How To Make Money With Comparison Shopping Engines
When you're an online business owner, attracting qualified traffic - people who are already interested in buying your product or service - is fundamental to your success.
An increasingly popular way to get that cheap, qualified traffic you're always after comes in the form of "comparison pricing engines" or simply shopping engines. And they're becoming more valuable all the time as consumers become more confident buying products on the Internet and become savvier about researching their options online.
Shopping engines are like search engines, except that instead of just finding information, they are designed to help shoppers locate the products or services they are looking for on the Internet. In much the same way as search engines provide searchers with links to Web sites, shopping bot sites list specific product information so shoppers can compare features and prices.
These types of web sites look for information to index - in this case product and pricing information and direct links to the corresponding sites where consumers can make a purchase. They may use a spider to index information and therefore can sometimes be referred to as shopping bots.
Comparison pricing engines are popular with consumers, as bots allow them to easily compare prices of the product they're looking for - saving them the time they'd spend looking through lots of individual Web sites to find the best price. Some shopping bots also allow consumers to leave reviews for others to read about particular products.
And because shopping bots cater to people who are actively looking to buy, the traffic your Web site can attract through them is extremely targeted ... and potentially very valuable.
Of course, this means that shopping bots can be an excellent way for you to promote your products, allowing your potential customers to find out exactly what you have to offer - and how to get it.
Through shopping bots, you, the online retailer, can reap the benefits of:
1. Relatively cheap, or even free, listings
2. Exposure to consumers who are actively searching for your products and who are in a buying frame of mind
3, Direct links from your listing to the relevant product page on your Web site - not just your home page
Popular shopping engines include Google Products, Yahoo! Shopping and Shopzilla (formerly BizRate). And with the release of Pinpoint Shopping by major Internet player AOL, it's clear that shopping bots are here to stay - meaning they should be an essential part of your Internet marketing plan.
The benefits of registering with a shopping bot site
Shopping bots are a cheap (or, in some cases, free) way to gain "extra" exposure for your product. In fact, it is often easier and cheaper to rank at the top of competitive categories in the shopping bots than in the search engines.
Most shopping bot sites will display ads to potential customers in an appealing, easy-to -understand format, making these sites increasingly popular places for savvy consumers to conduct their product research.
If your product or service is competitively priced or offers buyers a unique or compelling benefit, and if you have a well-written ad, distinguishing yourself from your competition will be a piece of cake.
Best of all, though, shopping bots can be a great place for business owners struggling to stand out in competitive markets to capture the eyeballs of qualified potential customers - and as these potential buying customers are often in full-on buying mode, the return on investment can be significant.
How to get your site registered with shopping bots
Though one shopping bot site differs slightly from the next, registering your Web site and products with most of them is usually pretty easy. Here are the basic rules you need to follow to get your ad placed on a shopping bot site:
Take a look at the top shopping bot sites to figure out which sites' formats are right for you. (While there are dozens of shopping bots to choose from, there are really only a few that get enough traffic to make submission worth your time). What you want to determine is whether your products or services are competitively priced or whether they have a feature that sets them above the competition.
Some shopping bot sites list products according to price, or give shoppers the ability to modify a search to show pricing in ascending/descending order. Others will list suppliers in priority sequence based on pay-per-position bidding.
Business owners who rely on a unique selling feature instead of price may not favor shopping bots that place a strong emphasis on price. So if your product is better - but not cheaper - than the competition's, you'll need to find a shopping bot that's a better fit for you.
Determine the cost of placing your ad. For the majority of shopping bot sites, you will be expected to pay on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis. On average, these costs vary between $.05 and $1.25 per click depending on the popularity of your product and the category it appears in.
In many cases, you will also need to make a deposit of between $100 and $200, depending on the product or service you are selling. But don't worry - these deposits are applied toward your PPC account.
Some sites are commission-based, meaning that you pay only when you make a sale ¬usually a set percentage of the selling price.
Get “product feed" ready to go. Your "product feed" is the information you submit to a shopping bot about the product you want advertised. This may include the description of your product, pricing, the category you want it to appear in, your Web site URL, and product availability.
