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Hello Google Shopping, Part 2: No More Free Clicks

In Part 1, we talked about what Google Product Search has been — up until now. Here in Part 2, we’ll discuss what it’s becoming.

Google is in the process of phasing out free Product Search and phasing in monetized Google Shopping — in fact, it’s already started happening. Before we dive into the details, take a good look for yourself.

Product Search then:

… and Google Shopping now:

The new Shopping screenshot above is just one of a handful of new formats Google will be experimenting with over the first few months. Even though Google Shopping won’t formally be announced until sometime this autumn, the new search formats are already mostly in place.

What’s different?

Allow me to walk you through the changes.

  • Merchants who were previously able to appear for free via data feed uploads in the Shopping Search Listings box (shown in green on the screenshots above) will now have to pay to appear there.
  • Merchants can manage their campaigns and data feeds through AdWords.
  • Instead of bidding on AdWords keywords, merchants will bid on how much they’re willing to pay if their listings are clicked and/or generate sales — similarly to how Product Listings Ads work now.
  • Paid inclusion, however, doesn’t guarantee that a merchant will rank well for any particular terms — top ranking will depend on a combination of bid price and perceived relevance.
  • Product Listing Ads will be eliminated — or, more accurately, they’re becoming the system upon which Google Shopping is built.
  • Additionally, merchants who have proven track records for on-time shipping and exemplary customer service can earn Google’s Trusted Stores badge, which provides a $1,000 lifetime purchase protection guarantee per shopper.

What will happen to merchants’ sites?

Many are understandably worried the new changes mean their sites will disappear from Google search engine results pages entirely. Fret not, because this isn’t the case. Merchants’ websites will continue to be listed in the organic search engine results, and ranking will continue to be determined via Google’s complex algorithm. Their products just won’t be visible in Google Shopping — not unless they pony up the funds.

The “free clicks” that are disappearing are the ones associated with the products Google shows in its shopping search engine — and depending on the merchant, that could have an impact on sales.

What do merchants need to do to play along?

In order to keep listings active, merchants need to set up a Product Listing Ads campaign in AdWords. Yes, Product Listing Ads will not technically be a part of the new Google Shopping, but the shopping listings are based on the PLA platform — and Google figures that getting merchants signed up for PLAs now will prove to be the easiest transition.

To get started, log into Google Merchant Center and, from the Dashboard, click “Set up Product Listing Ads Campaign,” or, click on “Settings” and then click on “AdWords.”

Those who have had separate Merchant Center and AdWords accounts will first need to link the two. Next, you can set up a new campaign, and then set up a new Product Listing Ad for that campaign.

Google Support can help walk those that are new to the process through each step, or contact us if you would like help getting started.

The transition will be complete sometime this autumn, so now is a good time to get going.

What happens next?

In Part 3, we’ll examine the potential effects and fallout of Google’s new paid inclusion model. Stay tuned!

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