Google Shopping: Will it be Free Again?
Google Shopping is an interesting product marketing channel which has had somewhat of a turbulent and confusing past. When I began my career in SEO almost 10 years ago, Google Shopping (formerly known as Google Product Search) was free to use. But what exactly is Google Shopping?
What is Google Shopping?
Google shopping allows users to narrow their searches to commercial, ecommerce-based listings only:
As Google advanced and became more complex, Google began to understand the innate transactional nature of certain queries which could then be piped through to Google’s main results:
Initially it was free to place products within Google Shopping listings (back when Google Shopping was known as Google Product Search). All you had to do was subscribe to the service and provide Google with an XML feed of products to list (through Google Merchant Centre). Simple!
As time went on, Google became aware of the lucrative nature of shopping results. What started as a structural organic medium for product promotion, became a paid channel incorporated into Google Ads (where PPC services resided, back when Google Ads was known as Google AdWords). This happened in May 2012 (post from Search Engine Land, post from Google)
This created a confusing climate and ecosystem for Google’s results. As many of us know, those who work on Google results for their clients do so from one of two primary disciplines. These disciplines are SEO (organic, non-paid results) and PPC (paid Google marketing activities). If you have owned a business and struggled to find someone to take care of your shopping results, it’s down to this dynamic. Google Shopping was originally a strut of SEO (since it was a non-paid marketing channel) – but then Google Shopping became part of Google’s ad-network (and thus part of the PPC discipline)
As such, marketer found it hard to know who to give this task to, the management of Google Shopping, which began as an organic channel and then moved across to paid advertising
Recent Changes in Google’s Mindset
Google seem to have realised the error of their ways and are now moving to make Google Shopping listings free again. Here are a couple of posts from Google:
Some information from Google:
My belief is that Google Shopping will follow the trend of Google’s open-web results. Google tried running Shopping listings for free and they also tried making Google Shopping 100% paid. In the future I feel that Google’s shopping listings will be a blend of both, just like their normal search results
Will Free Google Shopping Results come to the UK?
At the moment, Google have only rolled out free product listings in the USA. For them to make such a bold move, I think that it’s likely, free shopping listings will come to other regions. The UK and USA share a special relationship (Google do a lot of business in the UK due to our common language) – so I think it would be unusual for Google to deprive the UK of free Google Shopping listings
When will the UK receive the same treatment as the USA? It’s difficult to say. Google are known for making sweeping changes to their search results in minutes, yet are also known for testing new products carefully with due diligence and consideration
Is there Further Coverage of these Changes?
Of course, coverage of these changes has been broad and wide-reaching:
The potential boon for businesses across the globe is significant. As Google further intertwine their various search verticals, the synergies of new free search mediums against traditional search are sure to be noteworthy
A Step Forwards for Google
This is a solid step forwards for Google and for businesses which look to ascertain business from Google’s search engine(s). If these changes are deployed world-wide, it is relatively certain that they will be combined with alterations to Google’s “Google My Business” platform
I foresee a future where Google My Business plays a much larger role in success for ecommerce brands. With the advent of Google Home, it would be unthinkable that there would be no interplay between these services. Imagine a future where your website’s product database is connected to Google My Business. Users can ask their home device: “show me a list of X category products from Y brand” (via voice search) and the screen of the device renders the results
Front-end design and development as we know them, may cease to be or may change dramatically. That being said, it is likely that Google My Business will increase in terms of customisation. The transfer of data between independently owned ecommerce data sources and Google products will increase dramatically