After last month’s major change to Google Shopping, making the service solely pay-for-play, the company is exploring ways for affiliates to participate via Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in the US.
Google Shopping has been testing ways of working with affiliates for nearly six months in alpha and is now opening up the beta to additional participants, according to Eric Tholomé, product management director of Google Shopping.
The idea is to allow affiliates to bid on PLAs for products sold by their merchant partners, adding additional data to Google Shopping and allowing Google to tap into a whole new type of advertiser for this type of ad. Outside of this beta test, affiliates aren’t currently permitted to create PLAs.
Although Tholomé says he doesn’t believe any Amazon affiliates are currently participating, the terms of the program would allow these folks to buy ads — letting Google Shopping list products from the US’s leading etailer, which isn’t participating otherwise — unless Amazon objects.
Test Is U.S. Only
The test is limited to US-based affiliates for US-based merchants, who may submit feeds targeting the US audience only. According to Google Help pages, affiliates create a sub account in AdWords for each merchant they work with. Then they submit feeds for the products they wish to advertise, keeping the data as up-to-date as possible. To preserve the consumer experience, links must resolve directly and immediately to the landing page for the product on the merchant’s web site.
Merchants may opt-out of the program entirely if they wish, or contact affiliates attempting to advertise their products and ask them to stop. For the beta, Google has created an opt-out interface for merchants — in their Merchant Center account within the “General” Settings tab — which provides them with a list of affiliates targeting their site, along with their contact information, but only if there is at least one affiliate advertising their products.
Merchants Get Precedence On Google Shopping Site
There’s nothing keeping multiple PLAs from being created for the same product, so a sort of pre-auction takes place to determine which PLA will participate in the main auction. Google is using two different algorithms for this pre-auction. On Google.com, the algorithm chooses the “best offer” which takes quality score and bid into account. On Google Shopping, if the merchant is participating, the merchant’s PLA always takes precedence.
One danger is that “merchants might feel like they are competing with themselves,” Tholomé told me. “That doesn’t happen.”
Google said “a handful” of affiliates participated in the alpha but wouldn’t disclose the identities of any of the affiliates or merchants, other than Nextag.
The company has set up a sign-up page where affiliates may indicate interest in participating in the beta program.