Talking about product feeds definitely isn't the best conversation icebreaker. Even among online marketers, discussing product feeds will likely get you a lot of one word answers and checking of sports scores on iPhones. However, the value of feeds is often overlooked.
Product feeds are so imperative because, quite often, these are the source of data for your Web site, shopping engines, search ads, and more. By thinking of these feeds as a representation of everything you're trying to sell, rather than a geeky issue for IT departments, you may find many untapped opportunities. Or, if this helps, you can even think of your product database as the nourishing spring from which the woodland creatures of search marketing drink -- just don't admit that to anyone.
Check Your Data
If you send your product feed off to an agency, make sure it contains product attributes that might be of interest to a marketer. If your customers are searching by color, or size, then by all means include that data.
One big stumbling block to keep in mind is the limitations of your database. Your IT team may come back with complications, such as data being stuck in legacy systems, data not broken out into useable parts, size limitations, or other issues.
Database problems can be major fixes, so push hard to get IT support on these issues. Your Web site may be plagued by the same issues, doubling the need for improvements. Alternatively, you might be able to get a partner to help with workarounds, for example by combining files from multiple sources.
Search Marketing Applications
For comparison shopping engines, product feeds are obviously needed to display all your products and prices. Whether you send these directly to the engines, or to a third party to optimize and manage, they have an impact on the revenue driven to you through shopping engines. Consider all of these issues:
- Do the data feeds contain all the attributes possible?
- How well optimized is the copy?
- How well categorized are the products?
For search engine optimization (SEO), a product feed can be used to find new products to optimize, and monitor the total volume of products and trends by category. An SEO specialist can look for better ways to dynamically build the page titles and meta descriptions across the site, or optimize products on an individual basis. Product names, copy for bullets, and other information can be improved more quickly with a feed.
Pay-per-click (PPC) search ads can also benefit from utilizing product feeds. Depending on their capabilities, paid search teams may be able to dynamically create, update, or delete product-specific ads as inventories change. Your team may even be able to feed newly optimized data back into your system, improving your on-site search and product pages.
And that's just your products. You may have databases on store locations and other data of interest to marketers and vendors.
To start, look at what you've got available, how your data is really put together, where you can improve what you send, and talk to your search team about how they can improve on what you have.