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The launch of Google Shopping in more countries now including Australia makes it that much harder for online retail stores such as new startups like Appliances that seek to capitalise on the growth of consumers accepting online shopping is a faster and often cheaper solution.The last few years have seen a growth in comparison style websites such as Get Price but also hybrid models like Appliances Online that delivery to customer direct from their warehouse or manufacturer depending on your location. Google is obviously happy that they have finally been able to launch Google Shopping into the Australian market as it's been pending launch for over a year but the question is how will users react to it and will they even use it? The biggest winner in the launch of Google Shopping is likely more direct sales of popular appliance brands who want to increase revenue but at the same time reduce the number of affiliates they deal with each day. For most brands one of the primary factors for wanting Google Shopping is that they can also increase their profit margins as they can now sell more products direct to consumers. Part of the general idea of Google offering a shopping portal is that the wholesalers and big chain retailers who traditionally considered online too hard can now just supply a feed and let Google do the rest, but it also places more dependence on the Google search platform to continue to grow and deliver traffic to their websites.Search online buy instore?It's certain that most retailers who are listing within Google shopping will also get an uplift in offline sales as consumers will search, view products and compare prices online and then drive to their local store to pick up the products when they are ready. The reason that many visitors to Google Shopping will buy in store is that many retailers listing within Google Shopping still do not offer online ordering facilities, have a limited or outdated range of products or have such a terrible user experience that consumers avoid their website.Having a Google Merchant feed is a great step forward for many retailers to get more online traffic but traditional retailers still need to examine why they still fail to accept online shopping as a new channel of sales. The advantage of the Google Shopping platform opening in Australia is that since Google is a dominate player in search it may encourage big retailers to move quicker to make full use of it and online shopping if they don't want to have to depend solely on affiliates and shopping comparison websites like Getprice to be their only channels of online sales outside of Google.Getprice likes itNot much has been said by the other comparison websites about the Google launch in Australia but interestingly Getprice say that it's a positive step for their industry. The reasons that David Whiteman of GetPrice states that it is a good idea is that Google Shopping re-enforces the concept of consumers buying and shopping online. My feelings are that Google will not want the product to sit still and gather dust so will likely aggressively ramp up their online and offline advertising targeting general consumers encouraging them to shop/browse online but will also expand the number of merchants using it as if they don't move online now with Google Shopping they will go the way of the dinosaurs.Testing Google ShoppingIt's always interesting to see how smart the algorithm is when a new product or platform is launched, how does it handle natural language and do homonyms confuse it? One point I have to make clear is that I obviously looked to pick some terms that I have seen historically Google struggle to offer a perfect result and much of the feed is dependant on retailers getting the data feed right they upload to Google Merchant center. It's also likely that there is not enough traffic for Google Shopping to understand enough about user preferences and even a limited range of products made available via retailers so far so the platform might be a little rough as I discovered initially.Another big area of improvement will be once Google starts bringing in social data and integrates it's +1 platform to refine and rank the results, until that happened it would have made sense to integrate a better onsite search platform such as Sli-Systems or what ever happened to their Google Store platform?Test 1 "Organs"The first test used the keyword "organs" and while the category options filters include sheet music and music but a logical category to also include would be instruments. Test 2 "Ford"The test search result for Ford was interesting as it offered both Ford products but also related items such as scale models and remote control cars. Test 3 "DVD"The search for DVD was a very generic term and the first two results weren't that bad but the third result shows a failure as the matching picture relates to security cameras and does not match the product title or my search query. The other concern is only the first result shows any product description, but both of these issues are likely linked to poorly formatted Google Merchant feeds which is something I would think Google would have sorted out by now and even automated image processing. Test 4 "Laptops"The test on searching for laptop was a bit of a failure with the top result being a laptop bag which is not the best result for revenue for