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Comparison Shopping Engine Holiday Rate Changes

‘Tis the season!

For e-commerce stores, that simply means being aware of the annual tradition of comparison shopping engines hiking up their costs per click. In an effort to capture a bit of their own holiday glee, CSE’s like Pricegrabber, NexTag and Shopzilla raise their rates by as much as 25%.

How does that work?

Cost Per Click – Bid Model:

If you list products in NexTag, under the TOYS category, your normal minimum bid is 25 cents per click.  During the holiday shopping season, NexTag increases their pricing by 25%.  So the new minimum cost per click is 32 cents per click.  Now, you may not be affected by this at all.  If the bids you set on your products already start higher than that minimum bid, you may not feel any difference in spent budget.  However, the increase in minimum cost per click does bring lower positioned competitors higher on the results page.  Be aware and adjust accordingly.

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It’s November… Do you Know Where Your Products Are?

The holiday shopping season is already underway.  Long gone is the time that  holiday shopping kicked off the day after Thanksgiving.  Retail shelves are already full of holiday offerings.  What is amazing is that shopping carts are already full of holiday products.

I ventured into the local Walmart on Halloween fully expecting aisles full of families gathering that last bag of candy in preparation for evening festivities. I was truly shocked. The gardening section of the store had already been transformed into the North Pole, complete with fully decorated Christmas trees.  I shrugged it off and finished my own last minute Halloween shopping. Flabbergasted was I,  when it came time to check out.  The family just ahead in line had a full cart, mostly of  Christmas tree and trimmings.  Being the inquisitive type I am,  I asked the matriarch of the family if she thought it was too early for holiday shopping.  I got an answer that may be the perspective of the whole country,  “It is early, but we have the cash now.  Who knows about December.”

So insert your favorite cliche here.  Mine seems to be:  “It is what it is.”

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Unusual E-Commerce Product of the Day

When a person, such as I, researches comparison shopping engines like Google Product Search as much as I do, one is bound to come upon those special products that makes you scratch your head in consumer wonderment.

Over the next few months, I will bring you prime examples of just those types of products.  Please… (and I really mean this) subscribe to our Side Tracked section here and offer up your findings as well so we can all share in a moment of hmmm.

That being said, the product I offer up, in this the inaugural edition of Side Tracked, was found using Google Product Search.  The keyword was Mahogany Wood Tribute. What made this a stand alone front runner for the first edition of Side Tracked was not the keyword, though the result was a surprise. It was not the merchant or even the product itself.  It was the whole package.  It was the simple fact that Overstock.com really DOES sell just about everything.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Majestic Mahogany Wood Casket by Star Legacy Funeral Network , as featured at Overstock.com.  Overstock.com, where merchants are invited to liquidate excess inventory through the Internet.

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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.

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Social Networks & Social Media Marketing: The Chicken or the Egg?

I find it curious that there are many “experts” of social media marketing and social networking that never seem to make the connection between the two.  It makes me wonder if I am missing something.

I have read posts by the very knowledgeable Chris Brogan who have likened the development of your social network to a secret fight club (see post at http://www.chrisbrogan.com/the-secret-fight-club/) and pointed out a successful network is one made of real people, with real connections. There is never a mention of how to apply these networks of people to a social media marketing endeavor.

I have also read Erik Qualman’s post, Be Stubborn With Your Social Media Vision, but Flexible With Your Plan on SearchEngineWatch.com, who speaks to the process of developing a vision of social media marketing that is not wavering and allowing the social media plan to be flexible.  There is never a mention of the development of a social network.

Now, I understand that developing a social network is part of a social media marketing plan. I also understand that the reasons for developing a social network are not dependant on continuation to execution of a social media marketing plan. Since a social media marketing plan is dependent on a robust social network, why do we consistently see people explaining  the importance of the social media marketing vision and plan, but never any reference to the acquisition of a robust social network for business?

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Pay Per Click Fraud Leaves Internet Marketers Looking for Better Solutions

In the New York Times this week, Susanna Hamner relayed some great information to readers about the true effects of click fraud, related to pay per click advertising. In her article, Hamner focuses on the automotive retailer industry and points to a substantial number of advertising pay per clicks that originate in locations where these retailers are not doing business, such as Bulgaria and Indonesia.

One point that Hamner makes soundly, is that Google and Yahoo differ in reporting to their advertising clients the percentage of fraud to non-fraud that is really occurring. Google reports that the amount of true click fraud is hovering near 1% and professionals from Yahoo indicate that number is closer to 15%. The variance in those numbers is more than alarming and should be considered negligent. It is time for PPC companies, such as Google and Yahoo, to provide solutions to the click fraud dilemma.

Marketing professionals could use this opportunity to explore other and less expensive alternatives to PPC. Hamner points out that PPC is the only division of internet marketing to actually grow in the last year, despite the rest of the national economic decline.

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How To Optimize Feeds To Maximize Your Exposure In Shopping Engine Results

Each day millions of online shoppers turn to comparison shopping engines (CSEs) to compare prices, read reviews, research products and make buying decisions. While comparison shopping engines don’t sell or ship the products featured on their sites, they advertise products from merchants to a diverse online audience. Merchants are using CSEs in a down economy to capture shoppers looking for deals. To take advantage of this growing advertising space and get more exposure than your competitors, you need a product data feed—and even more importantly, you must optimize the feed to gain maximum exposure in CSE search results.

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New Rules of Engagement

Marketing Insights from the High Seas It’s October, 2008, I am officially on vacation. Ten exclusive nights on a cruise ship bound for the Mexican Riviera with nothing much to do other than catch the warm Pacific Ocean breezes, swim, eat, read, relax… and …somehow figure out a way to

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