15 Comparison Shopping Engine (CSE) Tips for Retailers


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Comparison Shopping Engines (CSE) can be a source of anxiety for ecommerce retailers. However, they are a targeted way to find qualified shoppers. Product feed experts from ROI Revolution share 15 comparison shopping engine tips that retailers can use to make more money on their CSE campaigns.

Learn more about this session at http://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2014/05/15_cse_tips_from_the_retail_traffic_summit_2014.php

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  • 15 Comparison Shopping Engine Tips for Retailers: How to Make the Most of Your CSE Campaigns
  • CSE Tip 1: Write Better Product Titles
    A product title is probably the single most important attribute in your product feed. This attribute is your first chance to tell a searcher and the search engine about your product. Titles need to be written in a way that speaks to both of those audiences.
    When it comes to titles, the top search queries related to that product need to be incorporated into the title as often as possible. Include queries that are known to generate sales so products show more frequently in high conversion volume auctions. Also, include queries that are typically searched earlier in the buying cycle. This is a great way to increase brand awareness. Basically, think of your product title as a long-tail, broad match keyword that will address buyers at all stages of the buying cycle.
    If you want to stand out from the crowd on the shopping engines, just minor tweaks to the title could win you top positions, but more importantly a descriptive title can win a shopper’s click.
  • CSE Tip 2: Increase Description Lengths
    Most retailers write product descriptions that are far too short or do not fully describe the product being sold. The average product description length we see is around 200-300 characters. What few advertisers realize is that most engines index quite a few more characters than that. In fact, Google indexes up to 10,000 characters!
    This means retailers should strongly consider writing longer product descriptions when possible. Ideally, you want your product descriptions to include the product’s size, material, age range, or visual descriptors, plus any other descriptors that will give engines plenty to index when trying to match your product to a searchers query.
    You will notice that the descriptions may overlap with other attribute fields in your product feed. That is okay. You can’t rely that the other attributes will be indexed or allow your product to be shown in a given auction.
  • CSE Tip 3: Tag Your Destination URLs
    In order to get the most detailed product information piped into Google Analytics accounts (or any other analytics package), be sure to tag your product feeds with consistent values across all CSEs. Consistent tagging allows to you benchmark performance of all CSEs at various levels and quickly identify trends that are or aren’t working.
    The source should always defined as the actual CSE being targeted. The medium is usually defined as CPC or CSE.
    The last three _utm tags in this example are where you have some flexibility. These tags present the opportunity to break down products in your feed into different groupings which may include categories, brands or even profit margins. The importance of these tags is to provide further segmentation of your product data in Google Analytics to gain additional visibility into the key performance metrics of products at different levels.
  • CSE Tip 4: Choose Your Categories Wisely
    Choose your product categories wisely within each shopping engine. Each category and subcategory has a different minimum bid requirement and will generally have a different average CPC. Choosing the right category can drastically improve ROI on comparison shopping engines.
    It’s very important to review category taxonomies since they can vary drastically from engine to engine. For example, Amazon PLAs has around 160 categories and subcategories to choose from where as PriceGrabber has over 1,300! Each category and sub-category carries a different minimum CPC, so be sure to choose a category with a minimum CPC that makes sense.
    Constantly check CSE rate cards to make sure you aren’t paying too much for a click. Don’t be scared to remap your product feed if the current categories aren’t achieving the desired average CPC.
  • CSE Tip 5: Exclude Affiliate Traffic From Google & Bings Ads
    Several CSEs partner with Google & Bing. It’s best to exclude partner traffic in both Google and Bing so you have more control over what products are shown for particular search queries. Google and Bing typically carry lower CPCs as well so you will ultimately save money!
  • CSE Tip 6: Include Your Logo
    Including your logo may or may not make sense depending on the CSE. While some engines allow you to submit a logo at no cost, other CSEs charge $0.05 to $0.10 extra per click to have your image shown.
    With the additional cost incurred for the inclusion of logos, it is very important to know the competitive landscape of each CSE’s search results for your products. It is probably worth testing a logo in a space where you could be the only, or one of just a few, retailers using this feature.
    We included two different examples to illustrate this point. These screenshots are taken from top ad placements for different search queries. You will notice that Nike is already bidding on a logo in the first example, so the additional click cost in this example may not make sense. As you can see in the second example, no one is bidding on a logo and every result looks the same. A logo in this search result could be enough to differentiate your ad from the other and ultimately win the click.