retailers but also not the most relevant result expected.Google Checkout overdue?The question is now that Google Shopping has been launched what is the time frame for Google Checkout finally be ready for to be launched into the Australian market? It was rumoured back in 2007 that a launch was pending and then again in August 2009 but it's been mostly quite on the front since then. On the 28th April 2011 they lodged their Financial Reports with ASIC but no real other announcements have been made or major changes to the company information.Part of the delay in launching Google Checkout Australia is Google holds the licence under which it is authorised to offer Google Checkout only as a “non-cash payment product”. The company is not licensed as a bank or deposit-taking institution in Australia and does not provide banking services, so until this changes their shopping product is not going to shake up the market too much.Product Ad Extensions are nextWhile it's currently in limited release the biggest step forward for Google Shopping is when via your Google Merchant Centre you are able to feed your products directly into Google Search results via Ad Extensions. When your AdWords appear and if products linked in your Google Merchant Centre are relevant to users search query they will show images, product details and pricing under your text ads. The advantage to retailers is that they only have to pay the same cost-per-click as a standard ad but the CTR is far higher because of the visual elements. Because of the sheer potential search volume, AdWords Product Extensions are the real killer for comparison websites and provide the next big uplift in retailers marketing budgets allocating spending more money on Google AdWords and less on traditional media. The biggest concern for comparison websites and affiliate websites would be the massive amounts of money that manufacturers and retail chains will withdraw from them and pour into Google AdWords increasing their profit margins and taking control back of their business models.See the video on Google Ad Innovations belowGoing forward for online?While Google Shopping won't likely affect the large appliance stores it is a perfect solution for those shopping for small appliances or quickly comparing prices before visiting a retailers bricks and mortar location, it will be interesting how retailers and comparison websites change to deal with the launch of Google Shopping. It's likely that once Google starts promoting its Google Shopping network via it's AdWords platform it will shake up the online retail industry.
Rodrigo Stockebrand noticed earlier today that his search queries for the generic term "mortgage rates" had started to show a new style AdWord's result at the top of the organic results and it seems to be more than just a small test group. It was covered briefly in a quick post at SEL by Barry Schwartz, but I thought there was more to explore around the new comparison ads and evaluate their longer term impact for advertisers and business.It seems that the early Google's AdWords comparison ad experiment has been expanded to cover home loan and mortgage products but has also taken place at the top of the search results in a 4th sponsored link. The issue is that Google websites have an artificially inflated Google Quality score which guarantees any of their products top placement and potentially inflates the costs of advertising on that keyword, and the additional box is clearly a separate module as you can see thin white line between it and the standard AdWords modules. Below is a screenshot of the new Google AdWords product which is exclusive to Google's own comparison products, it's not clear if it was manually placed for certain search queries to guarantee it would show just below the search bar. But other advertisers should be able to check in their AdWords account under average position on if its showing even thou they are shown as top position.Less space for organic resultsOne of the bigger concerns is that it doesn't just affect competitors who are buying traffic with AdWords it compounds the problems for those trying to rank organically, there is more paid space and more Google products and less room for natural listings. While this extra Google comparison ad has obviously pushed down the other ads, on my 1920x1080 resolution monitor it was less dramatic, but a majority of users don't have a monitor so large so I dived into my visitor information contained in my Google Analytics accounts to find a baseline monitor size. Looking at the average website visitors from my Google Analytics data around 48-54% of people have a screen resolution of between 1024x768 to 1280x1024 so I thought I would test the 3 smaller monitor sizes as to how it impacts the competitive landscape.
1920x1080 Resolution MonitorAnalysis: You can see that there is actually now only 5 organic results showing above the fold (visible without scrolling down) and the 6th result just creeps in. The problem for organic rankings is that unless you are in the top 5 you are now going to miss out on a majority of the clicks, where in the past top 7 rankings still keep you above the fold. Dynamic AdWords like these will also continue to change Google users behaviour and may have a dramatic long-term effect on the perceived importance of the organic results and further increase the market share of Google's own products.
