Over the last 4 months, your Froogle data feed, I mean Google Base data feed, I mean Google Product Search data feed…ummm…I really mean Google Merchant Center data feed got a lot more important as Google is doing more and more with that data feed.
Background: Google Merchant Center recently replaced Google Base, the place where merchants submit and manage their product data feeds. There is some new functionality in the Google Merchant Center compared to Google Base, but the core function of the Google Merchant Center feed is still to manage products listings on Google Product Search, Google’s shopping search engine. Merchants know Google Product Search as a significant source of free traffic, partly because of the powerful product OneBox results.
For years, the Google Base data feed had been used solely for populating Google Product Search, but recently, the power of that structured data feed has come to light. Google now uses the Google Merchant Center data feed for the Google Affiliate Network (GAN), Product Listing Ads – Beta (which is run through the GAN), Extension Ads (which is an AdWords product), and the newly launched Commerce Search (which is an Enterprise product).
A picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes.
Google Product Listing Ads – Beta:
Google Product Listing Ads – Beta are run through the Google Affiliate Network (GAN), which can leverage product information from Google Merchant Center data feed. A merchant sets a commission amount per sale and Google, acting as a publisher, can display these ads where it sees fit (the merchant doesn’t have control). If a sale happens, Google gets paid a commission.
The screenshot above represents one example of Product Listings. In this case, there are a number of merchants represented in each Ad. You’ll also notice the OneBox 5 pack listings right under the Sponsored Listings.
Here’s an example of Product Listings with just one merchant listed:
Product Extensions is a Google AdWords product which was just opened up to all Google Merchant Center accounts. Merchant’s have control over where (for which keyword searches) Extensions are displayed. As Extensions is an AdWords product, normal AdWords CPC charges apply. You’ll see a ton of these Extensions marked by a little + underneath AdWords listings for most any product searches on Google.
Google Affiliate Network (GAN):
GAN came out of Google’s Performics acquisition in 2008. GAN can tap into a merchant’s Google Merchant Center data feed. In allowing this, a merchant is providing publishers access to a wealth of product information which allows publishers to provide a much deeper and richer experience than just banners or buttons.
Google Commerce Search:
This is a specialized site search for merchants that launched a couple weeks back. Google Commerce Search leverages the Google Merchant Center data feed. Watch the Google Commerce Search video intro or download the data sheet. Benefits of on-site search should be pretty obvious. An ecommerce focused site search is a smart move as retail is much different than any other verticals as consumers are looking for attributes like promos, sales, and categories. A regular site search product might be able to highlight some of these attributes, but using the Google Merchant Center data feed enables Google Commerce Search to provide a much more specialized (deeper and richer) on site search experience.
As with any Google product, expect OneBox listings, Product (Listing) Ads, Product Extensions, Google Affiliate Network, and Google Commerce Search to morph in the coming year, but the thing that will not change is the importance of the Google Merchant Center data feed. If you’re not submitting a high quality data feed, now is the time!