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Google Product Listings No Longer Free to Online Stores

Last Updated on Jun 4, 2012 by Jenna Scaglione

Why does it feel like Ecommerce stores are constantly opening their wallets to stay in competition with other websites listed in Google?

It was hard enough to watch our rankings suffer once free product listings took the top spots in the search engines. Traffic loss and plunging profits were the inevitable fallout. Now, merchants will have to pay for those coveted spots.

Google Product Search, a once FREE listing, is changing to Google Shopping, a paid business product. Though Google has started its rollout this month, the transition will take until the fall to complete.

Currently, Google pulls its listings from the web or from product feed submissions through the Merchant Center and it has never charged a fee for doing so…until now.

Google Shopping will now be a shopping search engine that charges the companies that want to be included in the shopping boxes that appear above the search results.

The Problem

The web is teeming with people who are frustrated with Google and its changing opinions. Google once had an aversion to paid inclusion and touted free search as relevant and unbiased.

But, today, it seems as if Google is changing its stance even though it will never admit it. In its most recent blog post, Google says:

“We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date. Higher quality data—whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability—should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants.”

Publishers are also concerned that Google will not stop converting free models to paid. What about local search? Blogs and news search results? What’s to stop the search engine from requesting payment for top spots in those verticals?

Additionally, paying for shopping search engine inclusion still won’t guarantee you a top spot. You are just paying to be included in the engine. You will bid on how much you are willing to pay for clicks instead of on specific keywords. Relevance will also play a role in rankings.

How it Works

Product listing ads (PLA) will also be slowly phased out even though they will be similar to the Google Shopping model. Google is urging advertisers to start using PLAs so they will be ready for the changes. If you take advantage of PLAs by Aug. 15th, Google will give you a 10% automatic monthly credit for your total ads for the year. If you are using PLAs currently, you will receive a $100 Adwords credit for filling out a specified form by August 15, 2012.

The Benefits

There may be a faint light at the end of this tunnel.

It may make sense for Google to switch to a paid model since so many people try to game the system. This model will deter low quality sites from failing to follow the rules and abusing the process. In addition, when advertisers pay for a service, they are more apt to ensure quality and remain as relevant as possible to help their cause in the search engines.

Are you happy or frustrated with these changes? Will you participate in Google Shopping?


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