Ever heard of the phrase of ‘don’t be evil’ in the search world? It’s one of the core company mottos within Google, by far the world’s largest search engine. As it was growing, Google once said (referring to Yahoo and other search engines) that allowing businesses to ‘pay to play' in return for a position in the search results is plain evil, and they would never allow that. Until now that seems.
A few days ago Google announced that they will be closing the free service called ‘product search’ and replacing it with ‘Google shopping’ and this will be a straight forward paid service where the highest bidder wins. Or is it?
With Google being obsessed with delivering the most relevant results to a potential shopper, you will be forced to improve your quality scores and make your ad as relevant to the user as you possibly can. This, instead of the free-to-list opportunity that Google product search currently is.
The news could be great for the smaller businesses that have a rare or truly unique product that doesn’t have much competition, but in the more competitive areas there will be an impact, and reaction hasn’t always been positive. This change is unpopular due to the extra time and money needed on set up, monitor and run the product listings that were once free to list.
Large corporations like Amazon or Ebay could decide that they don’t want to play the Google product game anymore and retreat from the service, although given their huge AdWords budgets, that’s unlikely. One impact this could have is that fees for using other product marketplaces could slowly start to creep up which could end up affecting us all over the next few months.
However, site owners who are completely reliant on product search traffic may have some really tough decisions to make in a short period of time.
One good thing to come from the change is something called the ‘Google trusted stores programme’, which will soon be open to businesses in the USA, then come across the waters. Google have stated that trusted stores will have a Google buyer’s guarantee covering purchases with a $1000 guarantee which could help an ecommerce site gain a lot of trust with buyers. This is where other product marketplaces will get the shorter straw, because they will not be allowed to apply for the badge so smaller business and direct ecommerce could easily improve brand awareness.
So overall you have some questions that you need to ask yourselves of the next few weeks (not months).
1: Can you manage without the traffic once Google removes free product listings?
2: AdWords, can you increase your budgets? Maybe it’s time to take a look at what you’re spending? Are you bidding on the right products?
3: Start experimenting with paid product listings; this will be a steep learning curve and it’ll be a while before we know how it will work in practice once open to advertisers.
Written by Dan Somers (@seomers)