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Sun Dec 12 2010 11:08:04

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

By: David Steiner

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Recently, I had a conversation with the CEO of an online marketplace, whose sales this year were up over 10% than they had been last year. When asked to what he attributed his site's increase, the reply was an unqualified, "Google Shopping." I was interested in how he could tell that Google Shopping was sending his marketplace so many customers. His response was interesting: aside from referrer information from site logs, the best way he could track the impact of Google Shopping was when his marketplace was accidentally dropped for a short time from the Google Shopping search engine. "Our sales decreased by 50%."

Being a person that tracks metrics quite closely, I was curious how online marketplaces stacked up in Google Shopping (GS) search results, and if being indexed by GS increases the sites positions on some of the online ranking services, such as Alexa, Quantcast and Compete. Each of these ranking services uses a different method to estimate traffic, page views, etc., to a site, and I emphasize that these sites estimate traffic. I find most of these services quite useless in determining accurate traffic numbers for sites, but used together, they can give a fair representation of traffic trends - whether a site is gaining, maintaining, or losing popularity.

Quick explanation of how these ranking services work, and what the numbers mean:
  • The lower the number, the higher the ranking of the site. A site at 10,000 is more highly ranked, according to Alexa, Quantcast and Compete, than a site ranked at 20,000.
  • These services use samplings to determine traffic rankings.
  • Alexa calculates their numbers from users who have the Alexa toolbar installed.
  • Quantcast asks web sites to install a pixel on their site to track visitors and page views. That can be fairly accurate for sites that agree to be "Quantified," however the majority of sites (and virtually none of the largest sites) do not participate, so their traffic is estimated. I've put a (q) next to the marketplaces on the chart that are Quantified by Quantcast.
  • Compete uses a "statistically representative cross-section of 2 million consumers across the United States" to get their data.
There were a few things that stood out while looking at this data:
  • Amazon, with almost 300 million pages indexed in GS has nearly 100x the number of eBay
  • EBay, eCrater, Bonanza and Etsy have a relatively similar number of pages indexed in GS
  • Zazzle, a site that is popular but is not exactly a household name, not only has a respectable number of indexed pages in GS, but has very impressive positions in all three ranking services
  • The listings of some sites were not getting picked up by Google Shopping when I conducted the search. We have a question in to Google about whether some marketplaces are failing to submit proper feeds to Google Shopping, and what they can do about it.
I'd wager that most marketplaces would probably be very reluctant to admit that they rely heavily on a search engine such as Google Shopping to send customers their way.  But, there are very few ecommerce sites that are "destination" marketplaces for buyers. In my definition, a destination marketplace is a site whose brand is so strong that people go there specifically to shop and browse - they type the URL in the address bar, or have it bookmarked in their browsers. These sites have organic traffic that is not reliant solely on search engine referrals.

Who are the destination marketplaces from the chart below? I'd probably choose Amazon, eBay, craigslist, Etsy, and to some extent, niche sites such as AbeBooks, Alibris (for books), AuctionArms and GunBroker (for firearms and accessories).  

You'll notice, however, that even the marketplaces with the strongest brands take advantage of being indexed by the Google Shopping search engine. And why not? With nearly 300 million listings indexed by GS, Amazon would probably show up on nearly every product search by consumers. And the more you're in front of consumers, the more likely they are to buy from you.

Take a look at the chart, and see, with very few exceptions, that the more pages a site has indexed in Google Shopping, the more highly ranked they are. How well indexed are your marketplace favorites? Could they do better? And is Google Shopping becoming a "King Maker" in the ecommerce space? 
                                                  
