Think of it this way – when you enter a supermarket looking for a toothbrush, and you find it in the pet food section, aren’t you frustrated? Categorisation in the real world is done to increase efficiency for both the customer and the seller. Imagine frustrated customers leaving their shopping and storming out of your store just because they could not find a particular product in its category. Also imagine the pain you would have to go through while trying to tally the inventory and discovering juice boxes in the clothing aisle. Now imagine the same situation in the online world.

Online, there is a tiny difference in the way things work. When a customer is looking for a product on a search engine, it is the engine that is doing the actual ‘looking’. If your product categorisation were non-existent or faulty, the search engine would take more time to look for it, or overlook it completely.

When a customer searches for a product on your website, the search function is handled by the website architecture. Again, hotch-potch classification of products would lead to null results. This means that, you are either frustrating the customer, or annoying the search engine when you are being lazy about product categorization. What is the result? Customer dissatisfaction, low conversion of CPC, and ultimately, loss.

To simplify the search process, product categorization is advised. This means that all the products featured on your website would be subdivided into broad categories, that would be further subdivided into subcategories, making it easier for both the customer and the search engine to access a product.

Let us look at a few simple principles you must keep in mind while doing this.

Principles of Product Categorisation

Your website is built to accommodate, sort and search the various entities that you feature on it. But it does so adhering to a particular algorithm. For example, type in ‘bowtie’, and ask the website to search in the apparel category, it will restrict its search to all entities present in the apparel category. Now, if you ask the website to search the same keyword in all categories, you might find something like ‘How to Tie a Bowtie for Dummies’, in your search results. The idea is, while making product subcategories, would you make one called ‘Bowties’? A solution to this problem is tagging a product with multiple attributes, rather than sub categorization. So the aforementioned book can be tagged as ‘Bowtie’ and ‘Book’, and would feature in both results. Subcategories can be rigid and watertight. Use the power of the virtual world and go for something more subtle and flexible.

Do not rely on generalisations. Usually, your list of products is so huge that you can be overwhelmed with the idea of individually categorising products. But it’s important, and there are many tools available to help you do it. One bad habit is to make a ‘Miscellaneous’ category and dump all the ambiguous products into that. Be wary of the miscellaneous category, because it confuses more times than it helps. A good way to go about it is to mark boundaries with broad strokes (You would rarely have a product fitting in both Electronics and Apparel categories), and try to place all your products in one or the other. Unless you are serving an extremely niche line of products, this won’t be too difficult.

Google has provided sellers across the world with exhaustive instructions on how to categorise your products so that it is easier for the search engine to find the right ones. In fact, this categorisation is mandatory for most countries. Although India is not one of them, it is always a good idea to follow some of the guidelines laid down by Google. Here is what they say about it.

‘For all target countries except Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, India, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Turkey, ‘Google product category’ is required for all items that fall within the ‘Apparel & Accessories’, ‘Media’, and ‘Software’ categories. If your products do not fall into one of those categories – or if your feed targets Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, India, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, or Turkey, – this attribute is recommended but not required. ‘

Google provides you with downloadable product categories and taxonomy that you can build upon and tailor according to your needs. Take a look at it in detail here.

Consider two scenarios – You tell yourself, if a consumer searches for a product that is available on my website, in no circumstance will I categorize my products such that the required product does not appear in the search results. If you lay down this rule for yourself, what is the sure shot way of getting it done? The only foolproof way is to put all your products into all your categories. This means that there will be a page for ‘How to Tie a Bowtie for Dummies’, inside the ‘Books’ category, the ‘Apparel’ category, even the ‘Media’, ‘Software’, ‘Electronics’ categories. This is the only way with which there is a guarantee that if a consumer searches for this product in any manner, the search engine would be able to find it.

Now imagine this scenario from the point of view of a search engine. The engine would now encounter multiple pages of the same product, one in each category, and would simply have no idea how to deal with them. This is a slightly drastic example, but we hope you get the idea. The idea is to find a middle ground and create a system that maximizes efficiency, and not accuracy.

This is what we have on product categorization. If you have any queries, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Browntape. We are always happy to help!

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