Marketers React To News Of Google Shopping Changing To Paid Inclusion With Hope & Concern

A few days after Google upended the ecommerce marketing world with the announcement of upcoming changes to what will now be called Google Shopping, many retailers and marketers we spoke with are positive about the switch, though there are definitely some serious concerns.

You’d think taking a product from free to paid would cause an outcry (and there is some of that) — but for many, instead, it’s an answer to long time concerns — concerns about control.

More Control = Happier Marketers

Cindy Starr, VP of external marketing at VistaPrint, a printing company with more than 65,000 products in its merchant feed, says the free Google Product search has been a fantastic source of business, and she believes Google Shopping could perform even better.

“It’s been quite successful for us,” she said. “It has one of our highest conversion rates. But, for our particular use, we’re excited about the changes. One of the things that we’ve been trying to do is get more volume and, with this, we can bid and get more volume. We’re excited about that possibility.”

Ryann Scrafford, marketing director of kids clothing retailer Axl’s Closet, agrees. “Outside of ensuring we had clean data, there weren’t any levers that we could pull to affect the channel’s performance,” he told us. “Replacing Google Product Search with PLA [Product Listing Ads] allows us the opportunity to compete against the large players in categories that we believe we provide a better assortment or experience in, and back off on the ones that we don’t through adjusting our bidding strategies.”

Hope For Better Reporting And Support For Decluttering

Besides increasing volume and tweaking settings, there’s also hope that reporting will improve now that Google is getting more money to support it.

“Frequently we see fluctuations in sales from week to week and are unable to determine what caused the increase or decrease which makes it impossible to optimize the channel,” said Scrafford.

Additionally, there’s marketer support for a de-cluttering of the search engine results pages for ecommerce-oriented queries, given how confusing it’s become in recent years.

“Google has done a lot to monetize the top portion of the search results for retail listings, that quite frankly the page has become littered with product listings, product extensions, shopping results, and a few regular organic listings, that it’s really hard for a retailer to stand out,” said Laura Thieme, CEO of Bizwatch Search Analytics.

Concern About Keywords

Still, even those, like Thieme, who were advocates of Google changing to a paid model are concerned about how the change might be implemented. Thieme says she recently learned the keywords a mid-market retailer client’s product listing ads (PLAs) were showing for. “We were absolutely shocked…[they were] not relevant, the costs were exorbitant, resulting in a horrible ROAS [return on advertising spend]. So, PLAs need to be improved, and, quite frankly, I’m glad they’re choosing to change the model, but not to paid inclusion,” she said.

Others are concerned that smaller retailers will suffer, given the money and time that will be required to manage product listing ads. Previously for companies with few changes in their products or pricing, Google Shopping could be nearly “set and forget” — but no more.

“Companies that relied on Google Shopping for a significant portion of their online revenue stream now face a daunting challenge of re-assessing their entire marketing mix, and seeing how reduced margins from sales in Google Shopping fit in,” said Brian Lewis, VP at Engine Ready.

What Does This Mean For 2012 Holiday Shopping?

Even more distressing is the timing of the change. Google hasn’t given a firm timeline, and, if you’re an online retailer, the all-important holiday season is right around the corner.

“The impact this could have on retail budgets for 2012 holiday season could be significant. Merchants need time to update their platform and coding requirements, and as a result, pricing and new requirements launched after September first, may not give retailers adequate time to respond to the changes in time for holiday shoppers,” said Thieme. “They should have this in place by July first, no later, to give retailers enough time to budget and programmatically update their feed requirements.”

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


About The Author: is Executive Features Editor at Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. She’s a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since 1998.

