The resurrection of Froogle

Written on 29 May, 2008 by Jonathan Crossfield
Categories E-commerce Search Engine Optimisation Social Media

On April 18th, 2007 Froogle was re-branded and re-launched as Google Product Search. Google Product Search is accessed by clicking the ‘Shopping’ option at the top left corner of the Google homepage, or by typing in your browser..

For those of us who aren’t familiar with Product Search, it provides a field into which a user can type product queries to return lists of vendors selling a particular product, as well as pricing information. One key feature of Product Search is that each result is ranked algorithmically based on relevance (as with regular search), and yet Google still places paid (sponsored) ads alongside the natural results. Clearly, they now have a conflict of interest – on one hand they wish to make money from clicks on their paid ads, but they also wish to provide highly relevant options in the ‘natural’ results (which, by nature, are more prominent).

Enter Google Checkout.

Another recently launched service by Google, Checkout allows consumers to buy products online without having to reveal their credit card details or even their email address to the seller. Google takes a processing fee, then delivers the payment(s) to any of the participating sellers (who must advertise on the search engine to participate).

Google is trying to promote Checkout amongst sellers by offering incentives such as their ‘$10 off promotion for new Google Checkout users’, and in particular, the holy-grail of CPA (cost per acquisition). Cost-per-acquisition is a pricing model where the advertiser pays for each specified action (a purchase, a form submission, and so on) linked to the advertisement. If Google are successful in implementing a CPA-based model, it will become highly attractive for sellers as they only pay Google for conversions (sales), and not leads. It vastly reduces the risks involved for sellers making sales online.

One drawback of the CPA model is that it depends largely on the success of Google Checkout. Google will need access to the point-of-sale data to track conversions, so the seller in question will essentially need to be using Checkout as their payment method.

Another related development over at Google, is the introduction of ‘Google Universal’ which mixes listings from its news, video, images, local, book and product search engines into the natural or organic search results. An example of integrated Product Search results is illustrated in the image below:

As the information versus commercial debate rages on, Google’s results will become highly cluttered with the integrated product search results (as above) and the sponsored links on the right-hand side. Content-heavy, informational sites generally find it easier to rank well in search engines, and this suits Google as it’s encourages commercial sites to pay for top-listings.

What may become a thought-worthy option for the search leader, is a new partition whereby, on one hand, solely informational data (articles, news, videos etc) can be grouped together, and on the other commercial listings can be collated in tandem with Google Checkout/Analytics data and a highly lucrative CPA model.

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