Google Catalogs is a great way to do offline shopping, especially if you like to browse with nothing more than a couple of keywords. However, if you're the modern type who insists on doing all shopping online, you'll want to check out Froogle (http://froogle.google.com/). Froogle, a combination of the words "Google" and "frugal," is a searchable shopping index that looks a lot like the Google Directory with a focus on getting you right to an online point of purchase for the item you're interested in. The service was launched in December 2002 and, at the time of this writing, is still in beta.
There are two ways of finding items in this directory: browsing and searching. In the same way as browsing and searching, Google can lead to different results, so too will you find different products depending on the road you take in Froogle.
Browsing for Purchases
The Froogle home page lists a set of top-level categories, each with a representative smattering of subcategories. To browse a particular category, just click on the link. You'll find that even after some drilling down to just the subcategory you're after, there are still bound to be a lot of items. For example, there are over 2,500 results on the flower arrangement category.
Listings include a picture when available (as is most often the case), price, the store selling the item, a brief description of the item, and a link leading to all items from that particular vendor in the category at hand. You can narrow things down by choosing to view only items within a particular price range.
Unless you have a lot of time and really like shopping, the browsing option is less than optimal. Searching Froogle works much better, especially when you're in a hurry and have something specific in mind.
Searching for Purchases
Froogle sports a basic keyword search, but to get the most out of your search, you'll probably want the
Advanced Froogle Search (http://froogle.google.com/froogle_advanced_search).
Some of the Advanced Search will look familiar if you've used the standard Google Advanced Search; you can specify words, phrases, and words that should be excluded. But you can also specify products that are below a specified price or within a particular price range. You can also specify if your keywords should appear within the product name, the product description, or both; this gives you some nice additional fine-grained control. Finally, you can specify the category in which your results should appear - from Apparel & Accessories to Toys & Games.
Personally, I don't like advanced search forms very much, so I prefer using special syntaxes when I can, and Froogle does have some
special syntaxes up its sleeve. intitle: restricts results to the title of the item, while intext: restricts results to the description. You can use these in combination, so intitle:giraffe intext:figurine will work as expected. There's also an OR, specified by a | (the pipe character); for example, to find a glass giraffe or elephant, you'd search for: glass (intitle:giraffe | intitle:elephant).
Adding a Merchant to Froogle
With Google's prominence in the regular search space, it's reasonable to expect that Froogle will quickly become a popular shopping destination. If you sell things online, you might be wondering how much Google charges a vendor to be a part of the Froogle stable.
The short answer is: nothing! Yup, you can be listed in Froogle without paying a dime. There are some limitations, though. Currently, Froogle only accepts English-language web sites and products priced in U.S. dollars.
Merchants who wish to be included on the site are invited
to submit a data feed-read: a tab-delimited file generated by your favorite spreadsheet program, in-house content-management system, product database, or the like. For more information on making your products available via Froogle, see http://froogle.google.com/froogle/merchants.html.