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  • Durant Imboden

    Could this be the first step toward a de-emphasis of “transactional” results in Google’s organic results? Search for “Suckit vacuum cleaners,” and the majority of today’s top 10 results are likely to be e-commerce pages. What’s more, those e-commerce results will be surrounded by AdWords and (in many cases) Google Product Search/a.k.a. Google Shopping listings. The resulting SERP looks like a Web version of the throwaway weekly shopper that lands on your doorstep. That’s bad for the user who may simply want information about Suckit vacuum cleaners, it’s bad for Google (whose search results look cheesy), and it’s bad for advertisers (who are competing with organic results from vendors who spend their sales dollars on SEO instead of on advertising). Maybe I’m naive, but the move from free “Google Product Search” to paid “Google Shopping” listings could be the first step in an evolutionary shift toward the model that we’ve traditionally seen in the print-media and broadcast world, where products are announced, reviewed, etc. but commercial direct-response listings are in the form of ads. Such a shift could benefit users, Google, and merchants who learn how to manage their advertising dollars effectively.

  • hipec

    Actually you’re comment is inaccurate from the first sentence. Remember, this is Google Penguin, and relevance / quality has been thrown out the window… replaced by “brands” even if the “brand” doesn’t sell the product.

    Although the KW phrase you mentioned was a poor choice to start, when I Google it I see Facebook, Wikipedia, pretty much all informational sites and not 1 ecommerce store.

    This is becoming the way of things. Google is killing the small businesses, now at an exponential rate, and it seems as if there’s no stopping. 

    Over the next 5-7 years my prediction is that Google messed up their own search engine so bad by attempting to stop manipulation, they will no longer be able to show relevant results… it’s quite easy to see this happening now.

    “Buy insurance”… #5 page is a blank domain.

    “xxx”… #1 (Amazon owned).. this is NOT user intent.

    “how to get ex girlfriend back” – 7/10 hacked results for over 1 month.

    “how to get ex boyfriend back” – 7/10 hacked results for over 1 month.

    “p90x workout” …  multiple redirect hacks and .info on the front page.

    “payday loans online”… #1 site has 0 backlinks (exploit)… #2 site is hacked.

    Did you know that’s over 200,000 people per month seeing bad results? Does Google not realize that the numbers are going to add up quick and people will start to become dissatisfied?

    My parents have already started noticing the poor quality and they are only mild computer users. If they have noticed and called me about it, this means that average users are seeing poor quality.

    Google came out with news stating “People are searching more…”… well that’s because they cannot find the information they need anymore and are having to return to look again… aka, low quality results.

    It is impossible to call Penguin a success. Google is tanking, Bing is on the raise. Come back in 5-7 years and see if I’m right.. I bet I will be.

    Take out the people that built your brand, kill your brand. Drop the people that helped build your index and make it user friendly, kill your user friendly index.

    Does Google not see this slippery slope? We built their index. We built quality sites that occupied their SERPs and helped customers. We did what was rewarded by Google for 10+ years. We did not spam the Internet. We employed people and helped the economy.

    Too bad they have to find out the hard way their little precious “algorithm” is fragile and weak without the help of SEOs and backlinks.

    Good luck Google, you’re going to need it.

  • Durant Imboden

    “I Google it I see Facebook, Wikipedia, pretty much all informational sites and not 1 ecommerce store.” Unlikely, since “Suckit” is a made-up brand. :-) When I used the name of a popular vacuum cleaner (a real one), nine of Google’s top 10 results were e-commerce pages and one was the manufacturer’s page. But that’s really beside the point, just as Google’s Penguin update and the quality of Google’s SERPS are beside the point. My comment posed the question, “Could this [the shift from Google Product Search to Google Shopping) be the first step toward a de-emphasis of “transactional” results in Google’s organic results?” I’d love to hear what people like Danny Sullivan Chris Sherman, and Vanessa Fox think. (Whatever happens, I suspect that–in the years ahead–ad-management and media-buying skills will become at least as important as SEO skills if you’re running an e-commerce site.)

