It’s not a secret that I am a big fan of Google’s addition of product extensions and product listing ads to the Adwords platform. My last article about taking advantage of Google Shopping seems to be timely in light of recent events.
As many of you might already know, Google will officially be transitioning to the paid model as early as August and is already testing various queries.
Since a number of our clients utilize Google product search and are gaining a significant amount of “free” converting traffic to their websites (some up to 10%), I find myself going through an entire series of emotions about this change: Nervous, angry, excited, happy. Only Google, in their infinite wisdom, could induce so many different emotions all at once. Let me discuss in detail about each emotion.
The Emotional Rollercoaster That Is Google Paid Inclusion
I am nervous because ‘Big brands” with unlimited budgets are already gaining the advantage in most generic keyword searches. Now, the latest algorithm update seems to be even more strongly favoring large brands. So, it appears that the only remaining area where a brand owner might have seen some coverage and preference has been taken away and the power has shifted (once again) to who can spend more advertising money.
I am angry because the “providing users with the most relevant search results” and “Do no evil” days of Google seem to be a dream of the past. From my perspective, their current SERPs are slowly starting to look like the classified section of your quickly declining local newspaper.
I am excited because this program will weed out a lot of the affiliate websites that aggregate product and services from various manufacturers and sell them online, often to the detriment of the end user and the brand owner.
I am happy because as an advertiser, you will have a lot more control over which products are being listed and promoted in Google Shopping. In the past, this was dictated by Google’s self-anointed and often flawed “relevancy.”
Dealing With The New Reality Of Google Shopping
Now, since I am fairly sure Google is not going to pay for my therapy bills as I wrestle with these (admittedly nerdy) emotions, I decided I’d better focus on the positive: how to best prepare for these changes and find unique ways to capitalize on them when they come.
First, in conjunction to this announcement, Google also announced the addition and official roll out of the Google Trusted Store. It is free (at least for the time being) and relatively easy to set up.
You can go to Google’s Official Page and sign up by clicking on the apply button. Initial feedback looks to be positive, and I’d encourage advertisers to go ahead and get in on this free program as soon as possible.
Since the announcement of the Paid Google Shopping program is coming right as the holiday shopping strategies are being put in place, it will be critical for retailers to give it a try before its official rollout in August. Per Google’s blog post from earlier this month, Google is offering the following incentives:
- All merchants who create Product Listing Ads by August 15, 2012 will automatically receive a monthly credit for 10% of their total Product Listing Ad spend through the end of 2012; and
- Existing Google Product Search merchants can receive $100 AdWords credit toward Product Listing Ads if they fill this form in before August 15, 2012.
For a lot of you that have already taken advantage of product extensions and optimized your PLA’s, the next steps should be relatively easy. You can pull a Product Listings Ads performance report from your Adwords account and determine which products perform the best, which are your top spenders, and what products are not getting enough play. Based on this data, you will have a pretty good indication of what products to focus on first.
For advertisers that are brand new to Google shopping, I would recommend joining as soon as possible in order to test your various products and determine what works for you. Very similar to your current search testing strategy, one way to launch some initial tests is to only syndicate your top converting and selling products first, in order to benchmark performance and find out what really works for your business.
Google will likely be pushing a lot more traffic to the “new” shopping experience, so you should get a pretty good indication relatively quickly.
Like the knowledge graph we are seeing in a lot of Google SERPs, when searching for a specific product on Google, Google Shopping will have a very similar inclusion as a part of the sponsored link. This will give users the ability to select straight from the homepage if this is the right product and allow them to get additional information.
Even though Google has not been very forthcoming with how this selection is made, it is safe to say that it is a good start to employ best practices. If you have a great product title, succinct product description and your overall store rating is good, Google will very likely give you preference and show your product listing as the defacto showcase for a particular keyword search.
Doctor’s Orders To Cope With Google Paid Inclusion
In an effort to help others through their Google-induced sleepless nights, here is a simple checklist that details how to take advantage of the new Google Shopping:
- Set up a new account and/or claim your credit.
- Enroll your website into Google’s Trusted program network.
- Make sure that your website meets the threshold for seller ratings.
- Syndicate your products and test with your top seller product first.
- Take advantage of product listing ads and product extensions.
- Although this word is right up there with “innovate” and “strategy” in terms of over-usage, it must be said: Optimize. No two brands are alike. No two customer targets show the same user behavior.
Our time is up… so, like me, you’ll have to put your emotional meltdown on hold and instead roll up your sleeves, test and optimize within the new program and find out what works for your brand.