1280x1024 Resolution MonitorAnalysis: You can see that with the 1280x1024 resolution SXGA monitor but you can see that with the new Google Comparison Ads that showing below the 5th result on the first page will mean that you miss a majority of the potential clicks. Its hard enough for some clients to get to the 1st page on Google now it's a case depending on your typically visitors you have to be in the top 5.
1280x768 Resolution MonitorAnalysis: By shrinking the monitor size down slightly more to 1280x768 resolution it even cuts out the Google News results and also now only 7 AdWords ads are showing, decreasing the number of advertisers who are able to be seen. It also reduces the organic results down to 3 which further increases your reliability on buying traffic from AdWords or from the new Google Comparison Ads.
1024x768 Resolution MonitorAnalysis: The final screenshot is actually based on 1024x768 which is a 19inch monitor far larger than most laptop screens and still if you view the same result on a netbook you can actually only see the first organic result because of the 4 AdWords results showing at the top. Again Google News results are gone and there is 1 less Google AdWords spot on the right hand side.Advice: If you are in this vertical start to examine in your web analytics solution the screen resolution of your typically visitors who just visit and those who generate a lead or revenue. It will start to provide you a guideline as to if you are trying to increase your paid traffic what position you should try to bid for and from an organic ranking where you should be aiming if you want more clicks. You want to break it down by those who just browse and those who actually generate a lead or revenue for your company.Google's potential audience?The potential audience which is now able to see these new comparison ads is huge and its likely that the CTR from the other ads will plummet, which will likely impact their quality scores and lead to them having to pay more to bid for the same positions. By Google offering a better quality Ad they are changing the behaviour of how people will select what ads to engage with but are also limiting other advertisers clicks as consumers are draw to the new style ad box. The traffic volume based on the single generic keyword "mortgage rates" has estimated 1,000,000 monthly searches in the US with an average CPC rate of $14.88, according to Google's own Google AdWords tool which is a massive audience to test the impact of its platform. The question is how much cheaper is it to buy the lead directly from Google compared to fighting with other advertisers in the AdWords market?Google's invasive ad boxWhile its interesting to see how Google is experimenting with new Ad types, I have discovered that there is also a second ad that Google is running which offers a bit more interactivity for users with a drop down menu for the approximate home value for quicker rate comparisons.As you can see in the screenshot below, the bigger issue is that when consumers actually interact with the ad it blocks a majority of the competitors advertising message and also close to half of the first 2 organic results. This type of ad seems to lack any aspects of tact by how it impacts and overrides the competitors presence on the page. These types of ads show that Google is testing the ads for different markets where you might want to compare two pricing points before visiting the website. Obviously Google is tracking all the interactions and may start to refine the pricing points as it gathers more data on users, so those who are based in a lower economic area may start to see slightly different approximate home values or even APRs....The CTR between the two ads modules being tested would be quite interesting as if users with different motivation or at a different stage of the buying cycle. Obviously to further understand the mortgage market Google is bidding on search traffic for its comparison ads around a number of keywords, but I've select the top 20 related keywords based on estimated monthly search volumes, but it's also interesting what keywords they are choosing not to bid on.Google is also bidding on the following keywords
- mortgage loan rates
- mortgage loan interest rates
- home loan interest rates
- mortgage interest rates
- current mortgage interest rate
- best mortgage interest rates
- current mortgage rates
- home mortgage rates
- home mortgage interest rates
- refinance mortgage rates
- refinancing mortgage rates
- mortgage rate calculator
- current home mortgage rates
- compare fixed mortgage rates ($0.05/cpc)
- bad credit mortgage rates ($35.72/cpc)
- home mortgage loan rate ($18.72/cpc)
- best mortgage loan rate ($36.37/cpc)
- current mortgage rates canada ($4.61/cpc)
Search for New York hotels directly from within Google Maps
Search for New York real estate from within Google MapsIt's likely that Google has a number of options to increase its revenue by competing for direct leads and sales and cutting out resellers and affiliates but the question is how quickly they will risk upsetting their advertisers or how much money they can make on the comparison ad platform. Do you take the path to doing more of the work generating leads and hope the reduced revenue from your advertisers doesn't drop quicker than you can grow your comparison shopping products?Google Comparison Ads expanding internationally? If you want to know when Google Comparison Ads might be expanded to your country I suggest keep an eye out for any new financial licensee such as when Google registered Google Payment Australia back in 2007, in what was thought to be part of Google Checkout Australia. Google Payment Australia Pty Ltd was supposed to be setup for local Checkout services and has a Australian Financial Services licence (No. 318755). Google Australia holds the licence under which it is authorised to offer Google Checkout as a “non-cash payment product”. The Google company is not licensed as a bank or deposit-taking institution in Australia and does not provide banking services but might allow it to soon offer a similar comparison ad platform in Australia soon.
