Google Tweaks AdWords, Froogle

Google has made changes to improve its advertiser experience and brought Froogle into the search mix. It also lined up some new high-profile distributors, with Newsweek, and The Economist now displaying AdWords.

The AdWords interface update offers new reporting on keyword performance, a cleaner and more user-friendly design of the billing summary, and auto-optimization, so that better-performing ads are shown more often. The changes were implemented in response to advertiser feedback, according to the company.

While Google got top customer satisfaction ratings in a recent Jupiter Research analysis of the top search engines for advertisers, its usability has come in for criticism. According to Jupiter, which shares a corporate parent with this publication, Overture’s feature set is much better, and, because Google uses both click-through rates and cost-per-click to organize paid listings, marketers have less control over where their ads appear. On top of all that, the research firm said, the company’s customer service can’t keep up with its growth.

Google has also revamped the look of its Froogle shopping engine, which the company emphasizes is still in beta. The site’s grid comparisons are larger and appear more organized, and the company has reportedly fixed problems with its price sort function.

In a move to give more visibility to Froogle, which launched during the 2002 holiday shopping season, Google has added Froogle listings to its regular search results. When a user searches for something that appears to be a commercial product, Google pulls information from Froogle and places it above the main listings on the results page.

The product links that appear at the top of results are the top three “natural” results on the Froogle search, that is, free listings chosen and sorted by relevance. Google’s AdWords appear on the right hand side of results, just as they do on the main site.

“The intention with Froogle all along was to make Google a better source of information on products, especially products to buy,” said Google’s senior research scientist Craig Nevill-Manning, the technical lead on Froogle. “So we show [Froogle listings on Google] when we’re reasonably sure someone is looking for something to purchase.” He said Froogle uses the same page ranking system as Google. “It’s a slightly more specialized version of Google.” Froogle tries to accommodate the way people search when they’re shopping, he said, when they want to see product images and compare prices.

The strategy is very similar to what Google has done to drive traffic to its Google News product, but in this case the links include a product description, a price, and the name of the store. Clicking on a link takes users directly to the product page on a merchant’s site. Google has also added a link that invites users to try their search on Froogle.

Nevill-Manning said that merchants that pay for the top sponsored listings on searches shouldn’t be annoyed that now other merchants’ listings appear right below theirs at no cost. “If they’re selling things online, they should make sure they’re on Froogle,” he said. “They should see it as the opportunity to get free traffic as well as paid traffic.” He said that giving users the best search results possible — including free merchant listings — ultimately benefits all merchants. “In the long run,” he said, “we’re likely to attract more people wanting to buy things on Google.”

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