GS1 SmartSearch: Delivering more sales with structured product data


 


Have a read of this article about the project I’m working on with David Smith, Head of Digital GS1 UK. It’s all about
making a step change in the improvement of product description information on the web, using
JSON format which is easily machine-readable.

This post first appeared in The Retail Bulletin on November 30th 2015.


Retailers can now communicate richer product descriptions directly to search engines
by David Smith, Head of Digital, GS1 UK

Today, 50% of shopping journeys start online – and 80% of online shopping starts with a Google search. No wonder then that ecommerce professionals are constantly looking for ways to make their websites and product pages found more easily. The problem is that Google – and all of the other search engines for that matter – index web pages automatically through a process known as crawling. This is where a bot or spider from the search engine follows links from page to page, indexing each one based on its content and a range of other factors. With over 60 trillion individual pages crawled and indexed by Google alone, having your page returned for a relevant query is a challenge in itself.

This is why GS1 has worked with the major search engines to provide retailers and brands a way of structuring their product descriptions in a way that is machine readable.

GS1 SmartSearch is a new standard for ecommerce that provides a web vocabulary linking a product’s unique identifier – also known as a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), UPC or EAN – with the same attribute list we use to describe a product in the physical world. GS1 SmartSearch builds on and expands the ‘mark-up’ available to ecommerce professionals from Schema.org, focused specifically on providing a method of adding structured data about a product, in a language that a bot or spider understands.

 

The technical bit

GS1 SmartSearch gives an attribute list, which ecommerce professionals can assign ‘name value pairs’ to using JSON-LD. This is then added to the data layer of a web page as a script – this means that it will not be visible to a regular visitor to your site. As an example, if you have a product page for a washing machine, in the product’s description it may well have a stated value of ‘1500 rpm’. Visitors to your site can interpret this value and place it into the context of what a washing machine is, giving them an understanding of what the value means. A search spider doesn’t benefit from the surrounding information. Using GS1 SmartSearch will allow a retailer to pair the ‘1500 rpm’ value with the attribute of ‘Spin Speed’. This then adds context for a bot that visits the page, helping it to categorise the page – and the product – correctly in the search engine’s index.

For most retailers the capacity to do something like this already exists. There is no need to upgrade their ecommerce platform as in-house web developers and digital teams will have the necessary skills to go through and add this information in.

 

What are the benefits?

There are two key benefits to structuring your product data in a machine readable format.

Firstly, as anyone involved in ecommerce will tell you, making your website as friendly as possible for search engines to crawl and understand is crucial to its success. For years, Search Engine Optimizers (SEOs) have been taking a data driven approach to help them understand what they can do to give a crawler the best signal of what a page is about. Now, using GS1 SmartSearch they can just tell them.

With pages that are better indexed, search engines will return product pages that are more relevant with a greater level of certainty. This means that when clicking through to a product, it’s more likely to be the one your visitor is looking for. So it won’t just create click-through but vitally, more clicks to buy.

And secondly, this is about your product’s data and how you communicate that across the web. Having an accurate representation of your product on a search engine is half the battle. But, your product may also be displayed on other websites – marketplaces, retail partners or aggregator sites. Structuring your product data enables you to better categorise, and enables the better linking of this information. Using a consistent attribute list, and tying this information to your product’s unique identifier, gives a clear indication of authenticity and ownership.

GS1 UK is now helping brands and retailers run trials of GS1 SmartSearch. If you would like to know more click here to get in touch by emailing ecommerce@gs1uk.org –  or visit us or visit us HERE.