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Google Shopping will no longer be free: Is This Bad for Store Operators?

It is no longer free to list products in Google Shopping Google is planning to transform the section “Product Search” as it is called in the USA into a pure ad system. At the same time this section will receive a new name: Google Shopping. In America the conversion should already take place in August 2012 and European countries will follow.

The new Google Shopping has recently been published in the USA. Here you can see a first screenshot:


New Interface

New Interface

With Google Shopping being a type of free price search engine, it was possible to generate free traffic for your store via the Google Shopping search or the display of shopping results on the SERPs (search engine result pages). This enabled store operators to transfer product information in XML product feeds or txt data via the Google Merchant. For relevant search queries your products would appear in the shopping search, provided that you transferred all mandatory attributes. For shopping search optimisation and search queries with buying intention, the products were also placed within the organic search results as one box.

In the near future Google only wants to show the “product listing ads” (PLA), which are paid ads. Placement of the ad on the website will be determined by a combination of search result relevance and display price, which is also determined by the online store – and is therefore analogous to the AdWords system.

PLA could have already been booked for the normal Google ranking, just as the product and price can be placed on the right side of the search result list.

Since last year, the PLAs represent a new display format for Google search. When delivering the PLAs, parallel to the shopping search, Google also uses the product data of an online store, which has been deposited at the Merchant Center as XML feed. The delivery of the PLA is achieved through a simple connection between the Merchant Center and your AdWords account. Currently, Google tries to entice Merchants in the USA with special offers on the ad price and the credit for normal search term advertising, in order to convince them to start using the product listing ads for Google Shopping:

Google also recommends the vendors make their online stores Google Trusted Stores. After Google Checkout is widely spread, it is quite likely that the CPC model will be replaced by an affiliate system.

In the media as well as in forums Google’s transfer from the free Google Shopping to an all-paid market place such as eBay or Amazon has been widely criticized. However, this observation falls short.

Online store operators are advised to use the new option for store marketing with complete data and, just as for other market places, to calculate commissions. With the conversion Google also wants to induce the merchants to keep their data up to date, providing users with better search results.

Nevertheless, the conversion will put big budget advertisers in the lead, whereas smaller companies might have problems competing with the click budgets.

In addition, the SEO sector will lose another field of activity, since shopping search optimisation will be a thing of the past. And store operators will lose a free traffic channel. But since the position of the search results is based on a combination of relevance and bid price, Google Shopping will come closer to AdWords and can be promoted with the relevant know-how. This might make it possible to deliver even better results from this channel to store operators.

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