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Just Create a Data Feed… Yeah Right.

Product data feed optimization is simple.  All you have to do is figure out if you can generate a feed from within your e-commerce platform that will perfectly map your product’s attributes to accepted and required attribute fields of each comparison shopping engine.  If that can’t be done, you need to find a way to gather the required information and set up a feed on your own.  The majority of CSE’s will accept a data feed in one of three major formats, a CSV file, TXT Tab delimited file or XML format.  The most common is a CSV file, though Google Products does not accept CSV files.  Automated solutions that pull needed information from your e-commerce site are a plus, so you don’t end up spending hours redoing files when you update simple things like pricing. Generating files and getting the correct file types can be a hassle. XML requires a lot of understanding of versions and schemas and RSS versus ATOM.  It is also difficult and time consuming to update without the proper software and know-how.

If your site offers more than a hundred products, you may have already experienced the frustration of trying to create a usable feed by hand.  The required attribute fields and mapping of information is a task, even if you have a template to work with… even if you know what you are doing.  Try that with 3000 products or even 300,000 products.  It’s too much.  There has to be a better way.

So you may look at ways to give this task to someone else.  Surely there are people and services that do this data feed stuff all the time.  Well, there is.

Frustrated account owners may start to see shopping engine dashboards through not-so-rose colored glasses.
Frustrated users may start to see shopping engine dashboards through not-so-rose colored glasses.

Here is my take on it.

You can spend a little money on feed generation software and plug-ins for your e-commerce platform.  There are some good ones available, but many times you will be limited by the fields that are required by different comparison shopping engines.  Frankly, you still have to have a pretty good idea of what you are doing within those programs to be able to work your way through the process of creating a data feed.  These software programs do not help you with statistical data, however.

You can spend a bunch of money on online services that will format a feed for individual comparison shopping engines and manage those channels for you.  But you still need to provide a current feed of your products to make it work and you still don’t receive a quality feed optimization, geared towards relevancy by keyword. Often, you can get a little bit of statistical data that will help you determine your CSE ROI.

Maybe you bite the bullet, mortgage your home and spend tons of money with professional services geared towards high volume and high profile e-commerce merchants.  Those services will provide you total solutions.  They can create a feed for you.  They can mildly optimize your feeds with minor adjustments.  These services will send your feed to every CSE you can sign up for and manage that channel completely.  The statistical data you will receive from them is incredible.  You will be able to calculate your ROI, predict the trends for the future, discern which products need to be removed from feeds and help you manage the bottom line.

All they want in return is a portion of your business.

These programs operate on a fee + % basis.  The more sales you generate from CSE channels, the more you pay them.  Often, these programs begin at 10% of your sales from CSE channels and a monthly management cost.  These fees are in addition to the operating clicks of the comparison shopping engines you have active accounts with. You will get the readership as they are very good at spending your money. I don’t know about your business, but I cannot afford 10 + margin points right off the top of my sales.

Where is the middle ground?  How does an e-commerce company get the formatted feed to represent themselves properly and predominantly in competitive comparison search engines without breaking the bank?

I think it is this:

Invest some time into understanding what you really need.  Figure out how your e-commerce platform can export a product data feed, if it can at all.  There may be a plug-in available for your platform.  Next, talk to a company providing real data feed optimization.  They can assist you with any questions you may have regarding your feed and the way to best deploy one on most of the comparison shopping engines. Ask lots and lots of questions, until you fully understand the task at hand. Employ the company with a focus on and background in optimization.  Optimization is what gets qualified readers to your site. Qualified readers place orders.  One last thing to never forget.  The best ROI is going to come from Google Product Search. There is outrageous readership potential (if you are optimized for your keywords properly). No listing fees. No click fees.  No brainer.

That’s my take.

I’m Linda Bateman and I’m here to help.

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