News over the weekend discussed about how Google has directly invested in Zynga in preparation for launching Google Games, which may form part of the social element of the rumoured Google Me platform.
What makes it interesting is that Google has the cash to buy the company outright and usually does in most cases, so why just take a partial share? The pre-IPO analysis of Zynga by Second Shares places the value of Zynga at around $5 billion, so why did Google buy such a low amount of shares if the reports are correct of a $100-200 million investment?
The news was broken by a Zynga's chief engineer Allan Leinwand, over twitter which was of course later deleted... this begs the question do people think before tweeting confidential meetings and if they are in a position of responsibility do they think no-one reads their tweets. Around the web various blogs and magazines have thrown their weight behind story, which is still not officially confirmed by Google or Zynga.
- PC Mag - Zynga to Fuel an Epic Google-Farmville Mashup
- TechCrunch - Google Secretly Invested $100+ Million In Zynga, Preparing To Launch Google Games
- Venture Beat - Google quietly invests more than $100M in Zynga and prepares Google Games launch (confirmed)
- Gigaom - Are Google and Zynga Working on a Gaming Deal?
As TechCrunch correctly points out there are current US openings at Google for Games, the two roles are based in Mountain View, USA.
The interesting point is that Google has hired plenty of staff roles for projects that never see the light of day outside internal alpha testing and some projects such as new email platforms are not yet ready for the market. Looking at the first of the two advertised roles, one of the key responsibilities of the product management leader is "Engage closely with the engineering team to help determine the best technical implementation methods as well as a reasonable execution schedule". That would indicate that internally Google doesn't yet know how its going to build the platform, how its going to tie the product into its existing platform and even what the roadmap to launch would be.The second role developer advocate focuses on a key part of the role being "You will also propose and advocate new technologies internally to improve Google’s offerings to the game development community", so that would lend more weight to the argument that Google is building its own gaming platform internally and is working to please the game developers for a longer term relation more than just focusing on buying Zynga.Paypal Replaced with Google Checkout?
- Product Management Leader, Games
- Developer Advocate, Games
The only point I can see incorrect is TechCrunch who bring up the idea that Zynga could replace PayPal with Google Checkout. That type of action would surely have the regulators and competition watchdogs jumping for the noose, I assume Google wouldn't be so short sighted as to make a small investment and then force the company to adopt its Google Checkout platform. A move like that would likely annoy competitors as much as it would Zynga users.
Zynga creates the perfect storm
So Zynga is being smart by partnering with multiple platforms as it is making for a case of being the default game platform where users can play and get game notifications across Google, Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo and on your iPhone. It is fair to say that Google would be interested in establishing a licensing or access relationship with Zynga but it hardly seems a one stop solution for their entire future strategy around online gaming. As Google has seen with Twitter and Facebook, the problem is that if everyone gets a deal with Zynga they lose their exclusive content advantage and they can potentially create a new competitor they have to worry about.
