Tricks and Treats: 3 Important Google Updates for the Holiday Season
Halloween is right around the corner. This begs the question: Have you seen any Christmas decorations up yet? They seem to go up earlier each year.
Halloween is the start of three very busy months for retailers. This year, eRetailers (or you, the SEO pro who manages their sites) need to be aware of some changes. Specifically, Google recently made several changes to their:
· Shopping Campaigns
· Product Listing Ads (PLA)
If your client uses Google Shopping, here’s what you need to know:
Shopping Assortment Report
In early October, Google released a report entitled “Shopping Assortment Report in Merchant Center gives retailers insight into demand for popular products they don’t stock.” As the title implies, this is a great way for merchants to discover any popular retailers which they don’t stock – but probably should.
The Shopping Assortment Report lets merchants access a database of the top 100 items consumers are buying. You can easily filter this report by category. This allows you to find the products which apply to your business (or, more accurately, your client’s business – but you get the idea).
The report provides more than just a list of products. You can also use the SAR to:
· Track product price points
· Track holiday activity with a look-back window of up to 14 days
This is a useful tool for more than just retailers. The SAR gives you a list of popular products. You can use these products as keyword phrases to hopefully catch of their search traffic.
For instance, if you own a home decorating business, you can recommend some of the more popular furniture items on the list. Not only will this help with any affiliate marketing, but it’ll also draw traffic from people who have already bought the item and want help. The idea of creating a “user guide” for any popular products related to your industry will work for just about any site.
Promotional Text is No Longer in the Land of the Living
Just in time for Halloween, Promotional Text is now dead. Promotional Text is the line of text found in Product Listing Ads. While this text was optional, many retailers used it to announce a variety of info including
· Sale prices
· Free shipping
· Temporary deals
The promotional text was removed at the end of September. The replacement? An automated extension which is pulled from both the Merchant Center and the feed.
There’s not much to do about this change expect to be aware of it. It’s not necessarily bad news. Now, retailers will have less manual customization. You also want to make sure you optimize your feed with appropriate content since this is where a lot of the text is now drawn from.
If you want to further customize the shopping experience, additional extensions can be used for the following callouts:
· Merchant promotions (discounts, etc.)
· Product ratings
· Ratings (positive ones you want to highlight)
· Store certifications
So, even though the promotional text is dead, there are still viable alternatives which let you communicate with your customers in essentially the same way as before.
Local Inventory and Mobile
As always during the holiday season, brick-and-mortar stores have to embrace the online habits of customers or risk becoming irrelevant. Fortunately, many of these changes help the offline retailer.
Shoppers who search online will now find local inventory ads. These ads highlight both store and product details including:
· Item availability
· Item price (including sales)
· Information on the specific store (hours, location, etc.)
Google is now prioritizing local inventory ads. This means when customers search, they’ll find results tailored even more to their location. For retailers, local search engine optimization is more important than ever before.
Local search options for the desktop user can sometimes feel a little sparse, especially compared to the options for a mobile user (since the mobile user is more likely to be close to the store). This change attempts to fix that by giving retailers the option to display “store only” products.
A product only available in the store is often a great incentive for a customer to make an in-person shopping trip. “Store only” disclaimers are especially useful during the holiday whenever:
· Online stock runs out
· Shipping dates pass
· A shopper needs to buy an extremely last-minute gift
Mobile shoppers will also see some changes this year.
A new enhancement to ads now allows users to swipe and reveal an extended product view, more detailed product specs, overall availability and additional information. No matter if the user purchases the product online or in-person, this expanded product view gives the user a lot of new info.
Embrace the New
Changes to Google’s Shopping Campaigns can be frustrating. After all, it does mean more work for you – and there’s not a ton of time before the shopping season really ramps up. But, overall, the experience has been enhanced for the user.
Anything which makes shopping easier for the consumer is going to be good news for retailers. But your site must be ready and accommodating for the influx of traffic. This includes making sure your site:
· uses appropriate keywords for the products sold
· has a clean, intuitive navigation
· has accurate contact information and maps (generally for brick-and-mortar locations)
As with any other type of advertisement, the Product Listing Ads are not a “one and done” operation. You’ve got to constantly monitor the behavior of both customers and your competition. Optimizing your programs across Google Shopping will help you stay one step ahead.
This year, Black Friday falls on Friday, November 27th. This starts what is typically the busiest shopping weekend of the year. If your client is a brick-and-mortar store, you want to make sure their online presence provides everything potential customers will need, even if the deals are only available in-store.
Cyber Monday follows on November 30th. This is the online equivalent of Black Friday, where shoppers can usually find great online deals. These can be deals at stores which exist only online (like Amazon) or stores which have both an online and brick-and-mortar presence (like Target).
The holiday season can be chaotic and confusing. But with proper preparation – and knowledge of the new Google Shopping changes – you and your clients should be able to deliver. So don’t be scared of the holiday season. This year might just be the merriest one ever!