    You may also want to test your space by adding in your logo for a segment of your products and see if it affects your performance before rolling out your logo to all results.
  • CSE Tip 7: Send High Quality Images
    We frequently see product feeds that have the same image URL included for hundreds of products. Even worse, we see retailers submit a ‘photo coming soon’ placeholder image. Retailers also submit low resolution images in their product feed and that can make it hard to see product details. All of these examples result in a poor user experience that will ultimately lead to a very low click-through rate and, in some cases, a feed disapproval.
    Shoppers are very visual. A high quality image is probably one of the most effective ways to really catch their attention. However, there are limitations. You cannot watermark or put text on your image. The image needs to be of the exact product you are selling. You may want to have your product on a white background if it makes sense. Using original images will go a long way as well.
  • CSE Tip 8: Design a Bidding Strategy
    One thing most retailers don’t realize is that their bids automatically default to the minimum category or sub-category bids in CSEs. Additionally, bids can also be submitted at the product level for most CSEs. Depending on the products and categories, this should definitely be considered.
    Design an effective, consistent bid strategy across all CSEs by asking yourself:
    Am I raising my bids off of the minimum category bids in every account?
    Am I utilizing a combination of category, subcategory and product level bids (when available)?
    Am I excluding products that could never be profitable based on a very low price tag and historical AOV?
    Answering these questions is critical to successful bidding across any comparison shopping engine.
  • CSE Tip 9: Use Zero Bids in Shopzilla
    Shopzilla introduced a new bid feature called ‘Smart Pricing’ in 2013. The new feature starts all product bids at a minimum of $4.00 and then actual cost-per-click is determined by the auction. Historical conversion rates are also taken into consideration when determining an actual cost-per-click, but Shopzilla’s conversion tracking script must be installed.
    While Smart Pricing is effective in some instances, we also see it causing more bad than good. To prevent Shopzilla click costs from getting out of control, we learned that products can be ‘zero bid’ through the feed or through the actual user interface. Zero-bid products are still active on Shopzilla but receive a much lower position than other products with actual bids. Traffic will fall off with zero bids, but profitability will sky rocket! Strongly consider this option for products with low average order values or historically low conversion rates.
  • CSE Tip 10: Use Below Rate Card Bids in PriceGrabber
    A lot of retailers are aware of ‘penny bid options’ with PriceGrabber. This feature allows you to set your bid to a penny for any or all of your products through either a rule in the UI or via a product level bid through your feed.
    What most people don’t know is that you can actually bid any amount you want on any product in your feed. This means that you could potentially set a five cent or ten cent bid on all products in a certain category, even when the category minimum bid is really $0.35 or $0.40!
    This strategy allows you to show above all of the penny bidders on PriceGrabber while still getting affordable clicks compared to most other engines. Be sure to use a bid type of ‘absolute’ when you choose to test this strategy since a ‘relative’ bid type will actually increase your bid that much above rate card.
  • CSE Tip 11: Create Benchmark Reports
    We all too often see CSE accounts that are supposedly doing well but, once we actually dig into the numbers and calculate Key Performance Indicators, we see that these accounts are bleeding money.
    Creating a weekly and monthly benchmark report by engine at minimum is strongly recommended. Be sure to use a consistent source for click and cost data (each CSE UI) and revenue and sales data (last-touch Analytics) to calculate your performance metrics.
    While we do consider it best practice to install every CSE’s conversion tracking script, we recommend using a different source, such as Google Analytics, to find your sales and revenue data. Each CSE uses its own attribution modeling so pulling sales and revenue data from multiple sources may be misleading.
    We do recommend pulling click and cost data directly from each CSE to accurately reflect actual costs incurred.
  • CSE Tip 12: Don’t Let Your Feeds Expire
    Expiring product feeds or product feeds that have run out of funding lose impressions almost immediately.
    Some CSEs like Shopzilla, PriceGrabber, Nextag and Shopping.com may take days or even weeks to reprocess and crawl an expired feed causing a substantial amount of down-time.
    Expiring feeds in Google will start to slowly lose impressions days before the feed is actually set to expire.
    An account that is inadequately funded will have its listings removed from the search results as soon as the funds reach zero.
    Be sure to check account funding frequently and upload your feeds on a regular schedule to prevent down-time from ever occurring.
