Google is scheduled to complete its transition to the paid inclusion-based Google Shopping model for its product search results next week. Some retailers have expressed disdain for the move, while others have embraced it. At least one has compared Google to a drug dealer.
TheFind.com, member of the FairSearch Coalition, is the latest to speak out against the transition. FairSearch, if you're unfamiliar with the organization, is a group of Google competitors who frequently speak out against Google's business practices in an effort to paint Google in an anticompetitive light.
TheFind CEO and co-founder Siva Kumar tells WebProNews, "Google's switch to an all-paid model is likely to confuse many consumers who will no longer see every product for their search, but will instead only see paid placements. It will be interesting to see how Google communicates this change to consumers who have come to trust that search results are a combination of ads and organic results."
It's certainly worth noting that Google has said from the beginning that in its search results pages, it will display the "Sponsored" text with results from Google Shopping. Currently, if you look at shopping-specific results pages, Google displays a links that says "Why these products?" When you click that, Google says, "Products and offers that match your query. Google is compensated by some of these merchants."
"This change means that using Google, consumers are no longer able to find the lowest price, nor do an exhaustive search for availability of a product among all retailers," Kumar says. "Instead, they will only see the results from the small group of retailers who are paying to be on Google and will likely miss out on deals and availability from other retailers who are not participating."
"With this move by Google, consumers lose most because they will end up paying higher prices across the board as retailers are forced to pay higher ad rates to Google," Kumar says. "Smaller retailers also lose out when they cannot afford to participate in the pay-to-play model to have product appear."
Of course, Google does not see the move as something that hurts consumers. “When searching for great local restaurants, people want places to eat right there on the results page, not another click or two away. It’s the same with hotels, flight options, directions and shopping,” says Sameer Samat, Vice President of Product Management, Google Shopping.
“We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date," Samat has said. "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.”
Either way, the full transition is almost here. It will be interesting to see how users react.
Learn more about Google Shopping here.