A great article from Practical eCommerce on Google search changes - even if it is already a month old!
May 25, 2010 · by Bill Hartzer
Google has made some major changes to its search results recently, adding more options for searchers. These are not changes to search algorithms, which determine the websites that show up, and where. Rather, the new changes give searchers options that allow them to tailor the type of search results that they see. To help you navigate through these changes and what it really means for your ecommerce business, let's look at sample search results and focus on what your site can do to appear in them. For example, let's focus on one keyword, "toys."
If you look at the search results for the keyword "toys," you will see three columns. On the left side, under the Google logo, there are several different types of search results, such as "Everything," "Maps," "Images," "Shopping," "More," and then "All results." The center column shows the organic search results, and the right side shows Google's AdWords. If you sell toys, then it would be pretty difficult to compete with the large retailers, such as Toysrus.com, Etoys.com, and Walmart.com. However, here is where it gets interesting: It's these other "categories" or "types" of search results where a smaller business that sells toys could compete.
In the search results for "toys," Google has decided that I am in the Killeen, Texas area, so it is showing a Google Map that points-out the local businesses that sell toys in the area. Let's look at the Google Maps results.
If you click on the "Maps" link in the middle of the page you will see a map of your current location (Killeen, Texas in my case), and you should also see local search results for your location.
So, how do you show up in this search result? There are quite a few "tips" to doing local search-engine optimization, but some include making sure you claim your listing in Google Places and including your keyword in your business name. Also, keep in mind that some of the local search algorithms might include mentions of your business name and address. So building more mentions of both of those on other websites (similar to link building, but not actually "linking") will help, as well.
When it comes to the image search results as shown above, it is still pretty competitive for a lot of high-traffic search phrases such as "toys." However, there is a good opportunity to focus on appearing in the search results for product names with "long tail" keyword phrases that include two, three, or more keywords. The key to ranking well in the image search results is still like the organic search results: links to the actual image files tend to help out a lot. I have been successful in the past by allowing other websites to "hotlink" to certain images. If you allow this, then I would make sure that your watermark or web address is added on the photo.
For the shopping search results, make sure that you are feeding your products to Google Shopping. There is an "information for merchants" area there, where you can start a data feed. If your website does not currently automatically generate a shopping feed of your products, this can be done manually. You can create this feed of all of your products, product descriptions, links, and prices in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, save it, and manually upload the file. If you have an ecommerce website and have not taken advantage of Google Shopping then you are definitely missing out on more sales.
Google has specific categories of data that must be included in every shopping feed, so you'll need to read the FAQ or help section. Otherwise, frequent updates to the feed (daily, if possible) and links to your specific products from other websites will help. (For more on Google Shopping, see "Google Product Search: Creating a Data Feed," one of my previous articles here on PEC.)
"Latest" Search Results
Another search option that Google has added recently is the option to see the "latest" search results. This is where all of us have a good chance to compete with even the large retailers for keyword phrases such as "toys." Look at the example on the left.
These "latest" search results, for many keyword phrases, will scroll in "real time." If you mention a keyword on a social media website, for example, then most likely it will show up at some point very quickly in search results. This will give you a chance to "rank well" for that keyword phrase, at least for a few seconds or even a few minutes, depending on how many other people are mentioning that keyword phrase. On the right side, you'll notice the "top links" for that keyword phrase. This is a good opportunity to do some "link building" for your website, to get some additional mentions of your business and a link to your website. You may end up with some immediate traffic and sales, and, in the long run, you'll end up with some more "on topic" links to your website.
With the addition of the latest search results, Google has given all of an opportunity to rank well, at least for some period of time. If your message is right and you combine some social media accounts along with some blog posts on your website and even updates on your Facebook account on a regular basis, then this is a terrific opportunity to begin to drive traffic and sales to your website.