New Google Shopping tests are seemingly pushed out every day. While most of these tests have shown relatively small differences in how different products are displayed, such as being sorted by price as opposed to having prices mixed together, a new test seems to be taking the biggest leap yet in terms of impacting the user's experience, this time encroaching on brand-oriented searches.
To understand, take a look at this screenshot of a brand search for Anthropologie:
As you can see, Google is now offering searchers of a retailer's brand name the ability to click through to Google Shopping results for specific categories. When the user clicks on one of these categories, they're taken to a Google Shopping results page showing products within that category from the brand they searched for:
There are a few issues that go along with providing this functionality.
This Isn't What Advertisers Signed Up For
While Google's fine print allows it to run tests like these, many advertisers might be thinking that this is out of the scope of possibilities they signed up for when they started sending Google their product feeds. Just because Google is able to create these categories out of the information they get in a feed, it doesn't mean that advertisers want them placed on the SERP alongside their ads and organic links for brand searches.
And while Google may argue that this provides a better user experience than giving searchers just text and sitelinks, most advertisers would likely prefer to have control over the products shown and to have that experience take place on their own site where they can influence other on-page aspects. In this example, Anthropologie has no ability to control the categories or products shown.
One possible fix for this would be for Google to send users directly to the advertiser's site once they click on a category. Instead, the implementation in this test pushes Google more into the realm of becoming a marketplace. While speculation over the possibility of Google positioning themselves to become a marketplace has been around for years, this would certainly be a big move towards making that a reality.
Impacts Advertiser Cost for Brand Searches
Brand keywords typically see much lower average CPCs than non-brand text ads and PLAs. By converting branded searches like these into Google Shopping searches, Google is now opening up the possibility for advertiser's to pay more for this traffic.
Some advertisers may be consciously not bidding on brand terms in order to avoid paying for traffic that is mostly picked up by organic results, while others may be trying to budget how much is spent on branded search. For these types of advertisers, it might be necessary to add negatives to Shopping Campaigns, or to at least direct this traffic toward a brand-focused Shopping Campaign.
Drawing users in to a Shopping results page as an alternative to using the brand's site to look through products feels like it's going too far in interfering with what is, for the most part, a navigational search to get to the brand's site. And while branded searches have always been responsible for at least some PLA traffic, those branded searches which did trigger PLAs typically included some form of product-specific intent, rather than just the name of the brand.
The future may be one that sees Google become more of a true marketplace, helping itself and its advertisers compete with Amazon. In this case, advertisers that don't want to pay as much for branded PLA traffic will have to figure out how to achieve that with negatives.