When I wrote a blog post about Google over 12 years ago, I had no idea what a dominant role it would come to play in our lives. At that time there were several other major search engines (Yahoo! Sites was #2).  While the number of competing search engines has declined, the amount of information being matched to every key word has increased enormously.  We were thrilled that 200,000 matches came up in 2009 when you Googled our store name – today there are over 10 million (most of which are of course not actually relevant to Orange Tree Imports).

You have probably noticed the shopping tab that comes up when you search for an item. We recently received a promotion from Google offering free local product listings, and this is where these listings are located.  I wanted to know more, and discovered that one of the challenges in researching a Google offer is that when you Google it, the top answers all come from Google. Not the most impartial source!  But I’m happy to share what I found out.

The free product listings are tied to something called the Google Merchant Center. Formerly known as Product Listing Ads, the merchant center is a platform where retailers (mostly those engaging in e-commerce) can upload product data that will fuel Google Shopping Ads.  You need a Google profile account before you can register for a Merchant Center account.

Even if you don’t plan to sell online, you should create a Google business profile account for your store so that you make sure the information listed is accurate.  This is the place you’ll go to confirm that your hours are correct (one of the main reason that shoppers Google your store’s name). You can add information about days that you are closed for a holiday, and respond to any reviews that have been posted. There is no charge to sign up for a business profile

The purpose of a Merchant Center account is to offer an online products feed.  According to DataFeed Watch, a “Google Merchant Center (GMC) account is free to set-up and use. While advertisers may choose to utilize it exclusively for free product listings on the Google Shopping Tab, the primary reason for having a GMC account is usually to run Shopping Ads – a paid form of product advertisement.”   You can set up your feed so that customers who purchase merchandise online can check out on your website, on Google, or at your store.  Read more about the Google Merchant Center at this link.

One advantage that Google offers local businesses is the “available nearby” option that shoppers can specify when searching for a product. Consumers can even check “show only smaller stores” when narrowing down where to buy a product.  But in order to have your shop come up in the shopping search results, you have to be part of Google’s Merchant Center. It may be worth considering including this in your marketing strategy, especially if you carry products that are not widely available elsewhere in your area.

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

PS There won’t be a Specialty Shop Retailing blog next week