Are you a local small business retailer? If so, Google made an announcement last week that you should pay attention to. Are you listening?
A few months ago Google began experimenting with Google Local Shopping, a service that lets customers find and buy products that are in stock nearby. Whether it’s a certain kind of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or a special set of headphones, with one search customers can find the retailers in their area that sell exactly what they’re looking for. No more driving endlessly from store to store craving ice cream and hoping stores stay open late enough for you to find it. Huzzah! To encourage the feature, Google has made its help documentation requirements open to the public so that more local retailers can benefit and bring online shoppers directly into their retail stores.
There are a number of steps small business owners will have to go through if they want to get their products listed in Google Local Shopping. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Step 1: Create a Google Merchant Center account.
- Step 2: Create an online product listing feed. [Here’s how.]
- Step 3: Apply for a separate Google Merchant Center account for your local product listings. Once it’s confirmed that you qualify, Google will send you an invitation link within three days to a new Merchant Center account created for your Local Shopping data.
- Step 4: Accept the new terms of service.
- Step 5: Enable local shopping.
Not every retailer who applies will be accepted into Google’s Local Shopping program; however, there are some things you can do to give your business its best shot at acceptance. Google notes that Product Search quality is a prerequisite for participation, so small business owners will want to make sure they’re submitting an accurate and complete data feed, including unique product identifiers. You also need to have your stores listed on Google Places, so you’ll have to submit and verify your store listings, if you haven’t already done that.
It does seem like a small amount of work to get listed; however, anything you can do to make your products more available and searchable is a good thing. Since Google is requiring that stores have Google Place listings, it will also be interesting to see how products are eventually incorporated on Place pages. Perhaps business owners who have enabled the Local Shopping feature will be able to display their products directly on their Place page or make them searchable for users. We know Google is only going to increase the importance of these pages, so anything you can do to make yours stronger than those of your competitors is a good thing.