December 21, 2001, 12:00 AM

Search engine Google adds catalog search to its lineup

A catalog search feature now in beta testing lets web users see scanned pages of some 1,500 retail catalogs.

Search engine Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information -- and as of last week, that includes catalogs. The company has launched a catalog search feature that serves up the scanned full content of 600 retail catalogs. With back issues of many of them, the total count on the number of searchable catalogs is about 1,500, says a Google spokesman. Google staff has quietly collected the catalogs over the past several months and their full content scanned in preparation for the launch. While Google didn’t contact each catalog company about the new initiative, it did have discussions with several, the spokesman says.

The search engine technology offers several ways for users to get to products on pages they find using the catalog search feature. A phone number for the retailers is on each scanned catalog page, and when available, there`s a link back to the catalog`s web site. Where a retailer’s web site will support it, the technology allows shoppers to type in a product code visible on the scanned page for a direct link back to the corresponding product page on the retailer’s web site. Multi-channel retailers including Williams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel are among retailers whose product pages can be accessed directly from Google’s catalog search.

The spokesman says the benchmarks of success for the catalog search feature, currently in beta testing, will be positive user feedback and significant growth in traffic over time. So far, Google, which derives its revenue from the sale of advertising on and other web properties it owns, as well as from providing its search technologies to major sites and portals such as Yahoo, isn’t talking about the prospects for monetizing its catalog search with fees to retailers.

“This is a service we’re committed to, but it`s in its earliest phase,” the spokesman says. “We’re open to a number of different relationships with retailers and talking to catalog publishers right now about a number of things, but it’s all still very new.” Google powers approximately 150 million searches a day through and its other web properties, and through the partner sites that use Google`s search technology.


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