Google on Thursday launched a new search engine service specifically designed for large e-commerce sites. The product, dubbed Google Commerce Search, will bring some of Google’s best search innovations to sites like Birkenstock USA. These features include Google’s spell checker, query stemming, and synonym recognition.
Google Commerce Search will be priced starting at $50,000 per year and will be aimed at the top 1,000 online retailers in each country where Google operates, says Google Enterprise Search product manager, Nitin Mangtani.
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Google Commerce Search is a hosted service and is integrated with Google’s Merchant Center and Product Search services. With Google Merchant Center (formally called Google Base), online retailers submit their catalog data to be crawled by Google. Once crawled, their items show up on the Google Product search site, which is Google’s shopping search engine. Google Product is the company’s answer to sites like Shopping.com and Shopzilla.com. Users of Google Commerce Search engine will find their data automatically submitted to Merchant Center and appearing on Google Product Search.
Commerce Search is also integrated with Google Analytics. However it does not include any credit toward, or usage of, Google’s main search results advertising spots AdWords, which lets businesses buy advertisements next to relevant search results. Nor does it integrate wtih or include credit toward AdSense, which places ads on a Web site.
Commerce Search extends Google's core service, search, into an entirely new enterprise market, Google executives say.
"Most sites today don’t have good search," says Mangtani. "Commerce Search includes Rich stemming dictionaries. When you go to an e-commerce site, you might not enter the search term in exactly the way it is described by the retailers search catalog. You can say can say pants or trousers."
In contrast, a good search engine can return relevant results using synonyms, alternative spellings, and can even fix misspellings, he says. It knows that "laptop" and "lap top" are the same. Commerce Search can also quickly and automatically add new terms to its stemming dictionary, knowing, for example, within hours if the term "netbooks" has become the popular replacement for the word "laptop," Mangtani says.
Commerce Search is a service implemented through an admin panel and Google promises it can be deployed in a matter of days. It includes an application programming interface that allows online retailers to customize the appearance of their search results in a fine-tuned way. They can organize results in lists or a grid. They can set up promotions so that certain items appear on the top of the results. They can add customized search attributes appropriate to the products they sell. Commerce Search will also suggest attributes and will use Google’s algorithms to refine and improve search results over time. Google has set up a demonstration site that showcases the new search tool in realtime, www.googlestore.com.
Beta tester Birkenstock USA has signed on to be one of the first public users. The company’s COO, Jeff Kilmer, attests that the new search engine has given its site speedier searches, more relevant results, and better customer satisfaction.
Google Commerce does not replace a company’s commerce server, just the search portion. It enters the market at a time when traditional commerce catalogs are also improving. For instance, in October Microsoft released a community technology preview of its new Microsoft Commerce Server 2009, code named R2. Microsoft also boasts improved search functions and has bundled Commerce Server 2009 with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.