Google Shopping changes in the UK will be introduced tomorrow (Feb 13).
The switch will see new product listing ads and paid-for results in Shopping searches.
For ten years, Google Shopping (formerly known as Froogle or Product search), provided lots of free traffic for online businesses. But that's about to end.
From tomorrow, free listings will be phased out. By the summer, all Google Shopping search results will be paid-for ads.
Google has asked retailers to create product listing ads for the new Shopping search pages.
PLAs are already an option in Google AdWords, but will become the standardised format in Shopping.
PLAs use large product images and only contain information about an item: such as size, seller, and price.
They don't use keyword bids, like AdWords advertising, or rely on keyword selection.
Instead, retailers upload their inventory to Google Merchant Center, and it returns relevant products when a user searches in Shopping.
Businesses can still set a maximum bid - but, unlike in AdWords, the correlation between which products are returned and a retailers' bid will have less effect on the results.
In the States, Google already pushed ahead with Shopping changes in October last year. Reports suggest PLAs have since attracted higher clickthrough rates, with lower costs per click.
Google says the Shopping changes will create "visually cleaner" results pages, and improve the user experience as more pertinent info (like, product price), will be immediately available after a search.
And because it was previously free to upload products for Shopping searches, Google is hoping the switch to a PPC model will stop disreputable businesses from spamming customers. Currently, Shopping searches sometimes return products which are out of stock - a visit which is arguably a waste of a searcher's time. By using stock info and updates as part of its ranking algorithm, Google is make Shopping a more useful service.
For retailers, the Google Shopping changes could mean paying for clicks which were previously free. But as more and more consumers turn to Shopping searches (even for services, like plumbers), the potential to boost revenue is likely to outweigh any sour grapes.
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