There has been recent an increase in discussions around the profitability of Facebook and how its App developers seem to have a larger share of this cake due to not having total control of its app payment platform. So is it too early for Facebook to back-flip on its promise to make its platform free for developers to generate revenue from advertising or transactions that they control.One of the suggested methods is a halfway solution which allows developers to choose between third party currency or Facebook credits.But this halfway solution means that the switch to a pure Facebook currency may experience delays and may never reach true scale required to compete with Paypal or Google Checkout to be a true alternative.While I can see the complex situation that Facebook have with their developers, it is unlikely that the developers would walk away from Facebook as its a successful platform. But the move towards a formal payment platform does require formal relationships between developers and Facebook which should help build formal development partnerships.It is likely that Facebook will follow the successful Apple App store integration which requires more control of the approval process and can skew the application towards Facebook’s requests. The biggest point is that it will improve the quality of applications being released and should reduce the instances of fraudulent or spam applications being released. It will remove the issue of Facebook of having to enforce its rules after the damage has been done they can prevent the damage before it affects their users.It's initial solution seems to be Facebook Verified Application which was launched in May 2009 with around 120 apps listed.How Facebook defines a “Verified Application”Verified applications have passed a detailed Facebook review to confirm that the user experience they provide complies with Facebook policies. Verified applications have committed to be transparent about how they work and will respect you and your friends when they send communication on your behalf.Because these applications have passed a review by Facebook, they are prioritized higher in the application directory and are highlighted by a green checkmark. A "Verified Apps" badge will appear on their Profile Pages as well.What are some verified applications?Some of the leading Facebook Apps have been Facebook verified applications that have already begun using Facebook credits for virtual payments. It is interesting mix of suppliers and application types that are being test.
The "Pay with Facebook" merchant program has only been rolled out with the few verified applications listed above. There is also been an expansion to set Facebook credits as a real online social currency with the ability to use for apps, charity or gifts.
Facebook Exchange RateThe biggest advantage is that this move towards a standard Facebook currency and potential exchange rate is that it brings liquidity and scale to Facebook credits. The current exchange rate is a fixed rate of UDS$1 = 10 FBC which was a slight discount to the initial UDS$1 = 100 FBC when it was originally launched.As in most virtual currencies the biggest issue is costs for processing and conversions so scale is important. If Facebook is to scale up its Facebook Currency they must also examine how to keep its value stable but also allow developers to convert it back to real currency.So how much money is at risk?According to a recent E-Consultancy article Zynga is the top game business on Facebook, pulling in more revenue than the next three top earners: Playfish, Rockyou, Causes.Zynga applications are reportedly making $500,000 a day on Facebook and in turn Zynga is spending a reported $137,000 on Facebook ads daily, according to All Facebook. This $363,000 daily profit makes for a very good relationship with Facebook. If Facebook was smart they would allow Facebook Credits to be also used for its Facebook Ads platform. This is more suitable for its larger application developers and this also allows for it to reduce the amount of costs for processing transactions but also keeps money within its platform.So its likely that Facebook could choose to target just its new application developers but would likely need to start to move some of its bigger partners onto its payment platform if they are to be successful at expanding it.
Google has released a new product to its impressive list of hosted solutions which include Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Google Apps and Google Maps. The new product Google Commerce Search seeks to fill the gap between website visitors "buyers" and purchase "Checkout" and capture a greater share of the market.
Google understands more than most the benefit of an optimised store designed to generate more revenue. The new store seeks to roll out some of the features of Google SiteSearch into a hosted store product. The new store works to offer an improved shopping experience:
- find the right products faster
- filter results by category,price,brand
- user-friendly spelling options
- website optimiser
- boost or promote products in search results
- deploy solutions in days
- scale your online store
Google Commerce Search
works to take away the resources required to run a typical e-commerce site. But its first version appears to have been released into the market far too early. One of the most common features I regularly saw was error pages...
