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GUEST COMMENT The next best thing to a holiday miracle: recovering product search traffic in a Google Shopping world

by Melody King

While some retailers have embraced Google Shopping—which replaces free product listings with paid ads, just in time for the holidays—many companies who relied on Google Product Search traffic are feeling a bit Scrooged.

If you’re thinking that your options are limited to getting in on the bidding (at a cost too early to estimate) or to forego much of your anticipated search traffic (at a cost too great to imagine), I bring good tidings. There is a third option — cost-effectively bolstering your position and visibility through video.

Compared to other media, video makes up a very small portion of the search results pie. And because Google tends to give video results page-one placement, this is a big opportunity to rise to the top of the rankings and win back the traffic you stand to lose. At the same time, you’ll be offering shoppers a richer way to interact with your products, further improving your ability to make a sale.

Even if you do participate in placing products on Google Shopping, video can complement your efforts, as these new paid ads won’t necessarily give you the exposure you’ve enjoyed in the past. In fact, I anticipate that video will provide much greater value for your investment. After all, each approach includes direct and indirect costs that must be weighed to determine your return.

Google Shopping: The price of ads will be determined by bidding, similar to keyword bids. Competition will be fierce for this year’s popular or trendy items. In addition, the use of data feeds and a new product placement structure will require a high level of technical management.

Video: The cost of automated video development using existing photography and assets is surprisingly low. Indirect costs include nominal time to create the videos—uploading imagery and text—and index them for search.

You also have to factor in the savings—you don’t pay per click with video as you do with Google listings.

In addition, video offers critical advantages over other types of listings. We know that people are particularly drawn to video content. Google has tapped into this by including video thumbnails with listings and placing them at the front of the line. Even better, these thumbnail images are shown larger than product images, drawing attention away from just about anything else competing for views.

What’s more, as consumers become aware that Google Shopping equals paid advertising, they may skim right past them. Google is working on new ad formats and different image sizes, but they are all clearly marked as sponsored. Many shoppers hold organic results in higher esteem, looking for listings in the third and later positions to ensure they aren’t being spoon-fed an ad.

I’m looking forward to seeing how campaigns perform this holiday, and reporting back on how various approaches pan out. In the meantime, we still have a great deal of relevant learning to guide the effective use of video as a search and conversion tool.

This Season: A Video Strategy that Shines

There are product videos, and there are product videos that convert. Here are a few ideas for making sure you invest in the latter.

Be sure your assets are indexed

To get started, follow Google’s instructions for creating a video sitemap. Submit it to Google, and don’t forget Bing.  Both accept the Google XML video protocol. The great news? Video links get indexed instantly, so your efforts can immediately begin to pay off.

Use thumbnails as billboards
Create versions of product videos that include promotional messages such as ‘Free Shipping’ or ‘Save an Extra 10%.’  I recommend always selecting the thumbnail images for your videos, so Google doesn’t choose them for you. When you incorporate promotional text, choose these frames for thumbnail images, to give your promotions even greater weight and convey a sense of urgency. (For tips on including thumbnail images with your video sitemap, click here.)

Let customers do some of the heavy lifting
Customers love to share their experiences, and customers trust one another over anyone else. So why not invite submission of product reviews and how-to videos, then post them to your product pages and social networking sites? Don’t forget to enable searching. If your customers need a little push, stage a contest or offer a discount, as eyewear website EyeBuyDirect.com does. You can even conduct A/B tests for user-generated videos to determine which ones drive greater conversions. 

Reach out through YouTube
YouTube and Google reward activity on your YouTube channel, so encourage users to comment and share. And be sure to comment on other high-profile YouTube channels. In addition, make sure you’ve include a link to your website in the profile section. This backlink can help further enhance SEO.

Promote a spirit of sharing
It is the holidays, after all. Make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity to share. Add social sharing links in your site’s video player overlay, so it’s easy for visitors to share your videos with their social networks. You can also post your videos on your social pages, driving traffic back to your website.

Don’t let Google Shopping leave you out in the cold. Take steps today to be at the top of everyone’s online shopping lists.

Melody King is VP of marketing, Treepodia