Froogle Spam


Follow up post: Froogle – Leftover Spam

Froogle has a problem, and I assume Google Base will have the same problem. Because there are no setup fees and no per click fees, the results on Froogle are often made up of spammy results which make for a horrible user experience. Google might be great at general search and maps, but shopping search (in beta now for how many years?) needs serious attention.

I hate to pick on Froogle after Forbes.com panned the site a couple weeks ago and BusinessWeek’s Silicon Valley Chief gave the site a less than glowing review this weekend, but I just performed a search for ‘iPod Nano‘ which is one of the most popular products this holiday season…and the results made me laugh…then cry.

Initial results are deceptively encouraging: 225 prices for the first iPod Nano, 37 prices for the next, 64 prices for next, etc. Basically, it looks like I will get a great choice of merchants selling at a wide range of prices:

Froogle results for iPod Nano

So I clicked on the first iPod Nano listing. First problem is that the search returned 216 prices, not the 225 listed on the previous page. Ok, not a big deal. Second problem is that most of the listings seem to be for the video iPod, not the iPod Nano. Ok, a bigger deal:

iPod Nano results

The major problem, though, is that the results are made up of spam and eBay affiliate listings. Almost every single store listed on the first 9 pages (90+ results) links to spam or outdated (and therefore incorrectly priced) ebay affiliate listings through a basic landing page.

Spam:
froogle spam

eBay Affiliate Listing (you have to click through to get an updated price):
ebay affiliate listing spam

‘What is the best comparison shopping site?’ is the question everyone always asks me. To which I reply very objectively ‘every site has its strengths and weaknesses.’ Enough is enough, though. While Froogle is doing a lot of positive things and this is just a growing pain (all the search engines have to deal with spam), my advice to shoppers this holiday season: stay away from Froogle. My advice to merchants, for the next couple months: optimize your listings on the top shopping comparison engines and then if you have time left over, submit your datafeed to Froogle.

As with CNET, I’ll probably be stuck in the dog house for a year or 2 because of this post, but I already feel like I’m in the dog house – Froogle was less than forthcoming when I interviewed the company in September, and I don’t feel like that attitude has changed. I’ll continue to comment on Froogle from the sidelines as I’ve been doing – I was the first to report on the changes to the site back in October, and I was the first to talk with ShopLocal to confirm that they were working with Froogle on Froogle Local. Expect no less going forward.

And if you need more examples of searches containing spam/ebay affiliate listings, check out the results for Digital Camera – BertsCamera Store and ActiveCamera Store (probably the same company) are nothing more than eBay affiliates who are flooding Froogle with crap…what I call the eBayization of Froogle (and everyone was all worried that Google Base and Microsoft Fremont would kill eBay!). Froogle should cut these companies off and work with eBay on a more elegant solution.

Follow up post: Froogle – Leftover Spam

More Froogle Posts:
Froogle Local Follies – December 4, 2005

13 Responses to Froogle Spam

  1. Mike Austin says:

    Brian,

    Just a short and sweet… Thanks.

    This is why I try to read your blog daily.

  2. Brian, some good observations. Now I saw the same result you got, but when I clicked on a result link from the Videoipodplayer.com page (top result for iPod Nano on Froogle), I briefly saw a “loading pagead2.googlesyndication.com”-something URL in my browser before the page redirection from SedoParking.com to Apple.com. I thought you only see those when there’s Google AdSense involved, but I saw no AdSense in both of the pages.

  3. Jason says:

    Price spamming is also not uncommon. I was searching for a xmas gift last week and the lowest price was 99 cents for a $100 item. I thought it might be a pricing mistake and wanted to take advantage of it! Well, it actually led to a site with the item whose real price was $200 and it included tons of popups! Apparently, there is no checks and balances in place for bulk upload of products and prices.

  4. UnGoogling Things

    ComparisonEngines.com points out a problem with Froogle:Froogle has a problem, and I assume Google Base will have the same problem. Because there are no setup fees and no per click fees, the results on Froogle are often made up of

  5. Shenanigans are not limited to fake-merchants.

    Q: Out of stock for an item?
    A: Lower its price on Froogle.
    (psst… you might also be interested in these -related- products…)

    These clicks are worth less, but not worthless. They might not justify the “old switcheroo” on paid engines, but nothing is ROI negative on Froogle.

    But to give Froogle its due, it got a helluva lot better in the last month. To be sure, I would NOT use Froogle for popular searches where other engines have plenty of offers, plenty of structure. Yet on many products, Froogle has zero competition.

    For example, I was researching high-end server products, and most shopping engines are lucky to have a related category, much less the specific product, much less a decent selection. In a few cases, Froogle gave a nearly complete “lay of the land” on very niche $,$$$ products.

    IMHO, Froogle has become an essential tool in the shopping tool belt, but it should be used sparingly and carefully.

  6. [...] d) ebay affiliate listings.” For the complete Froogle overview, I suggest reviewing Froogle Spam on Comparison Engines.

    Posted by — Loren Baker, Editor @ 11:44 [...]

  7. Stuart says:

    Brian -

    I hope you don’t get “CNETTED” because this blog is spot on. Too many Google apologists aren’t willing to point out the plain truth — Google USED to be the best way to find things online, but by no means is that the case today. Good vertical engines beat Google on many fronts and from a general search perspective, they have lost a step IMHO.

    While Froogle can be ROI positive given the cost (free), there is a time cost to set up and optimize listings. As you point out, it may be better spent optimizing comparison engines that provide real value to their end users.

    For the end user, I would look elsewhere unless you want to spend time clicking around eBay affiliate sites.

  8. Mashable* says:

    Abuser-Generated Content – Froogle Getting Spammed

    Last month I mentioned that Google Base was full of spam – and to be fair, Google has made genuine efforts to remove some of the junk. But now Comparison Engines is reporting that Froogle, Google’s shopping comparison engine, has the same pro…

  9. Sharon says:

    Froogle seems designed to work well for a very small business (i.e., shoestring budget), with products or even unique ones.

    That said, I DO WISH that someone would figure out how to stifle the ads that seem to appear everywhere, not just in Froogle. Was doing research on the African practice of infindibulation (female circumsion) recently and quickly discovered that it’s widely available at e-bay. Go figure!

  10. Brian Smith says:

    Sharon,

    When I talk to merchants who are listed exclusively on Froogle, they say it’s because Froogle is free and as a small business, they can’t afford to list on the other comparison engines. BUT small businesses aren’t always the most savvy of marketers…if they are selling products online at a profit, most likely they could afford a per click fee on a major comparison shopping site and at the very least, they should test out marketing on NexTag, Y! Shopping, PriceGrabber, Shopzilla, and Shopping.com.
    -b

  11. [...] appy to see Froogle taking baby steps to cut down on spam. My main example the other day, a search for ‘ipod mini’, returned 225 prices, the first 90+ of which were crap. Do the same [...]

  12. [...] ut I’m not – and please note that there are no AdSense or YPN ads on my site). When I wrote about Froogle’s spam problem on December 4, the search results for an iPod nano were so bad [...]

  13. [...] was critical of Froogle and Google Base back in December of 2005, writing a series of posts: Froogle Spam, Froogle Leftover Spam, and Cleaning up Froogle – One Post at a [...]

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