If you are an ecommerce merchant, your business likely cannot survive without search engine exposure through Google. But Google has over one hundred other services and products that have blossomed from its core web search tool. Just keeping up with the names of these products is challenging, let alone figuring out how you can utilize them to improve your bottom line.
Let’s take a look at the Google services most relevant to ecommerce site owners and some of the newer features that you can leverage for your business.
Google’s flagship search engine is still the go-to Internet entry point for much of civilization (with Facebook representing a worthy challenger). One of Google’s more recent advances in search technology is called Google Caffeine. Caffeine is not something you can see, but it is the underlying framework that Google now uses to deliver search results. Theoretically, Caffeine allows Google to crawl the web more quickly and deliver more timely information. The key concept is speed. Part of Google’s need for speed means it considers the load time of your site’s pages to be a key factor. You will want to be sure that your pages load quickly and meet Google’s other quality standards.
Google has a tendency to rename some of its properties. What once was Froogle, was then Google Base, then evolved into Google Product Search, and now is found under the Google Merchant Center. The important thing to know is that Google has made shopping results more prominent on its search pages. If you have an ecommerce site, you need to have a Google Product Feed so your products will show up in Google Product Search. If you have over 100 products you will likely want to set up a “feed,” which means creating a formatted file and sending it to Google at regular intervals.
Google Analytics is a very useful tool for tracking and analyzing your site’s traffic. The level of detail overwhelms many people who use Google Analytics. If you are a new user, I recommend setting up weekly emailed reports. If you are an advanced user, you will want to get a handle on Analytics Intelligence, which you can configure to track shifts in key aspects of your data and alert you when important changes take place.
Google’s main revenue generator is its AdWords pay-per-click program. Not all ecommerce owners want to spend money to garner traffic. The reason so many site owners do partake in AdWords, however, is because it works for them in producing a positive return on the ad dollars they spend. At the very least, you should educate yourself about AdWords and whether it makes sense for your business. To jump into AdWords, you should either invest the time to learn how you can use it to build ad campaigns and monitor results. If you are not prepared to put in the time, you would do well to hire a professional firm to help you. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, we recommend reviewing the Google AdWords Editor, which will allow you to build your AdWords account from a Windows or Mac desktop application.
Google Local Search might not be relevant for every ecommerce site, but there is a rapid shift occurring across all the major social/search web properties to emphasize the local aspect of search. You will want to develop a local strategy and stake your claim in your city or region. The best place to start is by establishing your Google Local listing. Here’s something new with Google Local: Google is testing a paid ($25 per month) Enhanced Local Listing service that allows participants to create a more developed listing that displays in Google Local Results and includes links to photos, videos, coupons, and other specific business information.
Webmaster Tools is yet another service with no up-front or recurring fee. Using it is very easy. Webmaster Tools gives you valuable stats about how Google views and crawls your site. You can see data, such as the most common keywords Google associates with your pages or the anchor text found in external links to your site. Tying into Google Caffeine, Webmaster Tools now has a Site Performance section that gives data on the load time of your pages.
The optimizer is an awesome tool for testing the effectiveness of your website’s pages. You can deploy A/B and multivariate tests for a range of characteristics. Suppose you want to test whether your home page will produce more conversions if you add a message emphasizing free shipping. Setting up a test in the Optimizer requires a little technical knowledge. But once you figure it out–and assuming that you have enough traffic to gain some meaningful data–you can really boost your site intelligence and make some more powerful decisions about deploying your site.
Are you utilizing videos for your ecommerce business? It is cheap. It is easy. And it is effective. You would do well to figure out how to incorporate product-related videos into your marketing strategy. Google’s video service, YouTube, is not the only place to post your videos on the web, but it pulls the most traffic of any video hub. A good YouTube approach involves building your own channel and using some of the same optimization practices you would for organic search.
Google has rolled out its own affiliate program called Google Affiliate Network. Google has strict criteria for participating merchants, but if you qualify, you can set up pay-per-conversion campaigns and have access to Google’s large pool of publishers who would be happy to drive traffic to your site in return for an affiliate commission.
There is a range of reasons why utilizing Google Checkout is a good idea. Above all, if you feel that a significant segment of your customers use Google Checkout, you want to be there to offer that option when they shop on your site. In addition, Google Checkout gives you additional exposure through other Google properties, such as Google AdWords and Google Products.
I covered 10 Google services. Surely I left out a few of your favorites. Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments, below.