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Remember When Froogle Was Free?

 In Paid Search, PPC

Google Shopping, once called Froogle, then Google Base, then Google Products, will soon no longer be a free service for online merchants with a list of products and a dream. On May 31, Google announced that Google Shopping will now be a pay-per-use service that will allow shoppers to easily research purchases, compare different products, their features and prices, and then connect directly with merchants to make their purchase. This is expected to occur in August and September.

So, for Marketers, will Froogle be Frugal?

At first, this might seem like very bad news to merchants who already see excellent referral sales from this source. After all, Google has never charged you to list your site’s product inventory in its system. Except for the hassle of complying with the various feed specification changes and modifications, by and large, Google Products has probably been a steady referrer of residual revenue for as long as it has been active for your site.

Indeed, this probably is bad news for some merchants, especially smaller shops that don’t utilize Google AdWords for Pay-Per-Click advertising, or who have very small advertising budgets. However, it is not bad news for merchants with a strong inventory, original product description content, competitive pricing, and a wide selection. Therefore, this news can be a very positive development for many merchants.

Figure 1 – Snapshot of the Google Products Dashboard. This will undoubtedly be replaced with an enhanced Dashboard when Google Shopping premiers in August 2012.

Lost in this news are the improvements that online shoppers will experience once Google’s new model is in place. Google’s theory is that 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.

Connect Pay-Per-Click and Google Products Accounts

Right now, merchants who have Google AdWords PPC accounts can connect their AdWords and Products accounts so that their products can display on when users search for specific products.

Figure 2 – Snapshot of a search for “low vision watches,” which returns 2 Google Products merchants in the right-hand column alongside the paid results.

This will continue to be the case once Google Shopping goes live, but the difference is that merchants will have more control over when they appear on the front page, as opposed to simply appearing within the Google Shopping section. Although the costs have not yet been finalized, odds are that merchants will need to pay a cost-per-listing fee either based on the number of items or the number of clicks received.

Next Steps for Merchants

Merchants who utilize Google AdWords for PPC advertising should consider adding some product listing ads such as the ones shown in Figure 2 above. They can test to see how these perform and then expand as the budget allows.

Merchants who only utilize Google Products right now – and not AdWords – should consider creating a Google AdWords account. Even if they don’t plan to run regular PPC keyword ads, they can initiate some product listing ads to see how they perform.

Merchants who have neither Google AdWords nor Google Products accounts should get started on Google Products now to take advantage of the free service up until August. Then, transitioning to the paid model will be slightly easier.

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