  • KramerEdward77

    my classmate’s mom made $ 18460 l ast week. s he is ge tting p aid o n the l aptop a nd mo ved in a $ 571 600 house. A ll sh e did w as g et lu cky an d fo llow the t ips ma de cl ear o n th is si te ===>> ⇛⇛⇛⇛►

  • Laney124

    This is meant to be integrated into AdWords – what if the site, which preforms well currently in Google Merchant, is not allowed to advertise in AdWords. Do you suppose that the site will then not be able to use Google Shopping’s paid inclusion model (site sells bodybuilding stuff and the account was suspended in AdWords)

  • Andrew Davis

    There are a lot of unknowns still like this questions. I would contact Google’s Adword support team to request more information about your specific account’s transfer to the new Google Shopping.

  • Nathan Giesbrecht

    I think this will eventually be seen as a good move. Most offline product catalogues have always given advertisers the option of buying space further up the page. This is no different. I actually see this making it easier for small/medium retailers online to compete with the likes of Amazon, etc.

  • totnuckers

    SEO is dying breed get over it.

  • Lyndon NA

    Personally – I think it stinks.

    Google has spent years (lying through it’s teeth) saying they are there for the little businesses.
    I completely fail to see how this will benefit the SMB and little e-tailers.
    They do not have the budget for competing in the manner this is likely to bring.

    Wht’s worse is the insult to our intelligence by Google stating this will improve “quality”.
    Making people pay will not reduce the listings that include “sold out” or “modified since that price” etc.

    The only real difference will be a bunch of little businesses won’t be there.
    Those that do stick it out will either have to spend a fortune on high-traffic/high-competition terms, or scrape up the left-overs on the tiny-terms.

    Once this is rolled out, for most mainstream terms, you’ll see the big brands sat there for the main part … and not an independant in sight.

  • David Rothwell

    This has *always* been on the cards, always. Anyone who couldn’t see it coming has been blind.

    This is all about value.

    Clicks have value. Google know the value of a click better than any organisation on the planet.

    If you don’t want clicks, don’t bother having a website, or an AdWords account.

    If you don’t want to sell stuff online, forget about Google.

    You too, absolutely have to *know* the value of your clicks. Because you are about to be hit where it hurts – in the wallet.

    They are absolutely right that a commercial relationship is critical to this – too long has there been so much junk around that people can’t be bothered clearing it up because “it’s free” (well, actually, that’s misguided anyway, nothing on the Internet is “free”).

    Why do you think G gave us Conversion Optimizer?? So *you* could call the financial shots, not them. What did they get in return? Commercial DATA. The value of clicks and Sales.

    I call it “Follow the Money” – earn more than you spend, then spend it all.

    In Jerry Maguire, it was “Show Me The Money!”

  • Alesia Krush

    Many people I know think that Google’s Merchant Center is a joke, because of the poor support and lots of glitches. It could be that, when the service becomes paid, support will improve. But I also think not everyone will have the budget for it, so, some will win and some will lose.
    The only thing that I personally don’t like about Google’s products is that Google keeps on changing the game all the time, which incurs extra costs for advertisers/optimizers in the form of staying on top of things, learning and re-learning the new rules, making adjustments to meet the new requirements, or simply losing money because the game has changed.

  • David Johnstone

    Your example is a really bad one (“Suckit vacuum cleaners”). Your search term is a transactional search (brand name + type of product) – it’s like searching for Nike Air Jordans – very few people are going to search for something like that and want a Wikipedia-type information page – it’s a buying key phrase, they want e-commerce sites.

    As to paid inclusion making things better, it will reduce the variety of products for the shopper, AND reduce the number of vendors they can buy from.  How is that a good thing? If Google wanted to truly give the shopper everything, they could easily let the shopper filter the results e.g. “Show only sponsored listings” – if you selected that, then a cookie is set and you only ever see the paid inclusions (just like they do with adult search).  But no, this new move will see free listings disappear altogether giving shoppers less choice in terms of products and vendors.

  • robthespy

    Right…unless you know what you’re doing!

