Google wasn’t exactly the one who envisaged the potential of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). But they definitely are the leaders when it comes to taking the leadership in this form of online marketing which was powered by research and innovation on the SEM (Google AdWords) as well as the Search Engine usability fronts.
Google followed a very logical sequence in promoting their ad formats on the SERPs – Starting with pure text ads on the side bar, then highlighted text ads on top, image search ads and the latest in offer is the Product Listing Ads (PLA) that came in by end of last year.
What are Product Listing Ads?
Unlike normal text ads or image ads that appear on Google search/display networks, the product listing ads are available ONLY on the search network and they are pulled from the Google Merchant Center. These product ads – although managed directly from your Google AdWords account – require you to have a Google Merchant Center account that lists your products as feeds (See the AdWords screenshot below). Well, ad feeds are nothing new and they were always available on various affiliate networks already. It’s just that Google has now started promoting them on the search engine results in a much more efficient manner. What does it mean? Well, if you have some great products to sell, you don’t necessarily need to depend on your online shopping site, social media pages or other online campaign forms but just a merchant center account and Google AdWords campaign for product listing. Isn’t that amazing? By the way, the ad feeds can point to Shopping.Google.com or actual vendor sites and hence PLA won’t totally eliminate them.
How Product Listing Ads can redefine the future of shopping?
The product listing ad campaigns are no ordinary AdWords campaign. The product listing contains the product image, price, short description, shop name and even a side-by-side positioning with competitors. So if you have a right priced product and a decent AdWords marketing budget, you sell the product right from the search engine results and Shopping.Google.com.
This is an interesting concept because not only the Search engines but even Social Networks can imitate this pretty quickly. Imagine, Facebook having a product comparison widget as and when you browse relevant FB pages or search (e.g Bing search within FB) you get your products right within your facebook window? Of course, FB would need a bunch of affiliate partners to carry out the same but the day is not too far away, I think.
Are online shopping sites going to be affected?
Well, I can see them slowly disappearing once Google and Facebook search take over their big pie. The day is not far away when you can do almost everything that you want to do online from within Facebook or Google Search. As I said before, direct vendors or manufacturers of a certain product won’t suffer as much but multi-product online shopping sites can really take a beating if the PLA trend continues on Google as well as Social networks. I am not sure what might be the future of Amazons and eBays in such a scenario.
It’s not about Online shopping websites that are going to suffer. Internet marketers using Google AdWords but not having products on their own (nor any Google Merchant account) will suffer as well. I am already seeing some of my AdWords campaign not resulting in any conversions and I have already stopped most of them.
Google and Facebook will definitely eat into most of the online shopping share in the coming years, for sure.