Google Tests Potential Classifieds-Killer

Google has confirmed it’s testing a method of structured content submission called Google Base. The new service, unearthed by bloggers who took screenshots before the pages disappeared, could put Google into competition with classifieds providers as well as e-tailing giant eBay.

“We are testing a new way for content owners to submit their content to Google, which will complement existing methods such as Web crawl and the Google Sitemaps program,” Eileen Rodriguez, a Google spokesperson, wrote in an email exchange.

Screenshots obtained by bloggers show an entry page upon which Google suggests the type of information one might submit to Base. These include: “listing of your used car for sale”, “description of your party planning service”, and “articles on current events from your Web site”. Among other pre-populated categories found on the site are housing, products, reviews, services, travel, vehicles and want ads, according to Dutch blogger Wouter Schut, who said he saw the test pages before they were taken down.

While the site appears to give people the ability to enter content manually, it also lets users — merchants are mentioned specifically — upload information in bulk, presumably through an XML feed formatted to Google’s specifications. Already, Google accepts XML feeds from merchants who want their products listed on its Froogle.com site. Information submitted, according to a screenshot of the main entry page, may end up in the main Google index, on Froogle, or on Google Local. According to a recent report by Classified Intelligence, Google has been quietly approaching job boards and other classifieds providers, asking them to submit feeds of their listings.

The potential service has implications for every player that publishes structured data, such as classifieds, product listings, or travel information. Traditionally, specialized search engines like Oodle, Indeed.com, SimplyHired and SideStep have indexed such data. But all of these players have long expected, and perhaps feared, Google would enter the market.

For the original data publishers, such as online merchants, recruiters with job listings, or individuals trying to sell a used car, Google’s effort could make it possible for them to sidestep paying to have their ad posted on a job board or on eBay. By asking users to submitting data in a specified format, Google could likely do a better job at returning appropriate results.

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