Questions for Froogle’s Mastermind, Part 2

In part one of my interview with Craig Nevill-Manning, Google’s senior staff research scientist, he answered questions about using Froogle and Froogle’s SERPs.

This week, Nevill-Manning answers questions about preparing your Froogle feed.

Froogle Feed Questions

ST: Explain the Froogle feed review process. Does an editor review a submitted feed, then send it to the Froogle database if it’s accepted? Is guidance provided to the feeder should the feed have problems?

CNM: After a merchant submits a data feed request, we review the site for policy compliance (we don’t accept services, affiliates, etc.). After the site is approved, we send data feed instructions and an FTP username and password.

Once a merchant uploads a feed, we’ll review it and work with the merchant if there are any formatting errors so that their products are displayed correctly on Froogle.

ST: How does Froogle decide which part of the description to truncate for the search results?

CNM: We show the first part of the description, up to two lines. We use the rest of the description for determining relevance, so it’s important to include as much as possible.

ST: Can one submit a partial description of the page’s content, or must it be the entire content of that page?

CNM: A partial description is OK, but we’ll be able to do a better job of ranking if we have more information about your product. We require a product name, image, description, category, and price. The better information you give us, the more likely that your product will rank highly.

ST: On your site, I read, “Froogle may occasionally make incorrect assumptions about content, resulting in a mismatch between products and images.” If this happens, should one just resubmit the data feed?

CNM: Mismatch between products and images in a feed [is] probably because of the feed content. For merchants who do not supply feeds, we attempt to correlate images with products, but this process is not 100 percent accurate. This is another good reason for a merchant to supply a feed.

ST: Must a feeder’s robots.txt file allow for one’s images folder to be spiderable?

CNM: Yes. We have a great deal of difficulty with this. We obey robots.txt, but it’s frustrating to see “image not available” for a product that has a great image. Having images increases click-through, so it’s important that you don’t block us from crawling images.

ST: Do products need to have their prices featured on the Web page to be listed in Froogle? (Some stores have a list price. People must contact them so a sale price can be negotiated.)

CNM: The price must be on the page. It must match what you give us in the feed. The site must have an online way of purchasing, without making a phone call.

ST: Can Froogle discern between a list price and a sale price?

CNM: We accept only the sale price.

ST: Is there a maximum amount of products you can send in a Froogle feed?

CNM: No.

ST: Why do data feeds expire and need to be resubmitted after one month?

CNM: We don’t want stale data in our system. If a merchant hasn’t updated their feed, it’s quite likely it’s out of date.

ST: Can you resend as often as you like?

CNM: No more often than daily.

ST: Has Google considered sending an automated notice to people when their feed is close to expiring?

CNM: That’s a good idea.

ST: Can a nonprofit site have items featured on Froogle? (And not with a set price but a recommended donation amount?)

CNM: Another good idea. We’ll give it some thought.

ST: Is a typical waiting period two to three days for acceptance of the Froogle feed?

CNM: Yes, this is correct.

ST: Are Froogle feeds trackable? Can one measure their effectiveness in a Web analytics software program (such as WebTrends, ClickTracks, HitBox, or Urchin), as they already can in Google?

CNM: We encourage merchants to include tracking URLs in their feeds. Also, analysis of referrer fields in Weblogs could provide helpful data.

ST: Is the ranking system based on page/site popularity and the amount of content in the Froogle feed?

CNM: PageRank is an important input to the ranking function. Sites with high PageRank are more likely to have their products appear in the top results.

ST: Will being listed in Froogle increase one’s visibility (and rankings) in the Google site?

CNM: No.

ST: What are the most common, but avoidable, mistakes you see feeders make?

CNM: One of the mistakes is including the Froogle hierarchy in the feed, as opposed to their own. We map the categories for merchants, but we need the category structure that’s on their site.

ST: Can you offer any tips or guidelines for optimizing a Froogle feed or a product page on my site?

CNM: Don’t pack the product name with specifications and sales text. If you give us the standard product name, your products will rank better.

Do: “Nikon Coolpix 8700”

Don’t: “Great digital camera from Nikon!!! Coolpix 8700 is their new 8 megapixel offering”

ST: Thank you so much, Craig, for a great interview!

Froogle Optimization Tips

Nevill-Manning provided some great guidelines for preparing a feed, especially the robot.txt tip. As a person who builds e-commerce sites for a living, I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when shoppers get all the text information (product description) they need but no product photos. Photos significantly increase conversions.

As someone who also prepares Froogle feeds, here are some of my tips and guidelines:

 

  • Use a descriptive product name in the title tag. As with standard search engine optimization, aim for 40-60 characters in the HTML title tag, using targeted keywords whenever possible. A too-short product name is probably not descriptive enough. A too-long name will only be truncated in the search results.
  • Ensure the product name is visible at the top of the page. When site visitors land on a product page, they want to be sure they landed on the correct page. Visitors need to see the product name that matches what they typed into Google or Froogle. Using the product name in the first heading tag, the introductory paragraph, and breadcrumb links are simple ways of making the product name prominent without being overly redundant.
  • Include a product photo with descriptive alternative text and label (if appropriate). Google does read alternative text and the text around a graphic image. But that’s not the only reason to use alternative text. Usability and the user experience is just as important for shopping as it is for search.
  • Place applicable keyword phrases in the product description. You might be surprised at the variety of keyword phrases people use to find a product. For example, a popular jewelry site keyword is often “14K gold.” If a product is a 14K gold diamond tennis bracelet, I’d put that phrase in the product description as well as in any applicable up-sell links. For a clothing site, size and fabric are popular keyword searches.
  • Put price, availability, and call to action above the fold. This information is important for not only Froogle but also your target audience. At a women’s clothing site, a visitor wants to know the pink cashmere sweater in petite is available right now. All the user has to do is click “Add to Cart” to move forward with the purchase. Don’t make it difficult for Froogle and visitors to find key information.
  • Make sure there are no technical issues (robots.txt, server problems, etc.). As obvious as this sounds, some sites don’t get desired results due to simple technical glitches. Verify your robots.txt file doesn’t exclude graphic images. Make sure your server delivers dynamic content in a timely manner.
  • Submit a feed to Froogle at least once a month. Nevill-Manning made sure I reemphasized this tip. When people shop, product availability is extremely important.
  • Make sure your site contains credibility pages. Credibility pages on an e-commerce site help generate trust, credibility, and reliability. They are important for any commerce site. Examples of credibility pages include a privacy policy, money-back guarantee, return policy, customer service section, FAQs, and company contact information.

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