When creating your product descriptions, be sure they include clear, compelling benefits - this can make the difference between having prospective customers find you with ease or your ad getting lost or pushed down in the search results. Also try to avoid using obscure abbreviations or product codes in your ad.
For example, would you be more inclined to click on an ad that says: "'Tel. blk. crdlss. 21KF4900-A" ... or an ad that reads: "900 Mhz Black Cordless Telephone'"? You'd pick the second ad. That's because it clearly states what the offer is. Shoppers will be deterred by an obscure ad, so make sure your ad is clear, compelling, and reader- friendly.
You only have a few seconds to grab a consumer's attention and direct them to your Web site. If you sell a product that has a number of competitors all within a similar price range, then remember to stress any unique benefits that you offer - whether It's free shipping, an extended warranty, or the quality of your customer service.
How you submit your product feed to a shopping bot site will vary depending on the guidelines of the site. Some sites make it easy to submit your feed through their online forms or downloadable software; other sites make it a bit of chore to submit your feed requiring you to upload information through an FTP (file transfer protocol) client.
Whatever type of product feed a site uses, beware of third-party companies or Web sites that want to take your hard-earned money to create product feeds for you. It isn't difficult to learn to create your own product feed and in the end, it can save you a lot of money.
Register your product feed. Once you have decided which shopping bot site to use and have created your product feed, registering should take a matter of minutes. The shopping bot site administration will review your information and product feed for approval. Be aware that the approval process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Shopping bots to consider using to promote your products
There are hundreds of shopping bots on the 'Net. All of them fall into three main categories:
1. Commission-based, where you pay a fee for every transaction
2. Pay-per-click, based on a charge per click-through to your site
3. No charges at all
A number of them are good but not all of them are worth submitting your ads to.
Check the following for suitability to your business.
Formerly called BizRate. Shopzilla requires a $100 deposit from its merchants, but offers low minimum bidding rates starting at just $.10 per click and moving up to $.30 per click.
Product feeds submitted to Shopzilla may take 7 to 14 days to be listed so merchants will need to make sure they aren't pressed for time when advertising their goods. Merchants with product feeds already submitted to Yahoo Stores can submit the same feed format to Shopzilla.
In 2011, the site reported over 14 million unique visitors every month.
How sites are ranked: Shopzilla looks at pricing, merchant reputation, product popularity and product availability to determine how search results are listed.
PriceGrabber offers many of the same features as Shopzilla, with one major difference: Merchants without a Web site can use PriceGrabber's '"Storefront" option to post their products or services.
There are no up-front costs for the Storefront service, as it is commission based. Merchants are charged $1 plus 4.75% of the selling price on each sale.
These virtual storefronts are also covered by limited fraud protection of up to $500 with a $15 deductible. If you want your logo displayed in the search results, you'll be charged an additional fee of $500 or 2.5% of your monthly transactions, whichever is greater.
PriceGrabber reported over 25 million unique shoppers at the end of 2011.
How sites are ranked: At PriceGrabber, sites in the search results can be ranked according to the shopper's preference - by price, popularity and rating.
This service works especially well for merchants who don't want to spend time coming up with catchy product descriptions for their product feed because Shopping.com displays a universal description of commonly searched items at the top of a search page with ads listed below.
Of course, this may be a disadvantage if you rely on a unique selling proposition (like high quality or ease of use) as opposed to a competitive price.
Shopping.com offers a flexible bid-management system. For example, if one merchant bids $.40 for placement and another bids $.55, Shopping.com will adjust the higher bid to $.41.
To set up an account with Shopping.com, you will need to put down a minimum deposit of $25 before submitting your product feeds.
By paying more to become a "featured store," you can rank in the top three results. In time, you can become a "'trusted store" - Shopping.com will list the lowest priced product from all of the trusted stores fourth in the search results.
In 2011, Shopping.com reported an average of 20 million unique shoppers a month.
How sites are ranked: Shopping.com generates a site's tanking in the search results through matching a search term with a product description. Stores bid for enhanced placement (color logos or higher placement on the page) on applicable product results. Users can then re-sort the list by price.