Marketplace
   
Pages Indexed by Google Shopping
    (12/11/10)
Alexa Ranking (12/11/10)Quancast Ranking (12/11/10)Compete Ranking (12/11/10)
Abebooks.com05,5341,3582,029
Addoway83,400133,831275,265110,275
Alibris208,0007,1181,2321,182
AlsoShop13,500251,344117,946(q)372,083
Amazon284,000,0001579
Aquabid0100,66439,586(q)74,511
AtomicMall392,00074,77710,017(q)17,077
Artfire656,0006,4842,221(q)3,604
AuctionArms054,6925,0234,735
BabylonMall02,002,209928,610493,612
Biblio.com155,00037,2995,84211,190
Bidstart218,00086,51429,845(q)34,714
Blujay1,290,00046,61711,0749,708
Bonanza.com2,430,0007,00637,0591,950
BuyItSellIt0309,80750,530127,619
CafePress1,260,0001,355364283
CQOut702,00080,592188,15784,094
Craigslist0361813
Delcampe.com*132,00015,534320,41751,542
eBay3,290,000221010
eBid.net748,00012,05112,5489,337
eCrater2,600,0004,0051,8511,502
ePier0334,53880,744104,854
Etsy2,520,000267222207
GoAntiques1,090,00040,6383,834(q)5,699
Gunbroker07,748625(q)1,297
Half.com**022**499,946
iOffer01,662567(q)850
MainStreetMallOnline2,810537,91894,422175,149
Manions01,283,237144,103218,770
OnlineAuction.com085,46559,761(q)18,487
Oodle02,768hidden(q)384
Overstock.com10,100,0005615961
Oztion.com.au02040153,19658,833
Plunderhere.com16,100245,255540,273(q)407,048
RubyLane1,050,00013,3762,6463,060
SeeAuctions.com01,290,826182,306365,809
Shopify07,18512,9929,300
SilkFair27,600359,930hidden(q)119,410
SpecialistAuctions0243,69168,145240,566
TIAS.com164,00034,2893,188(q)4,775
Trocadero15,10093,02533,18723,108
Webidz0182,23356,58362,849
Webstore.com107,00066,80218,31724,246
Wensy0503,461116,377135,682
Zazzle1,410,000963325224
Zibbet.com059,05941,824(q)71,776

*Google Shopping results for Delcampe.com, other ratings for Delcampe.net
** Alexa Rankings same as eBay




Comments (19) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Rich

Sun Dec 12 12:44:27 2010

Interesting dataset, Ina. I would have thought, with over 130 million items listed, that eBay would have more than that in Google Shopping.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Digby
Web Site

Sun Dec 12 14:18:10 2010

Great chart Ina
Thanks very much for that, I too love that sort of thing.

I know of at least two alt sites whose users are sure that most of their sales come via Google Product Search.

I wish Google would come up with a shorter name for it ?

And I wonder if sites have to pay to be on Google Product Search.

And its only available in the USA, UK Germany and now France.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Pat

Sun Dec 12 15:18:24 2010

From your chart, it looks like sites that don't have a presence on Google are pretty much dead in the water. Does it cost money to be included?

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Sun Dec 12 18:14:31 2010

It doesn't cost money, but you have to be well acquainted with Google feed requirements.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Sun Dec 12 18:20:14 2010

On eCrater, they do the Google feeds for their sellers, but each seller has to be very aware of the Google feed requirements and no-nos, or their products will not show up. It is a very different approach from what is allowed on eBay.

I am wondering if many of the eBay sellers just don't realize what the requirements are and thus their items don't participate in the feeding process, because they are eliminated for one reason or another. eBay probably doesn't care and never informs them of what they have to do to comply.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: AC_in_Mich

Sun Dec 12 19:53:58 2010

Wow!  Very interesting chart.  I am also surprised that so few items on eBay get to google search - Certainly something I would like to see on a followup article (are there things individual sellers can do to increase their chances of being listed, is eBay just providing exposure to certain sellers, etc).
I think this chart also shows the impact of name recognition.  Certainly, craigslist has a strong presence without worrying about advertising, Google feeds or anything. Why?  Word of Mouth.  eBay appears to also still have some attraction to the casual user as evidenced by their rankings, but views unfortunately do not equal sales.

AC

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Sun Dec 12 21:56:07 2010

Must-read article from last November if you're interested in ensuring your marketplace product listings are Google-approved, contains link to Google's editorial guidelines (no ALL CAPS):

http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y09/m11/i04/s02
<
BR>and
certain attributes are required:

http://www.google.com/support/merchants/bin/answer.py
?answer=188494

(you'll
have to cut and paste the URLs, they are not hyperlinked in the blog comments)

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Mark
Web Site

Sun Dec 12 23:38:51 2010

If you want to check whether your marketplace listings are live on Google Product Search, use the ''site colon'' search on the marketplace domain, then appropriate keywords or your exact listing title:

http://www.google.com/products?q=site%3Aebay.com%20my%20title<
BR>
Some
sellers are broken out into their own sub-seller account on Google but there is little clarity as to how these sellers are selected. For ebay, if you run the site colon search on your username you should see such a sub-account if it exists:

http://www.google.com/products?q=site%3Aebay.com%20mous
ekit11

Here
is the Google help page on marketplace seller policy. Not a lot of detail:
http://www.google.com/support/merchants/bin/answer.py?hl=en
&answer=160607

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: L

Mon Dec 13 00:13:35 2010

Google Shopping will only list fixed price items, not auctions.
Exclusion of auctions, and, enforcement of Google's feed acceptance rules may explain the low number of eBay listings.

