June 17, 2010, 5:33 PM

Google steps up its game in site search

Google is doing for site search what it’s done for web analytics.

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Google Inc., which is already the second-largest provider of web analytics technology in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is also stepping up its game in site search technology. With the release today of Google Commerce Search 2.0, it’s introducing features for web site operators as well as for site search users—including an administrative merchandising dashboard and faceted search results that are typically found only in more expensive applications, analysts say.

“The industry leaders in commerce site search and navigation have offered increasingly sophisticated merchandiser dashboards and faceted navigation for years,” says Hadley Reynolds, an e-commerce technology analyst with research and advisory firm IDC. “The price for these systems is beyond what many retailers can justify, however. With a new price point for the Google Commerce Search 2.0 product, many more medium and smaller online shops can consider stepping up to a more attractive shopper experience. The marketers behind online stores need to be able to easily manipulate offers and options for their customer, often in near real time, and customers like to be able to browse to what they need quickly.”

The merchandising dashboard lets retailers set business rules for making particular products appear in search results, such as products with free shipping offers or items that merchandise managers want to move quickly out of inventory stocks, says Nitin Mangtani, senior product manager at Google.

Shoppers, meanwhile, can now take advantage of a query auto-completion feature in version 2.0 that lists suggested search terms in a drop-down menu as soon as a shopper enters the initial letters of a keyword. They can also choose from among multiple forms of faceted search—product type, brand and price.

Google Commerce Search pulls product images, descriptions and pricing from the same web-based database that supports Google Product Search for Internet searches, Mangtani says. Since many retailers already feed their product data to Google Product Search, configuring their site for Google Commerce Search takes only one to three weeks, he adds.

For retailers that haven’t fed their product data to Google Product Search, it could take about four weeks to implement the new site search application, Mangtani says. 

Unlike Google Analytics, however, Google’s new site search tool isn’t free. But Google has modified the pricing for Google Commerce Search, effectively cutting it in half for smaller retailers. The starting price now is $25,000 per year for web sites with up to 50,000 items and three million queries per year. The original pricing, which hasn’t changed, is $50,000 per year for up to 100,000 items and 10 million queries per year.

Those prices fit roughly in the middle of the prices of other site search applications, which range $10,000 or less per year to $100,000 per year or more, says Bill Mirabito, founder and principal analyst at B2C Partners, a consulting firm that helps retailers deal with technology vendors.



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