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February 17, 2010
Expand Your Search Engine Visibility for Free

The rise of Bing has been a positive development for online retailers and others who market products and services.

It has forced Google to move in a direction that has created more opportunity for advertisers and/or marketers and better information for search consumers. One innovation to arise from this new battle is the mixing of retail product data feeds into organic search results.

Shopping-comparison engines that allow retailers to submit product feeds have been around for a long time with mixed success, but Google and Bing are now taking over that market by combining this information with standard search results. Online product retailers stand to benefit from this trend.

Here is just one way to take advantage of product feeds using Google AdWords.

First, visit Google to set up a Google Merchant Center account: www.google.com/merchants

You will log in with a standard Google account and will have to supply some information about your business to set up a product feed. The feed will be a text or XML file that provides product information (descriptions, prices, image URLs, etc.).

If you have a large catalog of products for sale on your Web site, you may want to pay a developer to write a script that will query your database and build the product feed for you automatically. Otherwise, you will have to create it manually, and it may take a few tries to get your product feed formatted correctly.

Once your product feed has been approved, your products will begin to appear in Google search results. They may not appear directly on the main search-results page, but they will be listed when the searcher clicks the shopping results link.

You are at an advantage here if you are a low-price retailer because your items will appear near the top when a product search is sorted by price.

If you are also a Google AdWords advertiser, you can take this one step further. You can connect your Google Merchant Center account to your AdWords account so viewers will see a link to click to see some of your products for certain searches. This is a great enhancement to your ads, which by nature, are restrictive in terms of allowed copy, and an advantage over your competitors who have not integrated a product feed with their AdWords accounts.

As an additional bonus, clicking one of the product links for a particular product does not count as an AdWords click. It is free. This makes sense because the link you are clicking in this case comes from your product feed and not from your ad.

Therefore, this strategy not only increases what can be accomplished with a single ad, it can generate free traffic consisting of people looking for a specific product. This could represent a customer segment far along in the buying cycle and ready to purchase.

To accomplish this integration between your Google Merchant Center product feed and your Google AdWords account, log into your AdWords account, click into a campaign, and go to the campaign settings screen.

Then find the networks, devices, and extensions section, click the edit link in the ad extensions line, and supply your Google Merchant Center ID (which you will see displayed at the top of your Google Merchant Center account).

Combining product data feeds with AdWords advertising is a great way to expand your product's visibility without spending more money. Bing also has a product feed feature, although it is nowhere near as quick and easy to set up as Google’s.

Microsoft has always had a tendency to complicate things for advertisers, but at least its aggressive moves have taken market share away from Google, resulting in some innovative new ways for retailers to sell products online.


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Jerry Work is president of Work Media LLC, a Nashville SEO firm that specializes in orchestrating Internet marketing campaigns that blend organic search, paid search and social media. He is also the author of "Be the Magnet," a new book on using social media and content distribution to promote websites. For more info, click here.

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