your videos, which we can use to further understand their content and display your videos for relevant queries. More information.

Submit a Sitemap to Google


Essentially, a Sitemap is a list of the pages, images, or video on your website, but it can also include additional information. For example, you can include title, description, playpage URL, thumbnail URL and the video URL for each video on your site, or provide name and file location, the caption, the title, the location where the photo was taken, and any licensing information for your images. More information about Sitemaps for video and for images.





With Google+, you can create an identity and presence on Google. Use Google+ and other social networks to connect with friends, family members, and start a conversation around your site.

Create a Google profile

Your profile is the way you represent yourself on Google products and across the web. With your profile, you can manage the information that people see—such as your bio, contact details, and links to other sites about you or created by you. You can also link your profile to other social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. Create a Google profile.

Add the Google +1 button to your site

Adding the +1 button to pages on your own site lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it's most relevant—in the context of Google search results. If a user wants to share your content right away, they can also use the +1 button to add a comment, choose what friends (circles) to share it with, and post to Google+—all without leaving your site. All it takes is a snippet of code. More information.

Link your Google profile to your content


Google may display authorship information in search results to help users discover great content by writers they enjoy.
If you want your authorship information to appear in search results for your content, make sure your Google+ profile has a good, recognizable headshot as your profile photo. Then, verify authorship of your content by associating it with your profile. More information.

Add friends and colleagues to your circles

The Internet is a big place, but you can make it a bit smaller by adding connections to customizable social circles. Circles are a great way of organizing the people in your life, and they make it easy to choose who you'd like to share posts and updates with. You can get started by importing your contacts from Gmail, or from entering in your contacts manually. More information.


More help creating and managing your site


Tips for choosing the right domain name

  1. Brainstorm 5 Top Keywords
    When you first begin your domain name search, it helps to have 5 terms or phrases in mind that best describe the domain you're seeking. Once you have this list, you can start to pair them or add prefixes & suffixes to create good domain ideas. For example, if you're launching a mortgage related domain, you might start with words like "mortage, finance, home equity, interest rate, house payment" then play around until you can find a good match.
  2. Make the Domain Unique
    Having your website confused with a popular site already owned by someone else is a recipe for disaster. Thus, never choose domains that are simply the plural, hyphenated or misspelled version of an already established domain. I still believe that Flickr desperately needs to buy Flicker.com - I hear kids in their 20's tell parents in their 40's and 50's to see photos on Flickr and always envision that traffic going straight to the wrong domain.
  3. Only Choose .Com or .co.uk Available Domains
    If you're not concerned with type-in traffic, branding or name recognition, you don't need to worry about this one. However, if you're at all serious about building a successful website over the long-term, you should be worried about all of these elements, and while directing traffic to a .net or .org (as SEOmoz does) is fine, owning and 301'ing the .com is critical. With the exception of the very tech-savvy, most people who use the web still make the automatic assumption that .com is all that's out there - don't make the mistake of locking out or losing traffic to these folks. If you are targeting UK traffic, bear in mind that a .co.uk domain shows people you do business in the uk.- 1 in 4 people with .co.uk domains use it for ecommerce.
  4. Make it Easy to Type
    If a domain name requires considerable attention to type correctly, due to spelling, length or the use of un-memorable words or sounds, you've lost a good portion of your branding and marketing value. I've even heard usability folks toute the value of having the letters include easy-to-type letters (which I interpret as avoiding "q," "z," "x," "c," and "p").
  5. Make it Easy to Remember
    Remember that word-of-mouth and SERPs dominance marketing (where your domain consistently comes up for industry-related searches) both rely on the ease with which the domain can be called to mind. You don't want to be the company with the terrific website that no one can ever remember to tell their friends about because they can't remember the domain name.
  6. Keep the Name as Short as Possible
    Short names are easy to type and easy to remember (the previous two rules). They also allow for more characters in the URL in the SERPs and a better fit on business cards and other offline media.
  7. Create and Fulfill Expectations
    When someone hears about your domain name for the first time, they should be able to instantly and accurately guess at the type of content that might be found there. That's why I love domain names like Hotmail.com, CareerBuilder.com, AutoTrader.com and WebMD.com. Domains like Monster.com, Amazon.com and Zillow.com (whom I usually praise) required far more branding because of their un-intuitive names.
  8. Set Yourself Apart with a Brand
    Using a unique moniker is a great way to build additional value with your domain name. A "brand" is more than just a combination of words, which is why names like mortgageforyourhome.com or shoesandboots.com aren't as compelling as branded names like bankrate.com or lendingtree.com. SEOmoz itself is a good example - "SEO" does a good job of explaining the industry we're in and creating expectations, while "moz" gives a web association, and an association with being free, open, and community-driven.
  9. Reject Hyphens and Numbers
    Both hyphens and numbers make it hard to give your domain name verbally and falls down on being easy to remember or type. I'd suggest not using spelled-out or roman numerals in domains, as both can be confusing and mistaken for the other.
  10. Don't Follow the Latest Trends
    Website names that rely on odd mis-spellings (like many Web 2.0 style sites), multiple hyphens (like the SEO-optimized domains of the early 2000's), or uninspiring short adjectives (like "top...x," "best...x," "hot...x") aren't always the best choice. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but in the world of naming conventions in general, if everyone else is doing it, that doesn't mean it's a surefire strategy. Just look at all the people who named their businesses "AAA... x" over the last 50 years to be first in the phone book; how many Fortune 2000's are named "AAA company?"
  11. Use an Ajax Domain Selection Tool
    Websites like 123-reg make it exceptionally easy to determine availability of a domain name - just remember that you don't have to buy through these services. You can find a name you like that's available, then go to your registrar of choice.