On 17th October, Google Merchant Centre users in the USA will no longer receive free clicks through Google Shopping/Product search, but instead will have to fight it out in the paid bids similar to Product Listing Ads through Adwords.
Switching a free, relevance-only offering to paid-inclusion – Evil or just good business sense?
Paid Inclusion or Not?
Google has stated that ‘paid inclusion’ has historically referred to entries which were not identified as paid, whereas their paid shopping entries will all be labelled appropriately.
Other people (including the US Federal Trade Commission) see paid inclusion as any practice of including a result only if payment is made – (which potentially excludes relevant entries if they are not paying).
Google Shopping previously provided a huge ‘inventory’ of products, which was very helpful in finding the more obscure products on the web. However, with paid inclusion, how much of that inventory is still going to be searchable?
A Good Way To Fight Spam?
Should we believe Google that the reason for the change was to encourage advertisers to provide more up to date, high quality feeds? After all, it’s true that if you are paying for each click on your feed, you don’t want to waste clicks on products which aren’t there anymore. Additionally, you want to encourage relevant customers by having the most relevant information in your ads. This will all in turn mean a better user experience for shoppers.
However, as Danny Sullivan has pointed out, this could have been achieved by an annual fee, but then again, why would you want that when you could get an almost unlimited revenue of clicks?
Also, when they have to charge people to try and minimise spam, what does that say about their technology? Their regular search results are up against much stronger spam every day, is there no hope for them in fighting it?
What Else Can We Pay For?
The Bigger Worry: What else could Google change to Paid Inclusion? Many businesses get a huge amount of their business through Google, and have become increasingly reliant on it. The most obvious example of something which could move to Paid inclusion now is Google Places. They have just had a big shakeup to make businesses transfer to Google Plus, could they switch the whole thing again, this time to paid inclusion?
We’ll do another post after the changeover to see whether the cost of clicks in PLA adgroups has risen, numbers of competition has increased or maybe some advertisers just refused to pay.
The changes will roll out to Australia and the rest of the world probably over the next 12 months.