Nov 102014

New Google Shopping Test May Be Increasing Brand CPCs, Signaling Move Toward Google Marketplace

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:

Anthro Brand Search Shopping Results

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:

Anthro-Brand-Shopping-Results-Products

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.

Conclusion

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.

Comments

17 Responses to "New Google Shopping Test May Be Increasing Brand CPCs, Signaling Move Toward Google Marketplace"
Aaron says:
Another Google conspiracy theory... Really, this is pure conjecture. Google is making a welcome change, so that they provide users with the best experience. It's called product ads for a reason. The searcher is likely looking for a particular product, not a category. Google is doing their best to bring the user to their desired destination.
Thanks for commenting Aaron. I would argue that when a user types in the exact name of a retailer's brand, they are more often than not looking for the retailer's site, not to be taken to Google Shopping results. If they were indeed looking for a particular product, chances are they'd type in more than a brand query such as 'Anthropologie.'
Barb Young says:
I see this as yet another money grab by Google. Our clients typically pay 400-500% more for PLA clicks than for clicks on their PPC Brand ads. We will implement exact match brand negatives in Shopping campaigns.
Adam Melson says:
Thanks for covering this Andy. I'm on the fence whether I like this or not. The con is that they show Dresses under sitelinks, but then show the shopping result for dresses with a big image. Even knowing what that is, I'd be more likely to click the shopping image. On the plus side, when someone searches for a brand, it's a crapshoot. Google is trying their darndest to satisfy that query. From local stores to People also searched for (aka competitors) to the customer service number, they're trying hard. Currently, Google isn't betting that a brand search for just the name is someone searching for the website. Google is betting on that when you add a .com to the query. With the .com addition, Google definitively know the person is looking for the site, so they expand sitelinks from 6 to 10, provide zero local results, and switch from 7 to 5 results. Anthro can tell you whether the change is good or not, would be an interesting followup article when data rolls in for them or another retailer. Thanks again for the post!
Barb, I think there will be plenty of advertisers pursuing the same strategy should Google make this a regular feature on the SERP. Thanks for commenting. Adam, the question of whether or not just the brand name is intended as a navigational query to the site is definitely at the heart of whether or not this makes sense. It's hard to say if this test will shift brand traffic enough for any one advertiser for us to report on the impact, as it's very hard to reproduce the SERP shown, but we'll certainly be keeping an eye on the data in the weeks to come.
Kyle Sanders says:
Aaron, I don't know how much experience you have with tracking conversions from paid search, but typically, brand queries are top-of-funnel searches with very low commercial intent. While larger players will likely notice this and add negatives, I can't help but think smaller brands will unnecessarily burn through some spend on terms that'd easily come in via organic search. This is something advertisers should be notified about in their AdWords account and something they should be able to opt out of.

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