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Google Enhances Froogle, Offers New Ad and Search Features

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Google has beefed up its Froogle shopping search engine, introduced two new "quick links" for searchers, and has added new features to its AdWords program.

Though still in beta, Froogle now sports an updated look and feel on results pages. The "sort by price" feature has also been fixed, using both data from merchant-submitted product feeds as well as Google's own crawl of the web.

Google.com users will now also notice three Froogle result links appearing at the top of product-specific query results, similar to the way news links are included for news-oriented queries. These results are focused on specific products, for searches on product names, not categories. Queries need to be very specific to appear in main Google search results.

These links are simple, sparse text links, unlike the more detailed product descriptions and photos returned in Froogle. Clicking the bottom-most link automatically re-runs your query on Froogle.

The company also says that you can now access Froogle directly through the Google Toolbar. Ostensibly, you'll find a 'Search Froogle' icon by clicking on the Options button in the Google Toolbar, under the More tab. I saw this option on only one of three computers with the toolbar installed, so you may need to wait until the next time your Google toolbar automatically updates itself to do this.

Google is also now actively encouraging merchants to take advantage of its free feed program, according to Craig Nevill-Manning, Senior Staff Research Scientist & Engineering Manager. Though Google continues to crawl the web looking for product information, using the feed allows merchants to provide Google with much more accurate information that can be updated at any time.

Google has no plans to charge merchants a fee for submitting products via the feed. Instead, the company will monetize Froogle by displaying ads from other merchants on result pages.

Two new features that Google product manager Marissa Mayer calls "quick links" allow you search by number, and get weather conditions at U.S. airports.

The search by number feature lets you directly enter UPS tracking numbers, FedEx tracking numbers, U.S. patent numbers, FAA airplane registration numbers and FCC equipment IDs. The topmost link in your results will be a link that takes you directly to databases that have specific information pertaining to the number.

For UPS and FAA numbers, simply enter the number and you'll get the link. The others require you to enter the type of search before the number, for example "fedex 999999999999", "patent 5123123" or "fcc B4Z-34009-PIR".

For weather conditions at U.S. airports, just enter the three letter airport code, followed by the word airport -- for example, "den airport." The direct link takes you to a page of airport status information provided by the FAA's Air Traffic Control System Command Center.

New Google AdWords features for advertisers include a Visual click-through rate status indicator on the campaign management page indicates how well keywords are performing. The billing summary page has been redesigned to be easier to use, and larger advertisers with contracted spends now see details of account budgets and percentage spent to date.

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