Google Product Search is getting a new name, Google Shopping, and a new pay structure – paid inclusion. (Actually, in many countries we already call it Google Shopping, but in their main market, the USA, Google Product Search was the original name.)
In a move I wouldn’t call completely un-evil, Google is taking away something which was previously free, and making people pay for it. If you want to keep advertising your products using Google Merchant Centre feeds – you’re going to have to pay. Also, if Google had previously been crawling your site and showing your products in Google Product Search – that’s stopping too.
Google says this is because they want to serve only the most relevant results, and that this will provide more trustworthy data for the end users. Compare this to their IPO filing for the old shopping engine Frugal, where they boasted of it’s free results, saying that users could be confident that the results provided were “relevant and unbiased”.
Google Adwords already uses Product Listing Ads – which take your Google Merchant Centre feed, and show it as a pay per click ad on relevant searches. This meant that you would sometimes potentially have your shopping result twice or more on a search page – both paid and free. No more – Google is removing the potential for the free results, and you will have to pay per click if you want your product feed results to show at all.
The change is being rolled out slowly in the USA, starting now, and apparently to be finished around October. In other countries, the roll out is expected to happen in 2013.
Search Engine Land has produced some great pictures, demonstrating how the changes might look. The worrying thing for me, is how the ads will no longer be separated by their background colour – they are white like the natural search results.
How it looks currently
An example from the experiments of the new feature
In the industry, we call this Paid Inclusion – where you have to pay to be in the results, but you can’t pay for a certain position. The new ‘ads’ will be managed not in the Merchant Centre, but in the Google Adwords Interface, and seem like they will work a lot like Google Adwords Product Listing Ads. Google is encouraging everyone to get on board with PLA’s before the shift – just to get used to it (or just to bring their revenues even closer). When Google Shopping takes over Google Product Search, PLA’s will be phased out, because they are basically the same thing.
There may be some positive effects from this change – when you have to pay for something you might take more care to keep it up to date, relevant and abide by the rules. But, it may also squeeze out smaller players, restricting shopping results from those who can afford (or want) to pay.