Over most of the past decade the comparison shopping engine (or CSE) space was fairly predictable.

You had your top 4/5 major CSE’s along with a bunch of smaller ones, and you knew you could rely on consistent, well converting, free, traffic from Google.

However a few months ago Google  flipped the comparison shopping world upside down by announcing that they’d phase out of the free program and transition into a fully paid one.

This sent retailers in a squirm trying to figure out how to adjust to the new change. It was like your parents suddenly charging you rent after letting you mooch off of them for nearly a decade.

And while the aftershocks are still being heard, we’ve spent the past few months carefully analyzing exactly how the change affected retailers, and how they can best utilize the new program.

In this, the 15th edition of our quarterly rankings,  we’re going to observe just how the “Google effect” has impacted the CSE world.

The Study

Like we did with our rankings each of the past two quarters, we’ve split up the rankings into 4 specific categories (free registration required):

For full details of how we measure the CSE’s check out our previous rankings’ page:

How We Measured Google

For the purposes of our study, we decided to try to realistically determine what a merchant listing on Google would see, so we combined both free and paid Google into one. In other words, the Google numbers here reflect a hybrid of the historic “Product Search” (free) program as well as their new PLA (paid) program.

So let’s get started.


Right off the bat we see the sort of impact that paying for traffic can have. Whereas before Google had little incentive other than the user-experience in mind when sending a search user to a merchant’s page, they now have much higher incentive to promote products on their main SERPs and send users to what are now paid product ads.

Halfway down here we see the top tier-engines in a close race, but the story here is obviously how much more dominant Google has become here.


And here we observe more of the same. Google’s dominance continues with Nextag leading over “the rest”.

Below the charts are broken into two parts, dark blue represents data from Q3 2012, and light blue reflects data from the previous quarter, Q2 2012.

Conversion Rate % (orders/clicks)

Google is once at the top again but the gap is much closer here. Conversion rates actually dropped off just a tad but still are the best in the industry, even though every other CSE actually saw a slight increase in conversion rates.

COS (Cost divided by Revenue) %

For the first time since we started these rankings Google doesn’t get an automatic “win” here as it has an actual measurable cost of sale % here, however it’s still the best of all the “paid” CSE’s.

Amazon saw a big improvement here compared to the last quarter, with Nextag, Pricegrabber and not too far behind.

If we measure only paid Google results, it would still be in the lead with a cost of sale of: 12.5%

Average CPC (Cost-per-click) Rate

Google once again is our leader here as it has the advantage of free traffic on its side, while the rest of the CSE’s saw an increase aside from Nextag.

If we measure only paid Google results, it would have a CPC rate of: $0.30

Shopping Engine Responsiveness Rating (ranking from 1-10, 1 being best)


Our account managers here are constantly in touch with the shopping engines in an attempt to optimize our merchants’ accounts, and know first hand which engines are quickest to contact and who acts best.

Merchant Tools (ranking from 1-10, 1 being best)


In the end we ranked each shopping engine from each of our metrics from 1-10 and assigning a point value for each category (higher being better).

We doubled the COS % value making that out of a possible 20 points, and weighted traffic + revenue as 1.5 each for a maximum of 15, summed it up, and got the following:



Despite the change in the CSE scenery (CScEnery?) the old sheriff is still the ruler of the town.

Nextag, Pricegrabber, and Amazon are 2-4 as they were last quarter, with and Shopzilla flipping spots.

But as the leading traffic and revenue source, as well as the best conversion source for our clients, there’s actually never been a more important time to be on Google if you’re a retailer to ensure you’re not missing out on a near unlimited amount of customers.

It may require a lot more work than the previous “set it and forget it” model, but a well managed campaign now has the ability to get your site more traffic and  orders than ever before.  The ceiling has been lifted and with the program still growing, now is the time to really take advantage.

Breaking Down the Rankings by Category

Through special demand by our readers asking us to break down the CSE’s by specific categories, we have created separate studies that concentrate on apparel, electronics, home & garden, and sporting goods.


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