Oct 272008

Google Now Displaying SKUs in Paid Results

engagement ring

The Google PlusBox is now showing SKUs.

We first saw the PlusBox in 2007, when Google announced Adwords Local PlusBox. There, a small "+" provides additional local information within the sponsored results. Now, the "+" can provide product details.

Take a Google search for “diamonds”.

Diamonds Google Search

The second paid search link for BlueNile.com contains the standard headline, copy and display url that we are used to seeing, but also sports a PlusBox to “Show products from Blue Nile for diamonds”.

Clicking the PlusBox reveals three of BlueNile’s products, complete with item titles, descriptions, prices and images.

Google Diamonds Search Expanded

Snazzy… but does it help the searcher?

Remember, we performed a search for “diamonds”, nothing more, nothing less.

I don’t know that I’m better off seeing three BlueNile SKUs.

Two of the three SKUs are engagement rings. The third is a loose diamond. Prices range from $1,400 - $1,650. What if my goal were cheap diamond earrings?

One of the fundamental reasons that paid search works is the relevance between user query and landing page.

The standard link (headline of the BlueNile ad: Diamonds at Blue Nile) accurately takes me to the site’s diamond category page. However, any click within the PlusBox results will take me to a product specific landing page. Even if the majority of consumers were interested in engagement rings, it seems too early in the buying cycle to make specific item recommendations.

Consider a brick and mortar analogy. You walk into a jewelry store. A salesperson asks if you need help. You reply that you’re interested in "diamonds". On that word alone, she presents you three expensive engagement rings. Engaged? Is that presumptuous? Perhaps you just wanted earrings for your sister.

Google used to brag their goal was to get you off their site as quickly as possible. Embedded PlusBoxes for local, video, and now SKUs suggest Google seeks to hold users longer, Google-as-portal.

The SKU PlusBox might make sense for specific SKU searches, like "HDR-FX1000"".

But for a broad term like "diamonds"?

I think this is a step backwards.

What do you think?


11 Responses to "Google Now Displaying SKUs in Paid Results"
Matthew, Just curious, but why do you consider it a step backwards? I can only assume that a short-tail term like diamonds is challenging for a jewelry retailer to convert. If Google can provide 3 deeper links into the site to potentially top-selling diamond SKU's, a Blue Nile might be more likely to convert and will continue to bid on what I can image is an expensive broad term like 'diamonds'. I don't know, maybe Google is doing the retailer a service by advertising their 3 top-selling SKU's in the diamonds category? Just my two cents. The questions are: - Is that click on the SKU counted as a free Google product search link or a paid CPC link? And if it is paid, does the advertiser have an option to turn on/off the SKU links? - What should retailers be doing differently on their product detail pages when Google has effectively turned those pages into entry/landing pages for more broader terms. I.e, "Every page is an entry page."
Josh Winkler says:
While a search for "stationery" should not necessarily bring up three random SKUs from a Google Base feed or three generic SKUs that span every imaginable search term, I can pick 3 products off the top of my head that I wouldn't mind having under our paid ad for that term. On the flip side, I also agree with Matthew, that the results shown for Blue Nile may not be the best of what Blue Nile has to offer based on that search term, which means the saavy marketers at Blue Nile likely did not pick them. In that scenario, the searcher could actually draw a negative opinion of the company based solely on poor product selections from Google. As much as Google knows about search behavior, trends and global domination, I would argue that they might not know each and every industry with the same level of expertise as they know their own...and should probably leave the product selections to the companies who care about them, or leave them off entirely. I mean...come on...they don't rank our site #1 for everything under the sun...how much can they really know about our industry? ;)
Thanks Glenn, Josh The beauty of choosing paid search landing pages is bringing the searcher to the depth on your site that matches their query. If the user queries 'canon cameras', it is improper to land them on a SKU page, with only one product choice, or to show them too broad of a selection, say the electronics' category page. Therefore, the PlusBox makes the most sense for keywords already centered on SKU level landing pages. For non-SKU focused keywords, it's proper to let the site convert buyers, not the PlusBox. Therefore, I don't think there should necessarily be any changes to SKU landing pages thinking of them as entry level pages for broad searches. The clicks from the expanded PlusBox section are not free, and all details are not yet public. I'll follow-up with more details on the product then, but for now, I appreciate your comments!
Hi Glenn and Josh, We think that as a rule folks type in general terms precisely because they don't know exactly what they want and the wider selection they're presented with that is targeted to their search the more likely they are to close. This scheme also presents some real tracking issues. The cost of the click on a Google Base Feed link is borne by the PPC ad, but the sale would be "credited" to the base feed. There is no way to know which PPC ad a given feed item would be served for, indeed, the same items would likely be shown for many different keywords, making it impossible to conclusively tie the sales to the costs. This will raise some real challenges for bidding systems if it "works". George
Is there some setting I have to change to see these plus boxes? I'm using Firefox 2 and I don't see them appearing for diamonds, so I tried other big competition phrases like "hosting", "vegas travel", and "buy computer" and I'm not seeing it :(
Bryan Galipeau says:
100% agreed on the challenges of tracking these plus box ads. Tough nut to crack when going cross-channel like this. Looks like the link element properties for both the AdWords ad and the top engagement ring sku in the example above contain the same ggladgrp and gglcreat numbers, suggesting there is a way to match them up. And Bluenile has Urchin tags on their pages. If there is automated bidding here, I'm betting Google is mashing up the numbers on the backend and they're running the "conversion optimizer"... Also, despite the issues with landing page relevance, IF (big IF) these ads increase user interaction (CTR), the opportunity for increased volume at unchanged cpc's is not something I'd write off without vetting. Who among us clicked the 1st position ad?
Bryan, You're right, of course. Google profits by increased CTR and increasing the amount of time people spend on Google.com. Having people do more product shopping on Google may accomplish both. Using the Google click id as the link up is the right way to have at it. I'll be interested to see the extent to which people click on more than one product link from the same ad (rather than surfing on your site, surfing your site on Google) and whether Google plans to charge the advertiser for both clicks. George
L Sharper says:
It would interesting to see some follow-up on this. How have retailers dealt with this and have people found this feature helpful or misleading.
@L Sharper As some comments have stated above, tracking complexities pose a small problem. As far as performance, please see my most recent post here: http://www.rimmkaufman.com/rkgblog/2009/05/12/google-plusbox-results/


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