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Hello Google Shopping, Part 1: Farewell Product Search

Well, it’s happening. Free Google Product Search is being phased out, and a new, paid inclusion model is being phased in.

What’s Google Product Search, you ask?

Fair enough. It is a legitimate question. Product Search has been incorporated into Google for so long that’s it’s become a seamless part of the search landscape. This picture will help identify the old Product Search results from the regular web search results:

Old Product Search Results

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the new search changes, though, a thorough review of the old system is in order. That’s what we’ll do here in Part 1.


The (old, free) Google Product Search

We can’t quite talk about Product Search at the end of its life without going back to the very beginning.

Product Search was first unveiled in 2002 under the derivative name Froogle. It was meant to be used as a free price comparison service. Shoppers could enter search terms on the Google home page and be shown relevant product listings.

Product Search gathered the information for its listings in two ways:

  • Traditional crawling and indexing of merchant websites
  • Merchants uploading product data feeds through the Google Merchant Center

Google then sorted the data into two different sections: web search listings and shopping search listings.

There was no fee for shopping search listings, and Google did not make any commission on sales. The first products to appear in search results did not pay for placement — rankings were made on relevancy. If so desired, a merchant could choose to pay for advertising adjacent to the search results via Google AdWords or by purchasing a Product Listing Ad.

The following graphic illustrates the different elements of a Google Product Search results page, with AdWords shown in blue, Product Listing Ads shown in pink, and and shopping search listings shown in green. Normal web search listings are not highlighted.

Here’s the breakdown on these different search listing elements.

AdWords Text Ads

AdWords are text-, image-, or video-based that appear alongside search results and on web pages throughout Google’s large display ad network. Text advertisements consist of one headline up to 25 characters long and two additional lines of text with limits of 35 characters each. Image and video ads can be several different sizes and formats.

AdWords are offered in a cost-per-click (CPC), also known as pay-per-click (PPC), or cost-per-impressions (CPM) format. In a CPC format, advertisers bid on the keywords they think potential customers might search on. Advertisers can pay as little or as much as they want for those keywords, and they are only charged that amount when their ads are clicked (PPC) or viewed (CPM). Advertisers can target their ads to appear in certain locations and at certain times.

In general, the more an advertiser pays per click, the higher up the page the ad appears — however, relevancy plays a part, too. Overall, the better targeted your AdWords listing, the better chance it has to appear.

Product Listing Ads

Product Listing Ads appear at the top or beside search results. They include richer product information than AdWords ads, such as product image, price, and merchant name. Unlike AdWords, they do not require additional keywords or ad text. Google automatically “matches” user search queries with relevant items in Merchant Center accounts.

Similar to AdWords, clicks on Product Listing Ads are charged on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis.

Shopping search listings

Shopping listings are mainly culled from free merchant-submitted data feeds.

Web search listings

Web search listings are primarily made based on what Google indexes, though there’s a bit of overlap from merchant data feeds.

So, what now?

Next up: things get shaken up! In Part 2 we review the changes and how they affect Google merchants. Stay tuned!

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