Google Product Search No Longer Free
Wow! I was quite shocked to see the Google Blog Post today announcing that Google Product Search would be re-branded as Google Shopping *AND* will no longer be free for merchants to list their products:
First, we are starting to transition Google Product Search in the U.S. to a purely commercial model built on Product Listing Ads. This new product discovery experience will be called Google Shopping and the transition will be complete this fall. We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date. 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.
From the beginning, what was once known as Froogle, then Google Base, and now Google Product Search has always been a place for merchants to freely submit their product feeds. It was similar to how Google Search always worked for organic listings.
I then read a great article (and you should too!) on Search Engine Land that goes into greater detail and examines this huge 180 turnaround by Google:
I’m still processing this large change by Google, but my initial reaction is this:
Google, by changing product search to a “pay to play” service, has done a major dis-service to the small merchants out there that are trying to compete with the large etailers of the world. By turning this service into the companies with the biggest pocketbooks getting all the exposure (and drive up bids for the smaller guys and girls), SMB merchants will be at a distinct dis-advantage when it comes to getting their products easily seen by the masses.
Sure, Google tries to couch this in terms of being better for the consumer and merchants, but it all boils down to Google wanting to monetize the service to increase its profits. This is fine for any company to do, but at least be upfront and honest about it. Don’t try to say you believe in your core value of do no evil, while at the same time harming thousands of small merchants that helped build your service in the first place.
I don’t know how this will play out, and it will be interesting to see how the service evolves.
I do know that all online merchants will want to read all they can about this new service, and figure out how to be competitive in the new Google Shopping landscape that is about to be born as early as August.
What are your thoughts on this change by Google?