If anyone has been paying attention to tech news, this story has probably been one of the biggest to hit the virtual newsstands. Google has announced they will begin testing a pay to play model to replace their current “organic” search standards for shopping online. This is big news, and I’ll tell you why.
First let me how explain how it worked up until recently. Let’s say your planning a camping trip next month and when going through your gear you realize that your tent you used to use in college will no longer accommodate you and your new family. So you decide to take a look online and see what’s out there. So you hop on your laptop and Google “tent”. You’re probably going to get a result that looks a bit like this:
The top left and smaller right column are populated by paid Adwords (as in someone has paid Google to be placed there) ads. Both areas are clearly marked as ads in grey text above them. Within the tan box below the Adwords you would see a few products, these are paid products listing. Underneath the product listing ads you will have your organic results including an area defined as “Shopping results for…” in this case, “tent”. Up until May 31st these results could be anyone’s product listing provided your product is relevant and you’ve done your SEO homework, no money needed to be dished out to Google. Pretty cool right? Provided you have submitted your data feed you may even get a little picture of your product next to the info. Well I am afraid this is no longer the case.
Type in “Tent” now and you’re going to get results that look something like this (Google says it will be experimenting with a few different looks along the line):
Again you start your results with AdWords text ads at the top left and down the smaller right column. However now you’ll notice that, rather than having separate Product listing ads and Google Product Search, they are combined into the single Google Shopping box. Finally after all this you will see the organic Web Search listings. The difference is this: You must pay Google to appear in the Google shopping box, no more freebies.
So how much do you pay and how does it work? Well it’s not quite set in stone yet, there is no hard date but Google says that it should be official sometime in the fall. Google also says that it will work very close to the way Product Listing Ads works now where merchants don’t bid on keywords but instead bids on how much they are willing to pay if their listing appears and is clicked on or a sale is produced. Google is offering two incentives to get merchants going:
• All merchants that create Product Listings Ads by August 15 will receive 10% credit for their total PLA spend through the end of the year
• Existing Google Product Search merchants will get a $100 AdWords credit if they fill out a form before August 15
So what affect will this have on shopping online? It hard to say but there are many feelings floating around out there both positive and negative. Some think that this will provide a serious advantage for bigger companies that are able to bid a lot higher than the little guys. Some think Google can be trusted to keep it fair and that it is not really that different then what is going on now. Some think that this is pushing Google into a more AOL-like model where you’re getting more and more trapped in the Google universe. Personally I don’t see this being a great thing but I am willing let it play out and give Google a chance, I suppose I don’t have a choice!