In his comparison shopping engines blog Channel Dollars, Kevin Packler calls Google‘s recent decision to replace its free Google Product Search with a paid Google Shopping Platform a “defining moment” that will impact “every merchant with a significant online presence.”
Over at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan called the move “shocking” and “unprecedented.” This is the first time Google has switched from a free to a pay model for one of its services. It also represents a change of heart for Google, which until recently had publicly opposed the idea of “paid inclusion.”
Google believes making merchants pay will improve search results by encouraging companies to “keep their product information fresh and up to date.”
Here’s the company’s take on it: “Higher quality data—whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability—should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants.”
Small Retailers Could Lose Out
“For publishers, there’s a whole lot of worry here,” Sullivan notes. “If Google can turn one search product to an all-paid basis, nothing really prevents it from doing the same for others. Could Google News only carry listings from publishers that want to pay? Will Google Places… be changed to a pay-or-don’t-play yellow pages-style model?”
Not only that, but Sullivan worries that the “ability to get into the nooks and crannies of the retail web” will be lost.
Packler agrees, noting that the change will give large, well-recognized brands an advantage over their smaller competitors.
“Google will need to be treated more like a normal paid channel, with a careful eye on return when calculating ad spend costs,” Packler notes.
You will find more on the Google Shopping changes at channeldollars.com.