Comparison-Shopping Engines: How to Optimize CSEs, Part IV

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It is series time! One topic that we haven’t really talked much about in our blog are comparison-shopping engine sites. I have worked with multiple online retailers that have seen great success with this type of online advertising. So I want to take this series as an opportunity to dive deeper into the mystery of comparison-shopping.

So you have decided to advertise on a comparison-shopping engine site, signed up and uploaded your product data feed to the standards of the desired CSE. While this hurdle has been conquered, many advertisers tend to neglect what comes next. Comparison-shopping listings require regular updates due to product changes, new products, out of stock or unavailable products, etc. In this article I want to point out some tips and tricks on how to keep product feeds and listings up-to-date for the best possible experience for merchants and consumers on comparison-shopping engines.

On comparison-shopping engine sites a variety of merchants compete against each other and each merchant only has a short time span to capture the attention of consumers on the shopping results page. Shoppers tend to only scan the different product options, in search of the best price, sales, free shipping, and trusted brands. Click through rates and conversion volume is heavily influenced by:

–       Relevant titles: What are consumers searching for?

–       Engaging descriptions: Is this the product consumers are looking for?

–       Enticing promotions: Should consumers buy the product now?

Targeted, keyword optimized titles

Similar to what can be seen on Google search results, keywords in product titles will be bolded when matching a consumer’s search query.  Shoppers usually tend to look for brand names, model numbers, product types and product attributes. When bolded in the product title, product listings will be more attractive to shoppers as they qualify a merchants’ product listing as a match.

CSE-specific product feed taxonomy

Each comparison-shopping engine might use a slightly different product categorization. Therefore, product data feeds need to be precisely aligned to each CSE’s feed specification. Merchants that are not taking advantage of these categorization might lose qualified customers as competitors with better mapped product feeds are stealing these sales from them. Uncategorized products or products that are not as granular in their categorization as others suffer in product rankings as well as impression volume and exposure.

Detailed product specifications, attributes and features

The more detailed product specifications are, the higher is the likelihood for listings to be displayed for intended keywords and consumers with a higher shopping intent. This will ultimately lead to more exposure and an increase in conversions for merchants. Here is a good example: With the choice of three cup sizes, the Mini Plus brewer offers a removable drip tray to accommodate short travel mugs. To operate, you simply add fresh water into the single-use reservoir, choose your favorite K-Cup pack, brew and enjoy. Energy savings mode.

Cross-selling of related products

For even more exposure, merchants can include phrases like “can be used with” or “best suited for” in their product listings. Taking advantage of this tactic can increase the visibility of products as they might be showcased as “related products” or in the “shoppers also viewed” category.

Add images and logos for increased visibility

Using large images in product listings catches the attention of shoppers as well as increases the likelihood of being utilized on feature pages and shopping blogs. Close-up images and images showcasing different angles of the product also help shoppers to find the product they are looking for. Although comparison-shopping engines only might display a thumbnail image on search result pages, some will allow to show full size images once a shopper clicks on an image. Merchants also need to watch out for CSEs allowing to add their logo to product listings. While it might be at an additional charge, this feature not only catches the eye of shoppers, but also shows credibility for merchant listings. In the below example, Amazon allows advertisers to display a variety of product images next to the main image. Hovering over the smaller pictures enlarges them in the main product image:

Running Shoe on Amazon

Marketing message

Most shoppers are always on the lookout for discounts, good deals, specials, seasonal savings, free shipping and other savings. Offering these kind of specials as a merchant, offerings should be included in the product feed for CSEs to use. Showcasing promotions with products is not only attention grabbing but also allows products to be highlighted on featured deals and promotion pages. CSEs use to promote special deals on their blog, social media or feature them on a “daily deal” page. In some cases, merchants might also be able to add promotional text to their product listings. For example, Pricegrabber displays a “Hot Deals” category on the homepage as well as a “Weekly Specials” button on the top of the page.

Hot Deals category on Pricegrabber

 

Weekly Specials button on Pricegrabber

Invest in CSEs

While the economy might be tight and spending could be cut, investments should continue. Merchants need to track their ROI on CSEs. Therefore, working with CSEs and installing any kind of ROI tracker they might have available helps to better analyze performance and conversions. With marketing budgets being tight, it is always a great idea to install tracking from the beginning in order to find the CSE with the best possible returns.

Feed promotions

The success of retailers and shoppers is important to comparison-shopping engines. As mentioned briefly before, calling out seasonal items, special promotions and great deals in product feeds leads to more exposure for merchants as CSEs scours product feeds for these type of specials. Additional promotions can be seen in guides, newsletters, press releases, shopping blogs, social media etc.

Top three listings

Similar to results on Google, it is analytically proven that the top three listing results in CSEs get the most conversions and qualified leads. Moreover, quality scores also matter on comparison-shopping engines. While bidding can influence it, relevancy and popularity of product listings carry weight regarding the position. Product listings above the fold receives a disproportionately higher number of visibility, therefore it is highly recommended to continuously optimize feeds.

Additional advertising

Having paid ads as well as an organic listing showing on Google search result pages improves branding and traffic to websites. On comparison-shopping engines banner ads and page sponsorships will do the trick of increased visibility and boosting traffic to merchants’ websites. Moreover, it also aids in merchant branding throughout CSE sites.

Suppressing products

Each merchant has to figure out what he needs to get in return of his investment in CSEs to be profitable before even uploading product feeds to comparison-shopping engines. ROI should be realistic and merchants should also factor in the supplemental value of CSE campaigns. After establishing the profitability-criteria, product performance on CSE can be reviewed accordingly. For example, if a merchant is looking for a 3 to 1 return but he is only getting a 2.5 to 1 ratio, merchants should take a look at their top 20 – 50 products. If these products show a lot of clicks but no sales, it is obvious that these products don’t work on that specific CSE. These products need to be removed from the feed, especially after merchants have already optimized them (product descriptions, title, images optimizations etc.). If these products change over time or landing pages/website have been optimized, previously removed products might be re-added to the feed for another run.

All in all, it is important for merchants to take advantage of the different features offered by comparison-shopping engines. While they might not be obvious and merchants might be running out of time for the necessary details, these features can be of high importance to success on CSEs. Therefore, be as detailed as possible, optimize feeds and product listings and use the tricks and tips of this series. Once merchants have tried everything for improved product performance, some products just might not be successful on certain shopping engines. Remove these products from the feed and move on. Testing different shopping engines is also recommended, too.

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  • Thiago

    Great article. I’ve seen a lot of both poorly and very well executed comparison shopping feeds, and I’ve seen the things you mentioned here as shortcomings in every one of the weaker ones.