    Also be sure to check the product count in your feed. Did you upload all that you meant to upload?
  • CSE Tip 13: Be Patient with New Feeds
    We all too often see retailers test a new engine, wait for a week or two and then pause their feed because it didn’t have an immediate return.
    Advertisers that submit their feed to a CSE like Nextag or PriceGrabber often assume it will have an immediate spike in sales and traffic. Unfortunately, the CSEs outside of Google Shopping take time to build momentum. The truth is that some CSEs take one to three weeks to fully process a product feed and start accumulating enough data to actually make informed bid decisions or product exclusions.
    Our recommended strategy is to send as many products to each engine as possible, then be patient. It takes a while to build enough data to identify areas of optimization. In addition, each CSE has to index thousands of products in your feed and map those products out to search queries.
    So how do you determine when a product feed has been running long enough before pulling it down? Try to use benchmark data as often as possible. Certain metrics like click-through rate and average CPC are great early indicators as to how a new feed will actually perform.
  • CSE Tip 14: Don’t Set it & Forget it
    Each comparison shopping engine requires hands on optimizations to make them truly profitable. We recommend working within each of your engines on a daily basis. If that is not realistic, we’d make sure you are looking at your accounts at minimum once a week, but that is not ideal if you are trying to make each engine profitable.
  • CSE Tip 15: Pay Attention to Data Quality Warnings
    Most CSEs have some level of error reporting available. Google provides two levels of error reporting via the Data Quality menu in the Google Merchant Center, and the View Warnings link appears beside a feed when errors are present. Amazon PLAs have inventory reports which detail any issue causing product disapprovals.
    Be sure to constantly check these reports because they are often times good indicators of a looming feed disapproval or account suspension. They may also notify you of a site issue you weren’t aware of that is affecting more than just your product feed. A good example of this might be images that stopped working or redirects that were defined incorrectly.
    The main take-away is be proactive and always check that your product feed is approved and active in each comparison shopping engine.
  • For more information about how to improve your Comparison Shopping Engine performance, request a Free CSE Review.
  • 15 Comparison Shopping Engine (CSE) Tips for Retailers

    1. 1. 15 Comparison Shopping Engine Tips for Retailers How to make the most of your CSE campaigns.
    2. 2. CSE TIP #1: Write Better Product Titles • Include top search queries when possible
    3. 3. CSE TIP #2: Increase Description Lengths
    4. 4. CSE TIP #3: Tag Your Destination URLs Consider: • UTM_Source = CSE Name (eg. Shopzilla) • UTM_Medium = CPC • UTM_Campaign = Brand or Category • UTM_Ad_Content = Product Type • UTM_Keyword = Product Code
    5. 5. CSE TIP #4: Choose Your Categories Wisely • Minimum CPCs vary category to category
    6. 6. CSE TIP #5: Exclude Affiliate Traffic From Google & Bing Ads
    7. 7. CSE TIP #6: Include Your Logo
    8. 8. CSE TIP #7: Send High Quality Images  Increase file size  Consider white backgrounds  Find alternative views  Use custom images  Don’t use placeholders
    9. 9. CSE TIP #8: Design A Bidding Strategy • Several different ways to bid in CSEs
    10. 10. CSE TIP #9: Zero Bids in Shopzilla
    11. 11. CSE TIP #10: Below Rate Card Bids in PriceGrabber • Submit ‘below rate card’ bids via the feed or UI • Use bids with a bid type value of ‘absolute’
    12. 12. CSE TIP #11: Create Benchmark Reports • Monitor your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)!! – Combine clicks & costs reported from each CSE w/ sales & revenue from Google Analytics
    13. 13. CSE TIP #12: Don’t Let Your Feeds Expire • Feeds expire due to: – Inadequate budgets/Insufficient funds – Feeds not be uploaded frequently enough – Expired credit card information
    14. 14. CSE TIP #13: Be Patient With New Feeds • Let the robots do their job!
    15. 15. CSE TIP #14: Don’t Set It & Forget It
    16. 16. CSE TIP #15: Pay Attention to Data Quality Warnings • Frequently check Google Merchant Center • Look for uncategorized products in all CSEs • Run data quality reports when available
    17. 17. Free CSE Review Get a personalized CSE review contact Mike at feeds@roirevolution.com Do CSEs make you feel like this guy?