  • BondMarissa

    my friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her paycheck was $19177 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more her

    ⇛⇛⇛⇛► (Click At My Name For Link)

  • Stella

    and not an independant in sight. my neighbor’s mother-in-law makes $82/hour on the laptop. She has been out of a job for 8 months but last month her income was $15014 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more CashLazy&#x2Ecom  

  • John Kent Williams

    I just logged into my Google Shopping account.  It seems it has not changed.  what changed.


    Google is now a big banner, this new change will be the yahoo of google future. Anyone selling items below 35 dollars ( 30% of products sold online ) can see that is impossible to afford a decent budget to compete ( a joke ) with amazon, best buy, sears, JCP,, GNC,, Alibirs and HUNDREDS of very big sellers which use not their own money but the stock market investments. Google has minus zero support and if you get any, the people are cocky as you can get. Is about time someone makes a search engine with ads that can charge per sale or based on the value of the product being advertised, meaning? well, no to pay 5 dollars a click to sell a 20 dollar item, does that sound absurd? What about comparison shopping behavior, people tend to click 20 times more for comparison ( like google shopping ) than to Ads, what makes this google shopping a very very bad idea, because people are not 3 year olds shopping, they are savvy, the click and click to products sometimes just for fun, why is this bad for sellers, well, google will be helping buyers click more or if you see it other way, to leave your site faster, just to compare. Google is not doing this because is a SMART MOVE as everyone is calling it, is doing it because they know that sellers are not paying for the ads, they are not worth it, so now they go after the last thing they have left, really, the last thing they have left, because google has been selling stock by saying that they make so much in ads, no true, they make money by selling bluff to stock market people, that is all. This google shopping is the yahoo move of google, I hope BING will get smart this time, right now all sellers are looking for alternatives and here is your opportunity.  

  • http://www.MoreFrom.Me Brian Trevaskiss

    If you look at Google trusted stores and Google PLAs (done on CPA)
    together – Google can shift traffic to the highest converting sites
    and make more money.

    With trusted stores, they get all you data – they already know your
    traffic, now they’ll get sales – so they can work out conversion

    Because Google gets a percentage of sales through PLAs (done on CPA)
    they will earn more for themselves if they send traffic to the best
    converting sites.

    Smart move for Google – bad news for retailers who don’t convert.

  • David Durel

     Sign the petition asking Google not to do this, here:

    This change will greatly hurt the economy by negatively impacting small businesses. Further, it will make Google’s product results biased and useless. People use Google Product Search to get the best deals on items. This will force an increase in end user pricing, for any merchant who even dares to compete with the big players. Inevitably, the small businesses which drive the US economy will be squeezed out by their inability to financially compete with the heavy hitters. This change is bad for Google, bad for consumers, bad for small businesses and bad for the US economy.

  • FlyPaperWeb

    anyone else find it funny how all of the mouthpieces for Google are so quick to
    reply. LOL

  • Ray

    Right, because all of us smaller retailers have the marketing budget of Amazon. Wake Up!

  • Laney124

    Thanks Andrew. Have now tried that and they have told me to find out via Google Shopping?? Looking for some resources now….

  • Nathan Giesbrecht

    You don’t need a marketing budget the size of Amazon’s, unless you plan on competing with them in every product category that they offer. And if you’re plan is to be Amazon, just with a smaller marketing budget, you’re doomed anyway. 

    My point was that those of us in niche markets can more effectively compete with Amazon in those niches.

  • Cheryl

    Here’s hoping for Bing or some other company that can save us from the Google monster!  I am just a small business owner finding herself at the mercy of Google.  Between Panda and Penguin and NOW Google Shopping turning into a paid service, I am can’t make ends meet financially because my traffic decreases by half every time!  Small businesses make this nation great and Google is penalizing us with the “gatekeeper power” they have been given BY US (ironically).  I just want to put food on the table!  I am sure if the majority of the people use some other search engine, Google will back down and go back to the way things were.  But that day may never come.

  • Andrew Davis

    Yes if you go to your Google Merchant Center and click help on the upper right there should be a contact us link on that main help page. 

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