SEO for start-ups

SEO for start-ups

Tuesday, 24 May 2011 16:21

Google Shopping and the death of comparison shopping engines

Recently, Google introduced Google Shopping to the Australian site. In the US and UK, this has been known in the past as Google Base or Google Product, which are now all accessed from the unified Google Merchant Center.


So what’s so interesting about this new entry?


For years, those in the SEO industry have known that Google’s algorithm in Australia is at least three to four years behind the advancements that have been made in the US.


One of the classic examples is how much comparison shopping engines like Getprice and have featured so highly in the Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPs).


However, in (US), comparison shopping engines (CSEs) have been algorithmically weeded out of the top results for product specific and category specific searches, areas which CSEs have typically been strong in.


So why hasn’t this change rolled out in Australia yet? One theory is that there was no replacement system such as a Google Base equivalent here in Australia yet.


However, with the introduction of Google Shopping, it will only be the next logical step for Google to dominate the space once filled by local comparison shopping sites.


Google’s intent is clear regarding comparison shopping sites. We’ve seen this with the Google ‘Farmer’ Algorithm update earlier this year, where competitors to Google Shopping have seen a significantly large decrease in rankings and traffic as a result.


So how is this significant to small business SEO? Well, for one, the ability for CSEs to leverage their “weight” in the SERPs is continually diminishing. We may no longer have to pay them to ensure that our product gets visibility in a competitive space.


Instead, SMEs can directly list their product via the Google Merchant Center to gain direct exposure instead of paying for each click passed from comparison shopping engines.


Also, many sites are unhappy about how working with some comparison shopping engines is counter intuitive because for some products, they merely compete with your own rankings in the SERPs.


It isn’t uncommon to see product pages ranking for specific terms at the top, only to be ousted by a shopping comparison site.


Most SMEs don’t have web pages that have the sort of domain authority as CSEs and the kind of SEO practices we've seen at some CSEs leave little to be desired (keyword spamming, shady link building, etc). We’ve seen our own listings being outranked at times by the very CSEs we work with.


Why should we be paying to give CSEs information about our own product so that they can then charge us for the traffic we are otherwise getting for free?


So here are some practical takeaways to do:

  1. Make sure you get your product listed through the Google Merchant Center.
  2. If you are currently working with CSEs, make sure that they aren’t competing with you alone for positions on the SERPs. Only work with those that are getting you traffic from sources you can't get for free by yourself.
Wai Hong Fong is co-founder and chieftain at OZHut, a multi-niche online retailer that is passionate about truly serving people in the online space. He was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2011 StartupSmart Awards.

Wai Hong also blogs on his journey as an entrepreneur with specific interests in SEO and Online Retail. You can contact Wai Hong via twitter at @waihonger

Comments (2)

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Wai wait a second...isn't Google Shopping a CSE? It's funny that this article is titled "the death of comparison shopping engines." I can see where you're going, but to declare them dead is somewhat like Nas declaring Hip Hop to be dead in the United States. It might be different than it was a few years ago, but it's nevertheless still important for retailers to leverage these marketing channels.

There's right ways and wrong ways to go about leveraging them, which is far too complex to explain in full in a single comment, but with proper management a mixture of both paid and free listings in SERPs is the most powerful combo, just like a mixed stock portfolio.
CPC_Andrew , May 25, 2011
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I don't disagree with you there Andrew that Google is somewhat of a CSE. And yes, it is important for SOME retailers to consider the CSEs out there at the moment.

What this article and website is focused on however is startups, typically within highly niche categories. Our audience is unlikely to be dealing with consumer electronics or mainstream goods like TVs etc which gain the most benefit from being listed on a typical CSE here in Australia like getprice.

As such, the take away message for readers should be to carefully evaluate their online strategy with regards to CSE, to ensure that they are not creating a competitor for themselves especially when they already dominate a space.

However, I've also put forward my view that if Google is against you then its only a matter of time, I think, before something eventually dies out. To further clarify this, I refer you to the Official Google adwords blog where in referring to websites with a low quality score, comparison shopping sites is among them.
a guest , May 31, 2011
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