Changes in Google Shopping since February 14 2013

As it has now been a few weeks since the mid February change, I thought I would summarise the impacts of what happened and the implications for future merchant thinking.  This has been BIG (and not necessarily better for everyone).

Firstly you may have noticed a dramatic reduction in the free clicks generated from Google Shopping for your listed products. You may be receiving very few clicks, if any at all, as a result of the new model that Google introduced to Adwords and Shopping on this date.

We saw that when the equivalent change occurred in the USA in July 2012, it noticeably reduced the proportion of free clicks for merchant which we covered in an earlier blog.  Some merchants in some sectors saw their traffic disappear entirely.

So this was expected for the UK change, but still may have come as a very nasty surprise to many merchants.

While at this phase of the transition, it does not mean the end of free clicks from Google Shopping, the listings now clearly take into account the existence (or not) of sponsored (i.e. paid) merchants entries, and free listing positions may have be downgraded even if this structure is in place on your Google Adwords account.

Your Adwords account is now acting as the governing mechanism of your Shopping account. It extends the controls that are already currently in place for Product Listing Adverts, and applies these to the products in Shopping.

Once Phase 2 is activated (at the end of June 2013), there will be no free clicks at all from Shopping. Every click from Google Shopping will then be a chargeable item.

Right now, it is worth considering some of the factors that make a real difference:

Adwords Related

Is your Google Adwords account active, with a Product Listing Campaign in place, targeting your inventory?

Is it properly linked to your Adwords account?

Are your Adgroups set up correctly?

Are they targeted in the right way?

How have you set your bids?

Have you targeted all products? (Important in respect of Google’s rebate on Product Listing Advert spend)

Product Relevance and Listing

Product Listing adverts are not keyword based.  Instead Google’s algorithm is looking at the details of your products; their titles, descriptions, brand, MPN, EAN etc.

Apart from negative keywords (which are strongly advised), everything else driving appearance for PLA and Shopping is contextual.  There are other elements of the algorithm which influence relevance and ranking, and the auction (bid price) now is also a factor.

Google’s front page is now much more oriented to Shopping; their sponsored link is now pushing customers faster into Shopping, with corresponding impacts on organic and text based search response levels.

The key is product visibility.  At this stage good traffic can be generated without having to place huge maximum bids in the Adwords side of the equation.  But, to really understand searches, clicks and performance, the requirement to customize your uploads to the Merchant Centre, to improve the quality of data, and to segment your products into high or low targeted areas have never been more important.

It is still early days in the UK.   The auctions are new and some merchant feeds have dropped away.  Maybe forever, but I suspect not.  Competition is lower than traditional Adwords text based adverts and the auctions are less congested.  Google Shopping can work for merchants (and very well if properly approached), but the game rules have drastically changed and you may need help to make the most of the opportunity.

If that’s your position, just comment on this blog and I’ll come back to you.

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