Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Talkin' Shop Tuesday - Are You Hiding or Lost?

I'm taking a little break from my glossary building to address an issue that has recently come up on Etsy, so if you're reading this, and you've got a shop on Etsy that was syndicated and has all but disappeared from Google shopping - or you know someone who has, hopefully this will help you give some perspective on what's been going on. (At least in my humble opinion!)

Earlier in the year, Google announced changes to be implemented throughout the year in regards to how information would be accepted via their merchant data feeds (on Etsy, we know this as syndication). Soon after, we received some information from Etsy on changes that would be made in the way that we set up our shop listings, and we were told that a number of fields would be optional and that we didn't have to use them.

I was a little frustrated at the time, because I try to stay on top of things by getting my information straight from the horse's mouth - in this case, Google - and what Etsy was saying was not what I was reading.  I had brought up my concerns in our forums on Etsy, but evidently no one was too ready to discuss, either on Etsy's side or the shop owner's side.

Needless to say, it appears that the shi* has hit the proverbial fan.  On September 22nd, the last of the big changes was implemented by Google and many Etsy shops have virtually gone missing or are lost from the Google shopping pages when they had a strong presence there before.

Many of them report not using those previously mentioned "optional" attributes, and Etsy has finally admitted that maybe those attributes were not so optional after all... and to lessen the blow, they've decided to fill them in for us with default selections.

I rarely am very vocal about Etsy's decision making, but I think their silence and failure to provide the facts and causes behind the changes or to provide answers and support to their community, to put it simply, kinda sucks.  I have no doubt that they've probably tucked dibs and dabs of information away in the corners of help files to perhaps be pointed to when pressed on an issue, but when there are changes than encompass vast amounts of information, decisions that are made on our behalf, but without our input, and failure to provide us a way to meet the requirements of Google merchant, I think we have a right to understand why.

I also find it a little disconcerting that Etsy launched their new search ads to coincide with the final layer of changes in the Google marketplace feed requirements. To me, it feels like diversionary tactics to get everyone involved with worrying about the ads and losing sight of what was happening with Google shopping. I hope I'm wrong.

Some of the issues that may be affecting your presence in Google shopping are these:

Duplicate listings - if you're listing the same exact item more than once on Etsy or any combination of marketplace sites, Google's guidelines prevent it from being picked up more than once. This was the reason, I believe, behind Etsy's push to encourage us to post multiple stock quantities in a single listing some time ago.

Missing attributes - Google has provided a list of required and suggested attributes for product feed which can be found here.  If you're wondering what category your items fall into - you can read more about Google's product taxonomy here.  Basically, if it's apparel (which includes a long list of subcategories including shoes, purses, and jewelry, among others), if you're not using the heretofore "optional" attributes, there is a chance you won't make it into Google shopping.  If you're selling vintage, note that Google requires a brand as well as other information that Etsy is currently not providing a way for us to submit. Books must have an ISBN number.  If any of this information is not available, exceptions have to be requested from Google, but it is my understanding from what I've read that Google is not doing blanket exceptions just to make it easier on a marketplace site like Etsy.

Google has, for some time now, had guidelines prohibiting the use of symbols or unnecessary capitalization in product titles to draw attention to a product or make it stand out. They also have very specific guidelines regarding the use of words that they deem not in line with their rules of propriety and family friendliness. Any number of innocent usage of these terms or symbols, including phrases like "free shipping" or using the adjective "burgundy" or "wine" may keep you out of Google shopping.  You can find more information on these guidelines here.

The bottom line is that while we may not have control of everything that gets sent to Google via Etsy syndication, we need to make sure that the information that we do have control over meets Google's requirements. If you're duplicating listings, stop.  Combine them into one listing, with multiple items available.  If you sell items that you feel truly need to be considered under an exemption, let Etsy know.  If you're using verbiage or symbols that Google doesn't allow, revisit and rewrite your listings.  If you want to make sure that your items are listed the way you want them to be, fill out every field on your listing page that you can.  Don't wait for Etsy to divulge the why's behind changes.  Be proactive and stay on top of SEO and search engine changes.  Part of being a successful business owner is understanding the ins and outs of every part of your business, or - at least having someone on staff  or contracted to make sure that the work is done for you.

With the holiday shopping season looming, timing couldn't be worse for all this to be going on. Hopefully this will help give you a little insight into the "why's"... and hopefully Etsy will find a way to figure out the "how's" to make it work (and accurately) for us.

Good luck!



letamariedesigns said...

Great Post Karen. So much I am trying to understand about google.

Connie Lou said...

Karen, this is so appreciated! I am definitely sharing! Hope all is just fabulous with you!
Aloha, Connie

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