Google Widens Test Of Affiliate Advertising In New Pay-For-Play Shopping

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.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Features: Analysis | Google: AdWords | Google: AdWords: Product Listing Ads | Google: Google Shopping | Top News

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  • Pat Grady

    affiliates = cse. cse ads within G’s cse?

  • http://ftc.gov/ MonopolizedSearch

    With Panda, Penguin and EMD updates Google wiped the SERPS clear of affiliate marketers. Now Google wants to monetize them by allowing them entry into Google’s Paid Shopping product? Please. These actions are clear evidence that Google cares far more about making money then they do about the “user experience.” Google’s Paid Shopping results are now quite thin since they introduced paid results. I personally won’t use Google shopping this holiday season as there is little diversity. Additionally, the prices of the product results returned are nearly double what they can be purchased for elsewhere. Someone is paying for Google’s take in the transaction – the consumer. But it won’t be this consumer I assure you.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidWeichel David Weichel

    Great article Pamela! We’ve actually seen this happening with a few of the CSEs and you’re totally right about merchants feeling like they are competing with themselves via the CSE’s ‘arbitrage’. It’s great to finally get an official stance on this from Google since without it it seemed like the CSEs/affiliates were doing some shady. Turns out that they’re only casting the net out wider and increasing the opportunity for your landing pages to convert potential customers so all in all I think it benefits merchants that don’t have well-established or built-out PLA campaigns.

    Just thinking out loud here. Thanks again for the article!

  • daveintheuk

    Google really has become a vile, greedy, hypocritical beast these days. Anybody who thinks they have an interest in anything other than extracting the maximum cash from every website owner, and maximum personal information from every user is totally deluded.

  • Pat Grady

    They gave us a box to choose whether to allow affiliates or not… I’m confused.

  • Pat Grady

    PriceGrabber is one such “affiliate” now in Shopping. Many “affiliates” might disagree with this label.

  • Georgios

    Chack that out you might be interested http://referraltask.com/ref.php?page=act%2Fref&invcod=143806

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