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Comparison Shopping Engine Submission

Comparison shopping engine (CSE) submission involves the submission of merchant products and/or services to shopping search engines such as Shopzilla, Yahoo! Shopping, and Google Product Search (formerly Froogle). These shopping search engines display the submitted item(s) when a consumer types in select keywords. Products from other merchants may also be displayed, alongside information such as product price, tax, shipping cost, and consumer reviews.

CSE submission is of mutual benefit to both the consumer and the merchant. On the consumer's side, the CSE allows for comparison of product prices and other features without the need to step inside of a "brick-and-mortar" store. Because there are usually several merchants offering the same item, the consumer is assured of obtaining the best deal. Likewise, consumers are likely to leave feedback on a product, helping potential buyers decide whether or not to purchase that particular item in the future.
On the merchant's side, the CSE offers a high conversion rate, since consumers who are using the CSE are very likely to buy something. Even if consumers have no intention of buying online, they will often use a CSE for research purposes prior to buying the product offline. Also, the CSE can provide a merchant with significant exposure, especially if the merchant or the products are listed in the top 3-5 shopping results.

Process and listing rank
Merchants can submit products to a CSE through a product data feed. The header, product title, description, category, URL, price, model number, etc. are all submitted through the product data feed to the shopping engine. Optimization is performed through the use of appropriate keywords within the product title and description, and through the testing of the automated product feed script. Optimization is critical if a product is to be categorized properly on the CSE and ranked well in the CSE results page (CSERP).

Fee structure: flat rate or auction-style
There are several fee structures for products listed on a CSE. Some shopping engines charge a flat-rate referral fee whenever a consumer clicks on a product ad. Other sites offer differently priced ad space through an auction-style pay-per-click (PPC) pricing model. Some sites, such as Google Product Search, are free to use; however, submitting a product is no guarantee that it will be ranked well on the CSERP.

Product data feed preparation

Text or XML format
Merchants submit products to a CSE via a prepared product data feed. There are several steps involved in the preparation and submission of a product through a CSE data feed. To begin with, the information that is submitted through the data feed can be provided in either text or XML format (e.g., Atom, SOAP, XTML). While text is an easier format for product submission, it also limits product information size to several kilobytes of data. XML, while more difficult to generate, allows data submission of up to about 2 GB. Because having more product information is usually better than having less, the use of XML is preferred by most merchants. Fortunately, there are automated web services that facilitate submission via XML, with conversion from the input programming language to XML occurring "behind-the-scenes". This facilitates XML data feed submission considerably.

Keyword research
Keyword research and use is a major part of product feed submission. A product's rank on the CSERP is often determined by how well the keywords associated in its title, description, and other information match up to consumer search terms. The more closely matched a product's data feed keywords and key phrases are to input search terms, the higher its placement (rank) will be on the shopping engine's results page.

Product data: categories, pictures, descriptions, etc .
Some merchants believe that because search engines like Google and Yahoo! already index their web site(s), there is no need to upload product data and keywords into the CSE. However, the CSE does not operate exactly like a regular search engine. In many cases, unique keywords and key phrases are required for a CSE because of the product categories that are defined by that search engine. Also, most shopping engines automatically categorize products as they are entered into the system. Even if a CSE offers a merchant the option of manual category submission, this is still reviewed and may be changed by the engine. Therefore, product title and description keywords need to be optimized for the category keywords that the CSE itself will recognize. Because of this, keywords that are useful for search engine optimization (SEO) or PPC campaigns may not be ideal for a CSE. 

Product data submission
After the appropriate keywords and key phrases are chosen, the product data feed must be submitted. Each CSE has its own requirements for data feed uploading. In the case of Google Product Search, products must be linked to specific merchant web site pages. Product landing page formats must be compatible with those of the Google Shopping site. Another CSE may have different requirements for product titles, descriptions, graphics, destination URL, etc.

Fee structure and amount
Finally, the product listing fee structure and amount need to be decided. As previously mentioned, Google Product Search requires no submission fee. However, shopping engines like ShopZilla, MSN Shopping, and Shopping.com all charge listing fees. For a merchant looking for product exposure rather than sales, a flat-rate referral payment plan may be preferred. For merchants with larger budgets or an already established brand name, an auction-style PPC payment plan may be more suitable.

Data feed optimization

Keyword and category editing
Once the merchant has completed product data feed submission, the optimization process begins. Verification of product indexing is performed, and product categorization is checked. PPC product listings, placements, sizes, and display frequencies are studied. Should a listing not appear in a prominent position following a product search, the keywords and key phrases associated with that listing may be altered or augmented. Merchants may conduct A/B experiments to determine which keywords best target specific product categories. Additional shopping search engines may be researched and product listings submitted to them. 

Customer behavior and seasonal trends
Most shopping search engines require that product data feeds be regularly updated, which also encourages merchants to optimize their product listings. Holidays and other events introduce opportunities for accurately predicting consumer behavior and product purchasing trends. Merchants who take advantage of vital consumer statistics, adjusting their product data feeds and fee structures accordingly, stand to benefit from increased brand exposure and sales revenue.

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