or will be on February 13th 2013. If you have been using Google Merchant Centre and Google Product Search (if not why not?!) then you will have probably received an email outlining the upcoming changes to this service. You may have also seen the large red banner in your Merchant Centre account. If you would like to know more about how these changes might effect you then please read on…

What is Google Product Search?

At the time of writing, Google Product Search mainly gets its listings from retailers submitting product data feeds through the Google Merchant Center. Google has never charged for inclusion in its shopping search engine since it began back in December 2002 (when it was called Froogle). That’s about to change.

To clarify, your sites pages may still appear organically in the ‘Free’ search engine results pages. However, if you want to appear in Google’s dedicated shopping search engine Google Shopping and the product boxes that will appear as part of the new Google Shopping service, you will need to pay.

Also, if you are using a feed management service, or you already use AdWords Product Listing Ads (more on these later), then you don’t need to worry.

Enter stage left – Google Shopping

Google Shopping is the new name for Google Product Search. It is now part of AdWords which is Google’s propriety pay-per-click (PPC) platform (this is how Google pays for all those servers that drive their free search engine) . This means that you will need at least one Product Listing Add (PLA) campaign active in your AdWords account and link it to your Google Merchant Account in order to use Google Shopping and Google Shopping PLAs.

In the current Google layout, the Shopping Search Engine option appears here..

Google Shopping Option

The Google Shopping results pages look like this..

Google Shopping UK Example

Notice how the search engine uses your location to highlight nearby stores.

What should I do about it?

You can of course, set up AdWords and create a basic PLA campaign yourself by following the instructions inside your Merchant Centre account. However, you would be missing out on some massively important opportunities by doing it yourself –

You need an optimised feed..

If your feed is professionally configured, optimised, submitted and managed, you will never have to worry about the quality and integrity of your xml shopping feed again. In order for PLAs and Google Shopping inclusion to function, you will need to have a robust data feed with all the correct attributes. The days of submitting incomplete feeds to Google are over. In fact, Google will suspend your feed indefinitely if it not configured correctly. Feed best practices are a very complex issue and beyond the scope of this post. Let a professional take care of it otherwise you may be paying for clicks you don’t want/can’t convert or your products may never appear in Google Shopping or in PLAs.

Dynamic Product Level Ads

Due to the fact that a clean feed is required for Google Shopping, it would be the perfect time to use your optimised feed to also drive several product level AdWords campaigns. Imagine having every single item (or selected categories) dynamically advertised on Google. The standard DIY AdWords configuration for PLA is ‘catch all’ which is fine to get you started but doesn’t really cut the mustard for an e-commerce sites long-term strategy.

Get in early..

Another compelling reason to start using Google Shopping now if you aren’t already is that, because this service was launched in the States in October 2012, we have some interesting data coming from across the pond. The problem with the free Google Product Search service was that it was dominated by the big hitters like Amazon and eBay. One good thing about the transition to the paid Google Shopping system is that the playing field has effectively been leveled. This is good news for smaller merchants.

Other Shopping Search Engines

Going forward, it would be a good idea to use your optimised feed to drive other Shopping Search Engines and comparison sites such as ShopZilla or Kelkoo. Please note that most comparison shopping services usually require slightly different versions of the feed. We can take care of this for you.

Google Product Listing Ads

This is an example of how your new Product Listing Ads might look..

Google Product Listing Ad Example

Why has it changed?

According to Google, the point of the move is Building a better shopping experience on Google.

“This is about delivering the best answers for people searching for products and helping connect merchants with the right customers,” said Sameer Samat, vice president of product management for Google Shopping

To sum up..

It’s never nice to have to cough up for something that was once free but look upon it as an opportunity to move your business forward. Exploiting the new, pumped up Google Shopping service is a smart move for e-commerce sites. However, we strongly advise getting your feed professionally managed. Fisheye are more than happy to do this for you. Also, free services will never be as good as a fully fleshed out paid service.

Fisheye offers Google Shopping feed management as part of our AdWords services. If you require any advice on how to harness the power of the new Google Shopping Search Engine and AdWords then please feel free to give the Fisheye Marketing Team a call on 01743 292 610.