Google Products No Longer Free

Google Products No Longer Free

On May 31, 2012, Google dropped a bomb on specialty retailers announcing it would start charging stores for listing their goods on Google Products (also known as Google Product Search). While I understand the need for Google to make money, I completely disagree with this approach.

Rewind 10 years and you’d hear a much different story from Google. Google started what was then called Froogle as a way to offer unbiased product listings to consumers. All stores, big and small, could submit their products to Google and know their listings would have equal footing as every other retailer. To me this seemed to be the same logic they applied to Search, and something Google itself has been vehemently defending since their inception, organic search results should never be influenced by paid advertising. However, requiring stores to pay for their listing on Google Products will ultimately give consumers biased listings and less choices.

I have been helping speciality retailers since 1998 so I may be a little biased myself but I can’t seem to get around the thought this is completely unfair to independent retailers. Mom and pop retailers have been fighting for their lives for years in their brick-n-mortar businesses and many have worked hard to succeed online. They have invested in creating great-looking websites, with features consumers crave and even the marketing to drive people to their site. However, for many retailers it is becoming more and more expensive to complete online. While I shop and buy products from big-boxed retailers such as Target and Nordstrom, I do not a want a world where that’s my only choice.

I also don’t agree in how this was executed. On September 22, 2011 Google changed their Google Product feed requirements. For many smaller retailers implementing these changes were both difficult and costly. I’ve talked to some retailers who didn’t get around to making these changes until earlier this year because it was either too expensive or was too difficult to implement technically. For me this is like the city where your shop is located requiring you to front the bill to improve the street lights and sidewalks to your store only for them to turn the main thoroughfare to your store into a tollroad.

Google has made so many great products like Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and Website Optimizer, and has given them to retailers – for free! For that I’m grateful. However, it also makes me a bit nervous. What happens if Google tries to monetize other products such as Google Analytics? Where would we be then?