Currently you can see a live versions of its hosted Commerce product on the US version of Google Store and play with some of its filter and sort features. Our initial review makes the community think they have placed design and google search optimisation as future feature to be added in a later version. From our agency consulting projects we have discovered that design and search optimisation is one of the most important features of any e-commerce store and one that should not be a left out.
Seo risks using it?
Another secondary issue that has been discussed is that if you are sending all your traffic to a Google hosted site using search optimisation you would be advised to be careful how aggressive you are. If you are in a highly competitive industry and your agency is starting to move towards blackhat methods this product may not be the best solution for you...
Are you currently spamming for traffic?
Overly paranoid marketers are starting to wonder if even using certain affiliate marketing programs or paid referral links which are overly aggressive there is a chance that you might get caught out if you are sending all this traffic to Google. Google has been working to weed out spammy or low quality affiliates in their rankings over the past few months. So the initial feeling is that if you are breaking some of the many T&C set by the search engines it might not be the best product for you or your clients.
But i don't live in USA
The biggest issues are that this product currently only has a small test audience and like most new products will take 1-2 years to be available to markets outside the US. There are existing solutions from leading providers like SLI-Systems that have a managed site search that can be deployed into an existing store, why rebuild your store in a Google Store?
Site search solutions
We like our readers to have some choice in what other solutions are out there that recommend to our clients to use for their projects. So you can chose to wait for Google Commerce Search to catchup or you can look at a solution such as SLI Sytems that offer a 30 day free trial.
What is learning search?
Systems such as SLI-Systems are a tried and tested solution and we included below a diagram on how simple it is to use their learning search process, we suggest if you are looking to increase your current site conversion rates, you should give their product a try.
As Google expands the number of products, they also vastly increase the amount of data they collect about your online behaviour and activities. So they launched Google Dashboard to help you control the vast amounts of data you generate through your online activities.
Every email you send and receive, blogs you subscribe to, google news stories you prefer to read, what YouTube clips you watch, websites you visit and even what you buy with Google Checkout. Some of these actions may not be associate with your specific Google profile and you have to grant Google permission to associate much of this data with your profile.
Even Google understands that it is hard to keep track of everything so they now offer their users Google Dashboard which allows a top-level summary view of all your Google products that you use.
You can drill down to specific products to view more detailed data and to increase security they do not duplicate the database of all the data. This is a massive step forward for transparency of what data Google products have collected and also allows for notification of what is publically visible. This privacy dashboard appears to be a measure to reduce the growing worries about online privacy for consumers and how it maybe commercialised by some companies.
Google use a simple icon shown below to indicate any items in your Google Dashboard is visible to others. Using Google Dashboard can be a faster way to discover if any unwanted private or personal is public.
As TechCrunch points out you this Dashboard does not include any of their cookie-based data collected through DoubleClick or their other ads. You need to use their separate Google Ad Preference ManagerMany of the ads you see online are based on ad networks such as Google, and they now allow you to ensure these ads are more relevant. By selecting your interests categories they can deliver more interesting ads but you can also elect to be opted out so ads are no longer associated with your browser.You can also elect to expand this opt out to include some of the many other ad networks outside of google by selecting to opt out of the NAI member network.By opting out of an ad network program using the NAI Opt-out Tool this should not affect other any services provided by NAI members that rely on cookies, such as email or photo-hosting.The Network Advertising Initiative has adopted a policy that all NAI member companies set a minimum lifespan of five years for their opt out cookies.By opting out of a ad network does that mean that you will no longer receive online advertising but these ads will no longer be tailored to your online usage patterns and web preferences. The Opt-out Tool was developed for the express purpose of allowing consumers to "opt out" of behavioural ads delivered by NAI member companies.Your ads preferences only apply in this browser on this computer, so that if you use a different browser or delete your browser's cookies these preferences need to be reset.