Practicing good data governance is important even if you aren’t building a complex machine-learning algorithm. When it comes to making sure your products are indexed in search results (and found by customers) and enriched with semantics, data hygiene is as important as product page SEO.
Product data not only helps search engine crawlers display the most relevant search results; customers use it to make split-second decisions on whether or not to click on a product listing. However, managing your product data doesn’t simply mean uploading all your product listings to your e-commerce site and forgetting about it. Ongoing product data management is important for two reasons:
- Product data from suppliers or manufacturers aren’t usually optimized for search or click-throughs, so you will need to rework product descriptions, titles, meta tags, and so on.
- Product data is subject to change based on availability, pricing, and delivery options, and needs to be updated consistently.
What is product data?
Product data includes items like descriptions, specifications, images, videos, customer ratings, and reviews, as well as rich content such as demo videos, 3D images, and product configurators.
Each channel where you display your product listings has specific requirements for product attributes (how products are listed and described). For example, while Google requires titles to be 180 characters max, Amazon allows up to 200. Your e-commerce site should have specific rules for product listings to ensure consistency.
Product attributes you need to optimize:
- Title – Influences visibility and whether or not a customer clicks on the listing or ad
- Image – Affects clicks and conversions but not necessarily SEO
- Category – Follow the category taxonomy of whatever channel you’re listing into. This will ensure that products are found in the correct category and give the channel more information about the product so it can better match it to customer searches.
- Product type – Describe the product and add keywords. Helps the channel understand your product.
- Description – Influences clicks and conversions but isn’t always crawled for keywords.
- GTINs – Unique product identifiers that serve as the numerical version of a barcode. Lack of a GTIN may cause your product to be excluded from a product feed.
- Local stock information – Shows which nearby stores stock this product based on the customer’s location and real-time inventory data.
- Current inventory
A product data management (PDM) system organizes and standardizes this data, while making it accessible to various business units, such as marketing, sales, engineering, and design. The system ensures the integrity of the data and checks that descriptions, measurements, and other details match. If your PDM syncs directly to your e-commerce website, you can update product descriptions in the PDM and these updates will automatically appear in your live product listings.
It can be hard to practice data hygiene when your product data originates from a third party, such as a manufacturer or supplier. An automated data management tool can examine and optimize the following aspects of your product data:
- Data format and data patterns
- Data consistency on each record
- Data value distribution and anomalies
- Completeness of the data
What constitutes “good” product data?
- Accuracy – Verify the text, image, videos, and descriptions attached to your data to ensure accuracy
- Relevancy – Make sure product attributes are associated with the correct listings
- Completeness – All product listings should contain the same level of detail
- Timeliness – Changes in price/promo offers/availability must be reflected in your data
- Consistency – Standardize data attributes, naming conventions, and taxonomy
3 Tips for Improving Data Quality:
1. Use semantics in your product data
Semantics are a form of metadata (data about your data) that describes the meaning of your dataset, such that everyone in your organization knows how to properly label, index, and find the information they need. Simply put, it’s a guiding principle for formatting your data in universal terms according to business rules and determining what goes where based on a clear taxonomy.
Enriching your data with semantics increases the chances of product discovery. Just like repeated exposure to learning material forms new neural connections in the brain that help solidify new knowledge, semantics increases the terms, definitions, and associations for each data point to ensure that the data can be more easily indexed by internal and external customers.
Case in point: there are numerous keywords one might use to find a pair of women’s shoes online. Semantic enrichment adds meaning to your data and consequently increases the range of search terms that might yield your product listing, such as “leather shoes” or “red heels.”
Metadata allows you to trace the relationships between different datasets, data fields, and the transformation logic in between to make your data more meaningful and searchable.
What’s more, structuring your data in this way can help your product listings show up as rich snippets in search results. Rich snippets are a type of markup that shows searchers an excerpt of the page beyond just the SEO title and meta description, plus any structured data such as price or star rating. Displaying this data upfront gives your listing a competitive advantage. A study by Milestone Research found that users click on rich results 58% of the time, compared to a CTR of 41% for non-rich results.
2. Create an API integration between your website and your product data management system
When it comes to maintaining product data, spreadsheets won’t cut it. You need an automated data management system to ensure data integrity. Since the required data fields are already set up in the PDM system, employees can create new product listings in a standardized way without starting from scratch and can auto-populate fields like product specs in order to reduce error and time spent on data entry.
Most PDMs feature an API integration with your website, meaning that any time an employee updates a product listing in the system, the changes will automatically reflect on your site, allowing new listings to go live much faster. Instead of spending time on data entry, employees can devote their expertise to product page SEO, images, and videos.
APIs also enable you to pull product information from more than one source, such as data feeds or the manufacturer’s website, leading to a more comprehensive product dataset. What’s more, you can also establish an API integration between your inventory management system and CRM so that the item’s availability, price, and delivery options will be automatically updated in real-time.
Keeping product information up to date ensures your brand remains credible, reduces returns, and provides a better customer experience overall as customers aren’t adding items to their cart only to discover that the product is out of stock.
3. Centralize your data in one place
While PDM systems were initially created to aid in the technical aspects of product development, they are now accessed by other departments, such as marketing and sales. Centralizing product data in a single platform allows all teams to access accurate product information, which is useful in developing marketing campaigns, sales pitches, and investor pitch decks. Consequently, engineers, designers, and developers no longer need to search for data in different databases and ascertain its accuracy.
Finally, data integration helps other business units follow the product development process. Marketers are apprised of product launch dates and what new features are being shipped so they can plan campaigns accordingly, developers have access to up-to-date engineering specs, and buyers have rich product information they can use to make educated purchase decisions.