No Such Thing as a Free Search
We may have jinxed it yesterday by declaring the best things in life are free by citing Google Product Search as an example (and a bit here too), because just today Google has announced that they will transition Product Search away from becoming a completely free avenue for merchants to list their products into a “a purely commercial model built on Product Listing Ads.”
Don’t We Already Have Google Shopping?
What’s confusing is that the “new” platform will be called “Google Shopping” (instead of Google Product Search), something that many merchants and users alike already know it by.
What this means in a nutshell is that the free traffic merchants have been getting for nearly a decade through what was called Froogle/Google Base once upon a time will no longer be free, and essentially turn into a paid CSE.
New SERPs Coming Soon
Google says they are already experimenting with new SERPs (search engine results pages) which include bigger images and a sponsored label in it to indicate that someone is paying to be there
Here is an example:
If Google is indeed shifting users away from seeing free Google Product Search listings, which on Google’s main search page is known as “one-box” listings, merchants who prominently get “one-boxed” now will likely see a drop in traffic as the transition happens.
What will be interesting is if Google’s Shopping tag will only be filled with merchants that pay, which would end up being the only Google service that requires payment to be shown–compared to say Images, Maps, or News.
We’ll have more in the coming weeks/months as the transition occurs, but this is a big transition not just for Google but for comparison shopping in general.
Similar to their recent Panda update Google says it has the user experience in mind, as “less than trustworthy” merchants will no longer just randomly throw their darts at the wall, since a paid model should in theory better ensure that their listings are of the latest and highest quality, though that’s something that’s important, free or not.
The new Google Shopping will be built upon the existing Product Listing Ads platform, which is CPC based, but we’ll be curious if Google will extend upon product extensions as well, which is CPA based–which speculatively combined with Google Wallet, Google may set its sights on Amazon sometime down the line.
For full information on how the process works, check out Google Commerce’s blog post on the matter: http://googlecommerce.blogspot.com/2012/05/building-better-shopping-experience.html