My favorite CSE, Google Base (I still prefer “Froogle” don’t you?), has made a significant enhancement to the quality of their product engine with the addition of product attributes to the feed specifications.
As I hope you know, Google Base allows stores to upload product feeds so that their audience can find, consider, and compare said merchant’s products. The unique opportunity Base provides as a comparison shopping engine is that, fundamentally, it is not a comparison shopping engine but a feed based inclusion platform with which anyone to submit content to be indexed on Google. Your products and the pages appear in Google Search index and the feed can (and should) include all of the pages in your store. Think of it as Yahoo! Paid Inclusion for free.
The single most significant factor in my favoritism of Google? It is all free.
A merchant data feed is a frequent topic of discussion on my blog as that feed, that catalog of products, is one of your most valuable tools.
These new attributes give merchants an opportunity to support granularity, that is, customers who want to search and navigate based on specific product qualities. To list a few:
Unfortunately, few merchants have this data readily available creating a challenge for those of us that want to provide attributes. As a merchant, recognize that Google Base is free distribution so the cost of participation is only the effort required to create and optimize the feed; more granularity for Google’s audience means more qualified customers to your door.
A challenge for Google and merchants alike is that Google’s use of attributes can be thought of more like tags or labels in that you can put in anything you’d like for the same attribute: While you may think of size as small, medium, or large, another merchant may think of it as handheld or laptop. This flexibility gives Google a rich database of attributes but the lack of structure creates chaos preventing users from having a consistent experience. If I need a medium shirt, I want all medium shirts; this setup will overlook M shirts, average shirts, or sizing designations from other countries.
Obviously, the combination of those two challenges creates a poor experience for customers. If you, as a customer, are looking for a digital camera with a 24 hour battery life, some merchants not list it as 24 hours but 1 day. More likely, most can’t even submit their cameras with battery life so when looking for products with that information, those options will never appear.
This news is by no means doom and gloom, just the opposite: A great opportunity for comparison shopping, customers, and stores as it is a step in the right direction. Check out the new attributes and requirements for Google Base and if you can, take advantage.