Free Google Product Listings: RIP, We Hardly Knew Ye
When October rolls around, retailers will be finding their free ride on Google Product Search is over -- it will be replaced by Google Shopping. No longer will marketers be able to just provide Google a data feed of their inventory and product details and sit back and enjoy free activity from organic search.
The volume of clicks for this activity is not insignificant, either. It is estimated that 5%-10% of search traffic to retailers’ websites comes from Product Search. Going forward, each product a retailer wants to list in Google Shopping will be a paid placement, via a CPC or CPA model.
Google seems intent on monetizing every area of the search engine results page,and this is the next step. That said, this isn’t necessarily just a huge cash grab for Google. There are other factors at play as well.
Is this good for retail marketers?
Retailers can benefit from Google Shopping in some ways. One important area is the increased level of control that will allow retailers to influence traffic volume and promotion for specific products during promotional periods. Marketers will be able to eliminate fluctuations in volume and allow for clearer differentiation within the Product Listing Ads results.
This change will also result in cleaner search results for users, which will benefit marketers as well. Product listings will be more reliable, with less duplication and more accurate product details. When you are paying for a placement, you are more likely to provide higher quality and more updated product information. Better results will likely drive increased usage of Google Shopping compared to Product Search. Happy customers who have the results they are looking for are more likely to convert – which is a win for everyone.
Lastly, by making merchants pay for the listings, Google aims to force out merchants who use feed trickery and misinformation to drive clicks.
There is work to be done
It’s not too early to begin to prepare for this change, especially considering how close to the holiday shopping season it will go into effect. Make sure your feeds are high quality and you understand the budget impact this will have. This change also adds an additional facet to your search engine marketing programs. You will now need to balance Shopping between SEO and other paid listings, which could be a cross-team effort.
There’s much uncertainty about how exactly this will work in the end: how relevance factors at play will work in rankings, what importance will be placed on such factors as trusted store verification, or reviews or rating information. Marketers must stay on top of any updates or changes that happen, as Google will be making adjustments during and after the rollout in order to optimize both the user experience and the benefits for marketers.