Google Changing Its Shopping Model To A Paid One; Upsets SEO People!

Google is in the process of bringing out an important change to its Product Search service in the US which could ultimately affect whichever country they bring it to next. Google Product Search, for those who haven’t used it, was basically a product comparison site where merchants could list their products free of charge, so that their potential customers could decide whether to buy something for themselves. Google announced on its Official Commerce blog that they will be transitioning the service to a fully commercial model.

The New Google Shopping Website

According to the blogpost, Google mentions it would be better if thoughts could be converted into action much faster rather than just searching and looking for the said product all over the web. Google will now offer customers a platform to compare products, research potential purchases and then buy them straight from the merchants. The new service aims to be a paid product listing directory. One good thing that can come out of this is the fact that now product listing will be of a high quality. If merchants pay for their product placement, it is obvious that only the most genuine products will be put up on it thus generating better results for potential consumers. Google posits that with this change, merchants are set to gain the most, besides Google of course. The transition will be completed this fall thus giving merchants some months to get used to this model.

The blog mentions a few incentives to merchants.

  • All merchants who create Product Listing Ads by August 15, 2012 will automatically receive a monthly credit for 10% of their total Product Listing Ad spend through the end of 2012; and

  • Existing Google Product Search merchants can receive $100 AdWords credit toward Product Listing Ads if they fill out a form before August 15, 2012.

The new model also gives more controls to the merchants by giving them a choice of which product they would like to promote, discounts and where products will be placed on the service. For users and customers, Google has said that they will be coming up something called, Google Trusted Stores Program, which will identify merchants, their backgrounds and help other users buy from them via ratings on such parameters as on-time shipping and customer service. Trusted merchants will receive a $1000 lifetime purchase protection guarantee per shopper.

Another interesting aspect of this announcement is the fact that Google is playing around with new ad types in its default search within the Adsense program. Now a Google search on something will return you sponsored links along with images of the said product.

General Search Query Ad Result

Also if you are very specific about the product and the model number then the ad for the said product will display in the right hand corner of the page. This is how it looks like.

Specific Search Query Driven Ad

What does this mean to merchants?

SEO professionals are not very happy with this move and why would they be? Merchants have been used to the free model that Google used to provide for Product listings and the payment will obviously limit those who are operating on tight marketing budget. Even though we feel their pain, online commerce is a field where nothing is certain as of now. We do buy Google’s point of the payment generating quality product information. However, merchants who have already been using the service will get to retain their product listings on the free web search results. Another aspect is the experiment about search placements. If you study the first search image above closely, you will realize that these new ad formats are significantly eating into Google’s default search result space. Now, that is a very tricky territory that they are entering. The second image above shows a very decent ad type. Search is Google’s lifeblood and we believe it should look at some better ad display models rather than the first one.

What are your thoughts about this change and the ad display experiments? Share your thoughts with us.

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