As of October 17th, eCommerce sites will see a significant decline in their traffic from Google Shopping unless they set up a Product Listing Ads campaign.
Over the last few months, Google has been trialling the planned switch from unpaid to bid-based listings in their popular product search engine. This is mixed news for merchants: good for those who want to have direct control over their listings without having to figure out the vagaries of the ranking algorithms, not so good for those whose products already had a dominant position in the rankings
The new system will function somewhat similarly to Google’s other advertising products, with placement determined by a mixture of relevance and keyword auctions at the level of individual products. Those merchants who want to take advantage of the new system before the upcoming holiday season should begin to make the move soon.
Magento users are well-placed to begin their Paid Listing Ads (PLA) campaigns. They should already be using Magento’s facilities for exporting a product listing data feed to Google Shopping. All they need to do now is set up a campaign, select bid levels for individual products, and a fallback bid amount to catch those products that don’t require individual attention.
If merchants are unsure of how to go about setting up the best bidding context for their products, Google is providing plenty of guidance. On October 19th at 10:00am PST, Google will be hosting a hangout on Google+ called ‘Bidding Strategies for the Holidays‘ to help merchants prepare. Check out this video for a quick guide to creating new Product Listing Ads campaigns.
Opinion is mixed in the industry as to whether this move will be a beneficial one for both eCommerce merchants and their customers. Until now, Google Shopping has been a vendor-neutral search platform, displaying an exhaustive and inclusive range of products. From this month though, consumers may experience a significant restriction in the quantity of products they can see and compare as results for those merchants who have chosen not to set up a campaign are excluded. The nature of Google Shopping will change considerably. However, for those who are prepared to make the change, the ability to selectively target particular products for inclusion by bidding will result in much finer control of product listings, which can be integrated with other marketing efforts to produce cohesive campaigns.
What do you think? Is Google undermining its status as a neutral provider of data or is this a positive move for the eCommerce industry. Let us know your opinion and experiences in the comments.