Google to Charge for Product Search

If you have an e-commerce website, take note: there are big changes to Google Product Search on the horizon. Introduced by Google on May 31, 2012 for USA searches, the new program based on paid Product Listing Ads (PLA) is coming to the UK in autumn.

Old: Google Product Search Model

E-commerce is now an integral part of any retail business model, with sales via the internet growing year on year. Coupled with the fact that more and more people shop using smartphones and tablets, it is essential for your business to have a strong web presence.

Anyone with an e-commerce website knows the importance of exposure of products on main search engines. Since 2002, Google’s “Google Product Search” results gave users the option to quickly switch to “buying mode” and find products they were interested in.

So far the system was simple: all businesses had to worry about was to have their product pages set up correctly and optimized (SEO) and their products would show on relevant Google Product Search results pages. Thus, if your e-commerce website was optimised, your products would be easily accessible to potential customers using Google.

Google used to acquire the information for Google Product Search via two sources:

  • their Googlebot crawling e-commerce sites
  • and the Google Merchant Centre,  in which webmasters could enter their product listings manually.

Once the data was collected it was displayed on Google’s ‘shopping’ tab as well as the main search engine results pages (SERPs). Below is an image showing the current (17th August 2012) UK SERP for “iPad” search. As you can see, fourth position of organic searches (under the three paid AdWords listings on the yellow background) is the Shopping Results suggestions space.

Old Google Product Search Model (SERP snapshot)

New: Google Shopping Model

Unfortunately the old way of Google gathering information about products meant that some details (pricing, descriptions, availability, etc.) were sometimes of date or incorrect.

Thus, Google decided that a paid structure would be more beneficial to assure the quality of search results to users and announced the move to paid listings in Google Shopping, where current Product Search Listings will be replaced with paid inclusion system based on Google Product Listing Ads, similar to their PPC AdWords model.

Google hopes that a move to paid Google Shopping listings will push webmasters and e-commerce site owners to use correct and up-to-date product listings (otherwise they would be wasting their money!).

SERPs for product related queries already look a little different for USA searches. This is what users now see when they search for “digital cameras”:

Google SERP with new paid Google Shopping section highlighted

As you can see Shopping Results now appears on top right called “Shop for digital cameras on Google”. Potential customers can see a catalogue-style section marked “Sponsored”.

The changes also appear in longer-tail searches, i.e. when the search is narrowed down to a specific camera — for example the Canon Rebel T3i:

Google SERP with Google Shopping product ad

Notice the increased amount of info about this specific product on the SERP, giving potential customers instant access to the advertised offers. This will make product price comparisons even faster while giving retailers some control over how their listings appear.

At a later date, retailers will even have the ability to advertise special sales and deals right on the SERP to attract potential buyers.


Binamic believe that this will have a tremendous impact on search generated traffic for e-commerce, as search pages are essential to the running and success of your e-commerce website. This adds new level of complexity to the marketing mix of products online, as listing your products on Google Shopping will need setting up and campaign management (not to mention cost!). But there are also enormous advantages to be made by early adopters!

Email or call us on 01753 878 435 for Search Engine Optimisation help today.

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