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17 Jul 2012

Say Goodbye to Free Google Product Search

For those of you retailers who have been enjoying the free use of Google Product Search, October might come as a scary month, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. Starting in October, the free Google Product Search feature will be replaced by Google Shopping, a paid service. The convenience of sending a feed of product listings to Google to display at random will end, and you will need to be more proactive about how to present your products and reach a more targeted audience of customers.

While you may be bummed out by this announcement, Google does have your best interest in mind. Sure – they have to make their dollar too, but there are plenty of factors that fed into the decision to ultimately replace Google Product Search with a more controlled feature like Google Shopping. Even though you are making a new investment up front, the hope is that this new method will prove more appealing to potential customers, thus increasing your ROI in the long run.

Google estimates that roughly five to ten percent of retail site click-throughs come from product listings. This is a hefty amount, which could translate to a substantial investment in CPC dollars, in addition to what you’re already spending on existing display ads. Since Google Shopping is a product for which you will now be paying, you should consider putting deeper thought into your inventory lists and the products that you want to present. This is your chance to gain exposure and add to your customer base.

Presenting duplicate listings or showing ads for out-of-stock inventory is no longer an option. Every time your product appears is a chance to attract a new customer – after all, you’re paying for it. Fortunately, because you now have the ability to control how and when your ads will appear through a CPC or CPA model, you’re more likely to reel in those bites, and make money on your investment. The product listings will in turn become more reliable, and this has the potential to increase traffic to Google Shopping. The cleaner the interface, the more likely users are to be pleased with their results and make purchases. This was the original end goal, and Google is providing a vehicle to get there.

Although this change may seem a ways off, it is important to start preparing for the update. This could be impactful to your budget, which you will need to consider. You are basically adding another department to your SEO campaigns, so you will need to learn how to make this Shopping feature work in tandem with any other online marketing efforts in which you are currently participating. Look for opportunities to find synergy in cross-promotion and more.

Another important thing to keep in mind – Google Shopping will be taking over in October, right before the holiday rush. You will want to be certain that your listings are attractive and up to date so you can get the most out of those customers who are shopping for gifts. This is the most important time of year for many retailers, so don’t let dull product listings suck your budget dry without yielding a significant return.

Retailers, it’s time to be proactive! Instead of treating this change like a burden, use it as an opportunity to increase your conversion rate and turn sales. Only time will tell how this update will affect campaigns over time, but for you, preparation begins now. Staying on top of your product listings and monitoring activity closely is a great way to ensure that you are getting the most out of this marketing effort.