How often should you submit your product data feeds?

The question “How often should I submit my product data feed?” comes up quite often when talking about comparison shopping engines (CSE) and seems to lead to debates about freshness, relevancy and algorithms. While we tell most of our clients that a minimum of once a week is recommended, depending on your products you can go as long as a month without updating your feed, but is that the best decision?

Feed Freshness
The purpose of comparison shopping is to allow consumers to compare prices of similar products from multiple vendors. It’s a simple concept and works well if the information you are providing to the CSE’s is accurate and up-to-date. The CSEs don’t want to provide outdated information as they will lose market share if their data in not current. So it makes sense that a basic requirement all of the CSE’s is that the feed files are “fresh”.  All of the CSEs require that feeds are updated at least once a month.

Relevancy and Algorithms
When it comes to marketing on the internet terms like relevancy and algorithms are used in abundance. Unfortunately due to the secrecy of the search engines and CSEs, those terms have a unknown mystery about them. In the simplest explanation, the engines use mathematical equations called algorithms that make determinations based on certain criteria. Each criteria has a weight of importance attached to them. When you perform a search, your query is used to return results that are most relevant based on their algorithm. When discussing algorithms Google is always mentioned as it is well know that Google changes their algorithm several times a week to keep the data fresh and prevent black-hat SEO techniques.

So, how often should I submit you product feeds?
We all now know that the CSEs use algorithms and they want their data to be relevant. We know that “freshness” is a criteria that the engines all use as part of their algorithm for relevancy. The first question to ask is how often do you make changes to the products in your feed. If your feed file changes with any frequency, then you need to update with some regularity such as daily, every other day or weekly. If your inventory or pricing doesn’t change often, then you don’t need to update daily.  If you have 100 products the frequency may not be that often, but if you have 40,000 then it may be daily.

Why do we recommend a minimum of at least once a week.
We mentioned earlier most of the CSEs allow a minimum of once every 30 days to update your products, so why do we say at least once a week. There are many articles from reliable sources that say some of the engines algorithms place higher value on feed that are updated with more regularity. Also, when you submit a new product feed each engine takes time to propagate the new products and updates through their respective systems and partner networks. For some of the CSE this can take several days. If you wait until your products are about to expire and there is some overlap in the new feed being propagated into the system then there is a possibility of loosing positioning. Knowing what we know about freshness, relevancy and algorithms, keeping your data up-to-date in each system definitely won’t hurt you and may benefit your bottom line.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES:
Google Merchant Center Help – “Uploading a Data Feed”
Google Merchant Center Forum – “How frequently should you upload a product file”
Yahoo! Help – How often should I upload my product feed?

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