We don’t need to be mind-readers to know that whenever you are looking for a particular product, one of the first things you will do is search for it on Google; when you do, you are more than likely to see shopping listings on the SERP relating to your keyword phrase.
At the moment, Google doesn’t charge a fee for online merchants in the UK to appear in this space; instead, they must submit products (via an XML feed) to Google Merchant Center, which automatically appear within Google Shopping and Search results.
Using this model, Google Shopping helped to create a level playing field for small independent retailers and big brands alike. However, in what could be a significant change to search marketing, Google will only include paying merchants in their search results (Paid Listing Ads)
What Are The Google Shopping Listings Changes?
As of February 2013, merchants will have to link their Merchant Center account with an active Google AdWords account, and submit their product feeds via this route in order to gain visibility on Google Shopping. Merchants will also need to create a specific product advertisement for each product that they wish to sell on Google Shopping.
Why Are The Google Shopping Listings Changing?
Google believes that the change to a paid model ‘will lead to better, more up to date product data — which will mean better shopping results for users and in turn, higher quality traffic for merchants.’
Google hopes that moving to a paid model will result in better quality and more trustworthy data, which will improve the shopping search experience for its users. This is akin to the way that the Google Panda algorithm monitored on-page content for ‘relevancy’, and subsequently lowered the rank of ‘low quality’ sites.
The Google Shopping listing changes have already been launched in the US, which is reported to have been “a great success”.
When Will The Google Shopping Listing Changes Happen?
As previously stated, from February 2013, bid price will be one factor that will affect how products will be ranked on Google Shopping, with a mixture of paid and organic listings appearing on Google Shopping over the coming months.
However, organic results will gradually be phased out by the end of June 2013, which means that your site could see a drop in the levels of organic traffic driven via Google Shopping.
Who Will The Google Shopping Changes Affect?
All merchants will be affected by the changes; the key concern however, is for any businesses that fail to prepare; in this instance, the old adage of ‘fail to prepare; prepare to fail’ reins true.
Firms that fail to prepare for this change could potentially lose significant amounts of traffic and revenue overnight. Comparisons can also be drawn between these changes and the number of high street retailers that have gone in to administration in recent months; anyone that fails to adapt to a dynamic business environment is bound to be at a distinct disadvantage to firms that are adequately prepared to adapt to change.
Moreover, any retailers that haven’t used Google AdWords before may also be at a distinct disadvantage. Thankfully, there is still time to sign up and familiarise yourself with the system.
How Can Merchants Prepare For The Google Shopping Changes?
In order to prevent your business from losing sales as a result of the Google Shopping Changes, the key is to be proactive as opposed to reactive. Make sure you act now in order to gain a competitive advantage, which will ensure that this revenue stream remains profitable for your business in the future.
- Make sure you fully understand the current traffic and revenue generated via the existing Google Shopping channel.
- Utilise effective market segmentation in order to identify the products/areas that will be most profitable or will drive the biggest margin.
- Establish the tangible and intangible costs associated with utilising the new paid model for the previously determined key areas, including Cost per Click, Potential Return etc.
- Aim to trial your new system in order to ensure that it is generating the desired revenue and traffic; subsequent feedback and reports will allow you to make any incremental changes.
- Make use of Google’s free promotional credit incentives, which range from 10% of your ad spend back, to £75 credit, and are available at:https://services.google.com/fb/forms/shoppingcouponuk/