Become.com's CEO discusses the shopping search engine's new interface. Part two of a three-part series.
I love the new interface because it allows online shoppers to research and purchase products on the same SERP (define). The Search Zoom feature allows online shoppers to refine search results (Product Reviews, Buying Guides, Discussion Forums, and Product Details).
This time and next, Yang answers questions about preparing shopping search feeds.
Shari Thurow: Become.com has made vast improvements to its interface. One of the items I'm most thrilled with, as a professional online shopper, is the Search Zoom feature, which is divided into Product Reviews, Buying Guides, Discussion Forums, and Product Details. Why did Become.com create these categories, and what does each mean? How do merchants get pages to appear under each major category of Search Zoom?
Michael Yang: We're glad you like it. I'm thrilled about our new look, and it really showcases some of our unique features and technology, such as Search Zoom. Search Zoom takes advantage of our vertical search capability that delivers highly relevant results and makes it even more helpful by letting users identify specific types of content they prefer reading. By clicking on the Search Zoom buttons, shoppers can sort our results by buying guides, product details, professional reviews, and discussion groups. If someone is starting to look for a new camera, Buying Guides are very useful. When they have narrowed down to a few specific cameras, Product Reviews can help them make the right choice. Once they own the camera, Discussion Forums get them the answers that they need from other users. Our highly filtered Search Zoom results spares our users from the irrelevant and spam results other engines deliver.
The nice part for merchants is that Search Zoom works automatically to find and tag the best information from across the Web. Become.com's content classifiers use machine learning to identify each type of content with about 95 percent accuracy and can even identify multiple types of content on a single page, such as a page with a Buying Guide that also has Product Reviews from users.
ST: Can Web pages appear in shopping search results or research results only? What page characteristics of a product page provide the best results for merchants?
MY: Our Shop and Research indexes are separate, so merchants can get listed in both. For the Research results, our BecomeBot crawls over 4 billion pages to get the most complete product listings. Merchants can submit a data feed of their products for inclusion in our Shop results, and we always welcome new merchants to the Become.com family, which today numbers over 5,000 retailers.
A good merchant page typically has a number of core components. A large, attractive picture of the product is critical, as are a detailed description, a clear price, and a call-to-action button (e.g., "Add to Cart"). The best pages also feature great navigation and show related products to encourage cross-selling.
When submitting these pages in a feed to the Shop index, it's important to include a high-quality image and to supply details like tax and shipping charges. Users are much more likely to click on listings that have complete information than those that leave gaps. Obviously, when users get more information on Become.com first, they become more qualified sales leads for our merchants.
ST: I also noticed under the Product Details category that little icons appear next to certain URLs, such as a star for Product Reviews and a dollar sign for Store. How do these icons aid in the shopping search experience, and how can merchants get these icons to appear on their search listings?
MY: These icons are the second key feature of Search Zoom. Not only do we allow users to sort pages according to content type, we show users what types of content the pages represent. This way, you know if you're being sent to a product review, store, discussion forum, etc., before you click. Like the rest of Search Zoom, the labeling icons are assigned automatically using Search Zoom's algorithms. Merchants who want to make sure that their content gets the appropriate labeling can add terms like "User Reviews," "Product Details," etc., as H1 headers above each applicable content section on their page. The classifiers are currently over 95 percent accurate, but getting some clear details from the merchants on their pages helps us to improve further.
ST: What are the required fields for data feed submission? Do you offer support in this area?
MY: We have one of the industry's best account management teams to help with data feed submissions, integration, and maintenance. As for the required fields, we provide a data feed specifications document located within our merchant center.... Among the larger shopping engines, there is an informal standard concerning required fields, such as titles, descriptions, images, price, category, and product identifiers, that we adhere to. That's why we can easily implement data feeds that are built for other engines.
ST: With the holiday season approaching, how often do you recommend feed resubmission? How often can merchants update shopping information?
MY: We've been developing new technology to enable the industry's fastest product catalog updates with a goal of updating product changes every 15 minutes. We're already at the one-hour update speed. What this speed means is that if a merchant changed a title or price, or added or deleted a product, that change would be reflected on the site in 15 minutes. We recommend merchants update their product catalogs as often as it makes sense for them. Booksellers typically make changes once a week, while electronics merchants may make changes multiple times a day based on sell-through, competitive pricing, promotions, and other factors.
In part three: how to optimize your site for this shopping search engine.
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Shari Thurow is the founder and SEO director at Omni Marketing Interactive, a full-service search engine marketing, Web, and graphic design firm. Acknowledged as a leading expert on search engine friendly Web sites worldwide, she is the author of the top-selling marketing book, "Search Engine Visibility," published through Peachpit Press. Shari's areas of expertise include site design, search engine optimization, and usability.
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