Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Oct 3 2012 23:42:42

Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

By: Ina Steiner

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The world changed for online merchants on May 31 when Google announced the impending demise of free listings in "Google Product Search" (the Shopping tab on Google.com). Traffic would still come from organic (aka natural) search results on Google.com. But the OneBox showing products pulled from listings merchants sent to Google via their product feed would no longer bring traffic unless merchants were willing to pay for it through the Product Listing Ad program (PLA).

Google spent the summer experimenting with the new Google Shopping, including the placement of the OneBox on the search results page, and on Tuesday, it announced October 17th was the day it would officially end free listings.

"Starting on October 17, Google Shopping results in the US will come only from merchants who are Product Listing Ads advertisers. We will be ranking these results based on relevance, with bidding as an additional factor. The ranking of natural search results on Google.com will not change."

The timing is far from ideal. Many merchants took the summer to set up their product feed and set CPC bids - the maximum amount they are willing to spend for a click on their Product Listing Ads - but they must cope with Google's mad experiment right as the holiday shopping season is getting started.

Here's a look at how Google Shopping works right now. before the complete rollout. A search yesterday for "fenton glass vase cranberry" on Google.com brought back 1 PLA ad for Bonanza in the Google Shopping OneBox.

It seemed strange that Google would only show one product; a quick check of several marketplaces revealed there was plenty of inventory available for sale:

eBay: 687 results found for fenton glass vase cranberry
Ruby Lane: 72 results for fenton glass vase cranberry
Bonanza: 41 results for fenton glass vase cranberry
Tias: 38 results for fenton glass vase cranberry

A search this evening for the same term showed 2 PLAs in the Google Shopping OneBox on Google.com - one for an item on Bonanza, and another on DCs attic.



A search a few hours later for "fenton glass vase cranberry" showed 2 PLAs - one for an item on Bonanza, another on Ruby Lane. The results raised some questions. Why was Bonanza consistently getting exposure for this search term? Why were results for the same term varying? Why was Google showing only one or 2 PLAs for this particular search term? And the burning question, how do you get Google to feature your listings in the OneBox?

Clicking through to Google Shopping, the source of PLAs shown in the OneBox, showed lots of inventory, including from several eBay sellers, TIAS.com and Fitzula's Gift Shop.



Merchants (or marketplaces) pay for PLAs on a cost-per-click basis. So it seems on the surface it would make sense for Google to show more items in the OneBox - the more items in front of shoppers, the more likely one of them will grab a shopper's attention.

Google pulls other OneBoxes into Google.com search results in addition to the PLA OneBox, including News, Images, and its other ad program - Google AdWords. So it's a pretty complex algorithm to dynamically determine what to display on a search results page. With PLA ads, Google has to weigh relevancy vs revenue. (Could Google be comparing CPC bids for PLA versus AdWords when deciding which ads to display on the page and their placement on the page?)

Conversion may end up playing a big roll in how Google surfaces your listings. If shoppers click on your PLA ad but come right back to Google, it may believe your ad less relevant. Many merchants have Google Analytics on their websites, and Google is pushing them to become "Trusted Stores," in which case Google knows whether your shoppers are buying or just browsing. This can help it determine what shoppers are doing when they go to the listings on your website.

Still interested in how Google Shopping handled non-commodity items like antiques and handmade goods, I tried another search, this time for "hand crocheted sweater." Five PLA ads showed up on the OneBox on Google.com from retailers 6pm, net-a-p ..., Zappos.com, Sierra Tradin...,Saks Fifth Av.... (In the screenshot below, the ads with the pictures inside the OneBox are the PLA ads.)



So why were branded retailers showing up rather than sites like Etsy, which is the Queen of handmade and vintage goods? A quick search of Etsy and eBay showed that eBay had 711 listings and Etsy had 1,876 listings for hand crocheted sweater (I happened to notice that Etsy did come up 1st in organic search results).

Clicking on the Google Shopping link on the OneBox revealed merchandise from Etsy, eBay, Blujay, Bonanza as well as North Style, EveAndOnlyEve and RustyZipper.com. (Notice a different layout than in the Google Shopping screenshot in the search for Fenton above.)



Here are more results for some searches I conducted over the past two days. Note that results vary based on many factors, so don't think that you'll necessarily see the exact same search results I'm seeing.

Search term: vintage batman comic book dc comics
PLA results: 3 PLA ads all for a merchant by the name of Murtz Comics

Search term: ipod nano graphite 8 gb
PLA results: 3 PLA ads: Gamestop, Meijer, Clever Electr...

This was an interesting exercise to see how Google is surfacing one-of-a-kind items. While it's great if your items show up on Google Shopping, it seems critical to get them to show up on the OneBox in Google.com search results, and as far as I know, Google has not given guidance into how it selects items to feature.