Google Shopping is a great research tool for shopping OR for checking your market place listings vs your competition's listings of like items.  I use it every day . . . Their search results default sequence is by ''Relevance'', but I use their menu sort option to be able to sequence results by:
''Price: low to high''.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Sue

Mon Dec 13 10:14:39 2010

According to my eBay store stats no more than 4 percent of my visitors ever came from Google. I always knew that most of my listings weren't being seen on Google. This confirms it.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Ahwooga This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Dec 13 13:16:31 2010

We use Google shopping though a multi client account where each one of our sellers has a unique sub account that we manage. If changes need to be made to comply with GS policies, we make them. For example if one of our sellers has all caps in the title, we adjust their feeds to title case prior to submitting them. GS is a great source of very targeted traffic to our site.
Don

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Smitty This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 13 17:56:12 2010

Back in late 2006, or Early 2007, when Meg called me for some advice regarding Google checkout, I told her to stand her ground. I reminded her that protecting PayPal was the 1st priority, as that was the only thing she had left that was worth anything.

I told her that ebay had its own in house search (finding) and was not in need of any outside help. I explained that ebay's crackerjack programmers would soon have it fine tuned and then it would be a best match to ebay's needs.

As soon as our conversation ended, I knew I had made two serious errors. They did result in me never getting another consulting fee from her.

We all make mistakes and mine that day was to let slip two names. Jack Ma & Skype.

Smitty

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Tue Dec 14 00:11:14 2010

@ Smitty

So do you think that hacking off legions sellers to protect PayPal was worth it?

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Smitty This user has validated their user name.

Tue Dec 14 12:28:03 2010

@ Ming

''So do you think that hacking off legions sellers to protect PayPal was worth it?''

It sure was to my major client. When I told Jeff that she had decided to defend PayPal even if it meant antagonizing Google, he just laughed & laughed & laughed. So hard that tears were rolling down his cheeks. I remember that he said to an aide, well you can just stick a fork in them.

Remember that this was in early 2007 and both their stocks were in the $35 range. Today ebay is about $30 and Amazon is somewhere around $170.

Smitty

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Wed Dec 15 00:22:05 2010

Wonder if there's any relationship between inclusion in Google Product Search and placement in their organic search. It's certainly food for thought!

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Smitty This user has validated their user name.

Wed Dec 15 20:52:45 2010

@ permacrisis
     
''Wonder if there's any relationship between inclusion in Google Product Search and placement in

their organic search. It's certainly food for thought!''

I don't know about the ''relationship between inclusion in Google Product Search'' but I'm quite

sure that if you are buying adwords (giving Google some greenbacks), you will advance in their

organic search.

It's no different from the banks paying the rating services (Moodys etc) for the triple AAAs on their

junk offerings.

Google and the Wall Street group appear to belong to the same gang.

Smitty

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Thu Dec 16 11:44:09 2010

Compete.com: eBay is up 3.7% for November 2010 over October; down 16.5% Y/Y. Last November, unique visitors approximated. 80 million. November 2010 is 67 million. Captain Queeg-Donahoe is still going backwards. The fourth quarter results should be interesting. Maybe eBay stock will yet again see $60 again. Ho ho ho …

eBay/PayPal/Donahoe: Dead Men Walking.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: Sandy's Fancy Pants Antiques and Collectibles
Web Site

Thu Dec 16 19:36:52 2010

zazzle? never heard of it before. thanks for this list.

Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?   Google Shopping: The Real Engine Behind Alternative Marketplaces?

by: CPC_Andrew
Web Site

Wed Dec 29 14:54:52 2010

This is fascinating. Big retailers are favored more which is clear, but the discrepancy between Amazon and the other marketplaces is even more telling. The two juggernauts are working together with ease, giving shoppers highly qualified results and service through Amazon product listings, which leaves the shopper happy who will come back to look for more.

More reason for retailers to list on Google Product Search, or more importantly, Amazon Product Ads.



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