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Google plans upgrade for search engine

Refined searches in time for Christmas

Google plans to extend the product search capabilities on its main Google.com search engine in the fourth quarter, in time for the holiday shopping season.

A Google official shared the news with attendees of the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PESA) Summit in San Francisco this week, according to people at the conference.

When people search for products on Google.com, the system will present them with another search box so that they can refine their query, according to Bear Stearns & Co analysts.

After people refine their query, Google takes them to a second page populated with product results from the Google Base listings service.

"Ranking will be determined by the attributes that the sellers listed for the product as well as by relevancy," the analysts wrote.

Currently, Google has no plans to monetise this product-search capability with display ads or listing fees, but that could change, they wrote.

The plan also involves de-emphasizing Froogle as a destination website and moving its comparison-shopping capabilities to Google.com, because, as the Google official explained, most product searches happen on Google.com.

Google.com can already detect if someone is looking for real estate to buy, and asks users to refine their queries before delivering listings from Google Base. Thus, the plan outlined at the PESA conference would apparently be a significant extension of this existing feature toward multiple product categories.

Jonathan Garriss, PESA's executive director, got very excited after learning at the conference of Google's plans. "Anything that improves product search and helps shoppers find what they want is always positive for a merchant like me," said Garriss, chief executive officer of Gotham City Online, an apparel store on eBay that also has its own site.

Garriss already feeds product information from his store to Google Base. But after talking to Google officials at the conference, he plans to improve it. "It will make it a smarter search. Google is giving us an opportunity to do that," Garriss said.

PESA groups about 600 large eBay sellers that collectively generate over 70 million eBay transactions and $1 billion in eBay gross merchandise volume annually.

Google Base was introduced last November as a service for individuals and organisations to post content to the Google search index, including products for sale.

From the beginning, Google said that Base isn't meant as a destination website, but more like a database to feed information to Google search sites, like Google.com. To stress this point, Google recently removed the search box from the Google Base site.

Neither Google nor the Bear Stearns analysts immediately replied to requests for comment.


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