As Demandware's Gary Lomardo told me at the recent Shop.org Summit, data quality is key. Beyond that, it seems it's a waiting game, and you can count on merchants, vendors and experts to delve into the workings of PLA in the coming months, especially after the complete rollout of the program on October 17th.

Google is attending the SMX East conference in New York City this week and said, "we would love to hear from you during the Google Shopping Q&A session on October 4 at 2:30 PM local time. We look forward to making ourselves available to answer any questions you may have regarding Product Listing Ads on Google Shopping."

Google is also hosting a "Bidding Strategies for the Holidays" Hangout on Air on October 19 at 10:00am PST - visit the Ads Google+ page to join the Hangout.

Let me know what questions you'd like to see answered, and what you discover once the changeover takes place.




Comments (17) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: Spartacus

Thu Oct 4 01:02:43 2012

Never, ever would I pay Google per click for traffic.

Think about it. An informative article like this one is probably going to lead readers towards attempting to duplicate Ina's searches and result in clicks charged to the merchants listed as they do research.

That's the way ''pay per click'' works. Merchants foot the bill for people doing research or just playing around.

Google has outlived it's usefulness and replaced it with sheer greed. Just as with eBay, it's time to move on.

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
Web Site

Thu Oct 4 08:41:53 2012

I'd be interested to know if the PLA's are going to return ebay auction items, auction w/BIN or just FixedPrice.  And if they do show auction items, will they take the time-ending into account to only show items that are running?

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Thu Oct 4 08:54:46 2012

Should I bother to upload my product feed data to Google anymore?

Will my uploaded information be used in the ''organic'' search results? Or are the organic search results based ONLY on the data Google collects when spidering my web store?

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: lemonsandlemonade This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 4 10:49:13 2012

Google has become worthless if you are trying to find something and would like results from many venues in one place.

I did a search for Vintage Hush Puppies and ended up with results from Zappos.  Are you kidding me Google?  This is not even remotely what I was looking for.

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Thu Oct 4 13:41:04 2012

@Annie - eCrater sends all their items to Google organic. eCrater requires that you include all the relevant Google Attributes, which I assume you are doing with your product data feed. I just checked on an item I have for sale using a regular Google search, and it came up second in a return of over 5 million sites. I can't be assured that it's not because of the search bots, but it certainly can't hurt to keep doing the feeds.

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Thu Oct 4 15:54:32 2012

Thanks, Jack!

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst

Fri Oct 5 01:17:59 2012

I'm testing since Sunday with google free coupon clicks, what a scam. 2 sites, 2 totally different prices for very same exact products and same prices, identical sites and settings. Google shows 120 clicks in one per day and the other 30, but in all, same cost per day in total clicks, so if you see, the difference is huge, is not just in the search. No wonder Amazon refused to pay for those useless ads. Absolutely no support or protection for click fraud, I see the same guys from India or other countries that hire people to research/copy products coming in and out via google product ads, I see at least 40% of this type of visitor. I'm glad I'm using those free clicks, I will not pay after they run out, and also, did you notice nobody is using the google wallet or protection badge? Just another bad idea. I bing and yahoo for ecommerce marketing.  

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: Spartacus

Fri Oct 5 01:26:33 2012

@iheartjacksparrow  - Normally, I like what you're saying but truth is eCrater is not an option for professional merchants. In fact, eCrater is far worse than eBay because eCrater is run by one individual and if a merchant hits him on a bad day, he just deletes their account.

I would never, ever, ever risk my business on eCrater. Then again, I feed my family through e-commerce.  

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: Spartacus

Fri Oct 5 01:28:41 2012

@iheartjacksparrow  - show us stupid people one (just one) example where an eCrater listing is dominating organic Google search? As someone who is experienced in SEO, I call Bullsh*t.

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: Shilpi Roy This user has validated their user name.

Fri Oct 5 05:06:04 2012

eBay sellers needs to be realle careful cause google got seriously unpredictable. Google killing seo business. Just for their own adwords pockets.

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

This user has validated their user name. by: Nan

Fri Oct 5 07:37:00 2012

Re Google Attributes:  I expect those are supposed to align with eBay's Item Specifics?  
I certainly hope not, because some of the cat's I list in are lacking specifics badly.  

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: zvicki This user has validated their user name.

Fri Oct 5 13:57:41 2012

http://www.google.com/search?q=Fenton+Cranberry+Vase&aq=f&oq=Fenton+Cr
anberry+Vase&sugexp=chrome,mod=7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Just
did the ''organic'' search and it comes back with multiple listings - why would anyone pay $ for the shopping on Google?
I have never used it, and I do most of my Christmas shopping online.

This seems to be a very stupid idea?

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Oct 5 14:02:50 2012

>>@iheartjacksparrow  - Normally, I like what you're saying but truth is eCrater is not an option for professional merchants. In fact, eCrater is far worse than eBay because eCrater is run by one individual and if a merchant hits him on a bad day, he just deletes their account.

