Looks like Google's free shopping search results won't be free much longer.
In a May 31 post on its Google Commerce blog, the company announced that, this fall, its Google Product Search feature will turn into a new shopping search engine called "Google Shopping."
According to Search Engine Land, the service will require merchants to bid for a listing on the search engine itself and for a spot on Google Shopping boxes, which will feature these paid-for shopping search result listings in a box labeled "Sponsored" at the top of Google's regular search results page. The shopping results usually listed for free by Google on its regular search results page will no longer appear.
Current Google search results page:
Updated Google search results page:
Vice president of product management Sameer Samat explained in the blog post that Google Shopping will be built on its existing Product Listing Ads and the switch from Google Product Search to Google Shopping is set to be completed by this fall.
"We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date," writes Samat. "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."
However, as Marketing Land points out, this "paid inclusion" model that Google is currently using with its flight and hotel search result listings and will be using with Google Shopping seems to go against the company's beliefs. In their 2004 Founders' Letter, Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote under the heading "Don't Be Evil":
Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating....We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see.
With Google Shopping, it seems users will indeed only be seeing what vendors have paid for them to see, as the search engine will only list products from vendors that have paid to be included.
"Paid inclusion has historically been used to describe results that the website owner paid to place, but which were not labeled differently from organic search results," Google told The Verge, in defense of Google Shopping. "We are making it very clear to users that there is a difference between these results for which Google may be compensated by the providers, and our organic search results."
What do you think of this new paid inclusion model that Google is using? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!