Shopping Search Update 2004, Part 1

Here's a look at new and interesting developments at the major shopping search and comparison sites that happened during 2004. Today: BizRate/Shopzilla, Froogle, and MSN Shopping. Tomorrow: NexTag, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com/Dealtime and Yahoo Shopping.

Search Engine Watch members have access to additional information about shopping search engines including paid inclusion, paid placement and other promotional programs available to merchants, affiliates and other search marketing professionals.Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

BizRate/Shopzilla

BizRate had a busy year, surpassing Shopping.com to become the second-most trafficked shopping search site after Yahoo Shopping, according to Hitwise. BizRate's self-reported traffic number is 13.2 million unique visitors per month, as of November 16.

The company changed its name to Shopzilla in November. Why the change?

Over the course of the year, the BizRate reengineeered its search technology and beefed up a number of features, in addition to expanding the number of product offerings. "Now that we have a product that deserves more loyalty we decided to give it a handle that's more memorable," said Farhad Mohit, co-founder, chairman and chief of products for BizRate.com.

Both BizRate.com and Shopzilla continue to operate as separate services, supported by the same underlying technology. The site searches more than 28 million product offerings from over 51,000 stores. The product index is updated three times a day. The company is testing a new index with over 45 million products, which will scale to 200 million or more, says Mohit.

A major initiative to improve relevance focused on bolstering query processing, with improved contextual
sensitivity, as well as the ability to better understand weights, measures and other quantitative factors. A new "FlexiBrowse" feature allows shoppers to adjust desired product attributes while browsing, rather than starting over with a new query.

Other new features include:

  • Shopzilla List: Enables shoppers to create and save a personalized list of products and merchant links.
  • Top Picks: Highlights the most popular, top-rated, and best-priced products.
  • Larger images, close-up views, and 360 degree views of popular products.
  • Product demos and videos of popular electronic products.
  • SmartChoice: Highlights the lowest price from a
  • highly rated BizRate.com certified merchant who has the product in-stock.
  • Professional reviews: Commentary from pros covering top selling products.
  • Customer reviews: More than 1 million new customer reviews each month.

BizRate crawls as many merchant sites as possible and includes basic listings at no charge. The company also offers pay-per-click sponsored listings for more prominent placement.

More information on Shopzilla's merchant services is available to Search Engine Watch members.

Froogle

Although Froogle has continued to maintain its "beta" status, Google's shopping search engine has seen continual improvement through the year. Froogle was promoted with its own link on the Google.com home page, replacing the Directory tab/link. In October Google also launched a U.K. version of Froogle, with other country-specific Froogle's to come.

Froogle also added merchant ratings, though these are provided by other shopping search services such as BizRate, NexTag, Pricegrabber and Shopping.com. Froogle calculates its own unique store rating for each merchant, from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) based on these ratings.

Just in time for the holidays, Froogle introduced a shopping list feature that lets you keep track of the products you want to buy. The shopping list is similar to Amazon's "wish list," allowing you to share your wish list or access it from any net connected computer. You can also annotate products with your own notes, and sort your list by price, item or date added.

Other new features include:

  • Grid view: Enables users to view thumbnails of products.
  • Sort by price: Enables users to sort their results by price, from low-to-high or high-to-low
  • Merchant center launch: Enables merchants to more easily submit and monitor their data feeds

Google declined to provide information about the number of merchant sites or number of products that are searchable through the service, or the amount of traffic or unique visitors to Froogle each month.

Listings in Froogle are free to all merchants. Though Google attempts to crawl and include as many online stores and products as possible, the company encourages merchants to submit structured product feeds to assure accurate listings. Google accepts no payment for listings, though merchants can bid on Google AdWords which are included in Froogle result pages for product-related queries.

More information on Google's merchant services is available to Search Engine Watch members.

MSN Shopping

Not much changed at MSN Shopping this year. According to an MSN spokesperson, "MSN Shopping focused on improving the customer experience with the current features."

MSN shopping has more than 6 million products its database from over 200 stores. Microsoft says that MSN Shopping includes more Fortune 500 retailers than any other online shopping portal,including Circuit City, Neiman Marcus, Blue Nile, Red Envelope, Sephora, Dell and JC Penney. The service differentiates itself with exclusive deals and hard-to-find items from premier merchants.

Microsoft declined to reveal specific traffic numbers. However, the company did say that in November 2004, MSN Shopping saw a 30 percent increase in consumer spending and site traffic compared with the same period last year. MSN Shopping also experienced a 48 percent growth in visitor-traffic to merchant-site transfers during the week leading up to Black Friday.

More information on MSN's services for advertisers, including MSN Shopping, is available to Search Engine Watch members.

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Shopping Search Arrives as an Important Vertical discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

Search Engine Watch members have access to additional information about shopping search engines including paid inclusion, paid placement and other promotional programs available to merchants, affiliates and other search marketing professionals.Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Shopping Search Week

Monday: Shopping Search 2004 Overview
Today: Shopping Search Update 2004, Part 1
Wednesday: Shopping Search Update 2004, Part 2
Thursday: Shopping Search Around the World

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

SearchTHIS: A Four Point Cautionary Tale...
iMedia Connection Nov 30 2004 3:40AM GMT
Practice What You Search...
ClickZ Today Nov 30 2004 2:37AM GMT
Beware of Google desktop search...
ZDNet Nov 30 2004 1:34AM GMT
Google Ranks High In Press Release Mentions...
Los Angeles Times Nov 29 2004 10:35PM GMT
Searching for a local angle...
Australian IT Nov 29 2004 7:54PM GMT
Autonomy offers desktop search...
The Register Nov 29 2004 4:02PM GMT
Year in Review: Search Gets Ready to Rumble...
eWeek Nov 29 2004 3:38PM GMT
Google's Orkut puzzles experts...
San Francisco Chronicle Nov 29 2004 3:34PM GMT
Google's copyright problems...
Pandia Nov 29 2004 3:29PM GMT
Striking up digital video search...
CNET News.com Nov 29 2004 12:05PM GMT
Looking for Good Art Online (Image Resources)...
Information Today Nov 29 2004 12:00PM GMT
MoreGoogle.com Loses Its Domain Name...
Search Engine Watch Nov 29 2004 11:48AM GMT
Advanced Search Techniques using Natural Language Processing...
FreePint Nov 29 2004 11:42AM GMT
The Google News Effect...
Poynter Institute Nov 29 2004 8:46AM GMT
Google's English News channel inaccessible in China for more than a week...
Interfax Information Agency Nov 29 2004 8:42AM GMT