I would never, ever, ever risk my business on eCrater. Then again, I feed my family through e-commerce.<<

Spartacus -- I also feed my family through e-commerce and my main source is via ecrater. It depends on what you sell and how you sell. Yes, stores can be suspended if they don't follow the rules. Follow the rules and you don't get suspended--period. It has nothing to do with whether or not ecrater's owner is having a bad day.

I generally find my merchandise within the forst couple of pages on Google's organic search and on Google shopping as well. One thing to remember though, is when you are checking your placement on your own computer, Google soon learns what you are looking for and will push those type listings up higher. When my listings are checked by someone that has no interest in the types of things I sell, my items fall lower. That is purely Google and the cookies that they have on a person.

I consider myself a professional seller, even though in the world of e-commerce I would probably only be considered a small seller as I only have about 7800 items listed. I think you claiming that ecrater is a good fit for 'professional' sellers is nuts. Sounds like you were there, didn't follow the rules and got suspended and are still carrying a chip on your shoulder. That is too bad as it is much cheaper to sell on ecrater than elsewhere.

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Oct 5 14:07:54 2012

Ecrater has paid a minimal fee so that all ecrater sellers show up under the PLA. I find that when checking several listings several times this week, my store consistently shows up on the first page of Shopping. I have signed up for Adwords PLA myself as well and so far other than one seperate campaign, I haven't had to pay for any clicks. One of my 'chores' for the day and next several weeks is making sure I'm doing what I need to to show up on Google consistently, and that I'm using all on line resources to the best of my ability.

I did notice a little something on the shopping page that reminds me of ebay. There is a short list of sellers and if you click more, you will see an expanded list of stores included in shopping.

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: chimeguy1 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Sat Oct 6 17:15:51 2012

Ina I had products before on the test google products they are gone. I am now looking reading about new google products and IT LOOKS AND IS SO COMPLICATED!!  ANY place you can send us to learn how to do this/ set this up without having to hire someone??  

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: Royal Presence This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Sun Oct 14 18:37:10 2012

At the day job, I have difficulty returning a search via keywords or search terms.  I think there are many people in my workplace having the same difficulty.  As a researcher, this has become a bit more challenging when searching for relevant items, not necessarily products listed on shopping pages.  

From a seller standpoint, one thing to note however, is those paid ads on the side of google browsing for an ecommerce site, is that one can hide those paid ads.

I wonder how this affects those merchants who are paying for the ads to reach searchers who are not even seeing the ads?

Perminate Link for Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results   Google Shopping Ads and OneBox Results

by: murtzcomics This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue May 28 21:09:25 2013

Caught this article on a search, saw we were mentioned and thought I would chime in on a topic extremely important to us. Google is still by far the most used search engine and any ecommerce website is silly not to play in their sandbox. That being said the dynamic of Google Search-Google Shopping-PLAs-Data Feed is maddening. They must be in Giuness Book of World Records for longest algorithm. Time consuming, costly and high maintenance is the only way I can describe running PLAs. Almost like running a whole other website. I would like to touch on a couple of points brought up. Daily budgets come into play, that is why at different times of the day search results will be different and in various quantities of results. When your daily budget runs out on any PLA, all of your products, even items not involved in expired PLA, will be eliminated from Google Shopping. Your website basically disappears completely from google shopping until the daily budget resets. As the day goes on and daily budgets run out, webstores disappear from the search. A nice punishment for your ads attracting clicks, like they are supposed too!? Not sure completely about Ebay and the rest of the auction houses. I would think the regular ''ebay stores'' must have something set up for PLAs, I still see lots of ebay items on google shopping. I will be very discouraged if Ebay sellers are getting free what i have to pay for. I have voiced my opinion to Google, not that it matters much, that this model is not sustainable in the long run. Eventually this model will squeeze out small business do to the resources needed(read time and money) to adhere to the ever changing requirements by Google and the market. In other words, only large corps that can throw money and employees at managing the PLAs/Google feed and make up the difference somewhere else will survive. Sound familiar? Not to mention it is far from being in the consumers best interest since it restricts variety and choice just by what time of the day you are searching. I will admit however, our business did pick up once we got onboard, but it takes a lot of work. But with Google, more is involved than just the PLAs to get your products in Google Shopping. They have recently tightened up their data feed requirements on many attributes. Things that were allowed just last month are now not allowed and will cause your product to be disallowed on Google Shopping. Little things, easily fixable, check your Merchant Account dashboard for disallowed products. We just went from over 180 products disallowed to 100% full compliance and all products allowed, over 1500. There is hope as I think we are proof of. Our business is 100% home grown. We have done everything on our own since day one. We have never hired anyone to do our Web/SEO/Google work. We are self educated and motivated. We started this webstore  so we wouldn't be beholden to the Ebays, Etsys, and Ecraters of the cyber world. Capitalist, independent, and entrepreneurial is  our business model. Keep the faith. If we can figure this mess out, you all can too.  



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