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February 26, 2008

Search 3.0: Online Retail & Blended Search

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All right, last session of the day, let’s get through this and then go party, what do you say? Here’s the line up. Our moderator is Vanessa Fox, Search Engine Land; the speakers will be Liana Evans, KeyRelevance; Chris Smith, NetConcepts and Phil Stelter.

For Team Q&A: moderator Mike McDonald, WebProNews, plus speakers Paul Dillon, Live Search Shopping, Microsoft and Ken Kronquist, Yahoo! Shopping.

Li Evans is up first.

Why care about blended results? You get more opportunities in the SERPS. It creates engagement, builds traffic, generates buzz.

What are blended results? Everything except the ten blue links. She’s speaking quite quickly. She does a quick example with Bare Escentuals and how they’re using video. YouTube offers a lot of ways to label and tag the videos. They’re doing a great job on their brand but not on more generic terms.

Another major opportunity is the ‘How to’. Make a video on how to do something. That’s a huge opportunity. Google calls video results “zippies”. Really?

Two videos on how to tie a tie: One is optimized, the other isn’t. The optimized one has twice as many views but the non-optimized one has links from Lifehacker. Just goes to show the power of a really good authority link.

Social Media sites are important. Your own site should be properly optimized as well. House your own videos, podcasts, images, etc.

You need to have analytics. Conversion isn’t just the immediate purchase.

Chris Smith steps up. His shirt has silver threads. It’s shiny, I rather like it. Yes, this what my brain has been reduced to.

Will it blend? Shopping results and keyword search results. Do your shopping results stand a chance of showing up in the blended results? How do you do that?

How do you make the product results show up in Google? Product names, like book titles and authors. Specific queries, not general ones. Right now, it’s hit and miss. Everyone’s seen an example where the difference is just a comma.

Use a product name and something that says what the thing is. Too many people use a product number and that’s not a good.

Yahoo is slightly more difficult to get products to come up. Electronics are easier than books but you’ll have to do some experiments.

Microsoft includes images in their product result, which is nice. You also have the expand and narrow search options on the side. [Amusingly the screenshot is of a search for Zune but Chris has labeled it a Palm Treo.]

Mention what the product is in the title. A really hip end user will type in the technical gobbledegook but most people will be using something more like English.

  • Create feed and optimize according to the source of best potential benefit.
  • Create good accurate titles
  • Use long tail terms
  • ALWAYS include a pic
  • Insure that pictures are available through Image Search
  • Seller ratings play big role in rankings in Google – manage your rating at contributer sources like Dealtime, Nextag, PriceGrabber, etc.
  • Product ratings are important
  • Appears that product names + brand names in item titles may work better – unable to really invoke non-brand names searches
  • Other factors that may play a part
    • Site Pagerank
    • Prices
    • Web site popularity for keyword – SEO value
    • User click behavior and time on product page?
    • Quality scores? Keyword density/word order?

Phil Stelter steps up.

He quickly summarizes what you should be doing: Optimize your product feed, Yahoo SSP search (Yahoo SSP is Blended’s OG.)

Prioritize by your potential return. Remember that Google has a huge lead in market share.

Remember that blended search is a work in progress. Things are going to shift and change.

Two major implications:

  • Organic is going to strengthen its role as a research and brand vehicle.
  • SEO is going to have to refocus from keyword to user relevance.

Tips and Tricks:

  1. Create Quality Content
  2. Find a Trend and Whip It (Good)
  3. Respect the Sources
  4. Become a Reference
  5. Test Now
  6. Embrace New Dimensions in search.

Q&A

Vanessa asks the search reps if they have any comments before we begin Q&A.

Paul: Blended search is here to stay. People are using search engines to research about you and your products every day. We need to do a better job in helping them do that.

Ken: I think it’s a good idea to take advantage of paid inclusion programs. Things like images are very important in increasing the click through rates. Using ISBNs and product codes are important in getting things mapped to a database.

Is there a plan to standardize feed formats like Sitemaps has been?

Paul: Live already accepts a few different feeds. We’d like one. [Paul, please lean into the mic, it's really hard to hear you!]

Chris: It’s a little frustrating to try to follow Google Bases protocols. They need better documentation.

More about needing images for Live?

Paul: We look at the quality of the feeds and the pictures. We really want to create a good experience.

Ken: The same strategy applies for Yahoo! Shopping. Even if there wasn’t a penalty for not having an image, the click through rate is very very different.

Li: Make sure it’s the right image too. Shoppers are visual.

Chris: Make sure that the engines can index the images. AJAX and Flash can be a barrier.

Are you seeing better click throughs on blended?

Ken: Uh, we can’t really talk about that but in general, yeah, the click through is better with images.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. Also rating and reviews make a difference.

Is it worth the time to watermark your image with your domain name?

Li: It depends on how much time you want to spend on it.

Chris: I see people who don’t want to let their property and images be stolen so they won’t allow them to be indexed and that’s a mistake. I don’t think watermarking is a huge issue. Wouldn’t suggest it.

Best practices for captions beyond just keywords?

Li: They should make sense. Don’t worry so much about formatting bold or italics.

What suggestions do you have for an all Flash Web site?

Li: Get them out of the Flash.

Phil: What is that they’re trying to do?

From the audience: Start a blog, talk about the wedding, add photos.

Li: That’s a good opportunity for rating and reviews.

Chris: The blog is an excellent idea. It’s a little high maintenance. Take all their images and upload them into Flickr. Wedding is one of the most popular tags. If you can rank through that, you’ve got a lot of opportunity.

What’s the difference between Google Products and Google Base?

Phil: Products is newer. Base was a kind of idealistic push, just please give us everything.

Vanessa: Basically they’re two separate feeds.

If you’re only going to choose one, go with Products.

Does the age of your feeds matter?

Ken: It’s not really a factor for us. We trust the information the merchant sends us.

Paul: I would say the same thing. We want the mostly timely and accurate information.

Chris: Stability and longevity of a Web page has been a factor for SEO. So it could be that there are major retailer who get more trust because their site is older but not necessarily because of the feed.

What do I do for seasonal items?

General answer, remove it from the feed, leave it on the site, offer the user some kind of good experience (when will it be back, information, mail me feature.)





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