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Google Shopping Overhaul
Many people shop online and rely on Google to help them find what they are looking for. Google Products has been a tremendously useful tool for shoppers. It has allowed merchants to send product feeds to Google and for Google to organize the products into meaningful results when someone searches and hits the Shopping option to the left of a Google search results page. However, recently Google has announced that it will overhaul the service under the new name of Google Shopping. This overhaul will generate more revenue for Google, but it will no longer provide the relevant items for sale that it has in the past. It comes into effect after October 17, 2012.

What is the difference?

The main change Google has made is to no longer accept all products. They will now only accept products tied to Google AdWords accounts. i.e. products that merchants pay to promote. Whether the products are shown in the results and the sequence in which they are shown depends on how much the merchants are willing to 'bid' for the privilege.

Quite simply this means that the results of Google Shopping will no longer be the products that are most relevant to the search, but the products that companies have paid the most to feed to people searching for something similar.

What is the impact to me as a shopper?

If you happen to be shopping for a popular item, offered by many sellers, like "led light bulbs" or "Justin Bieber My World CD", the Google changes will probably not affect the type of results you see. The larger stores, with larger marketing budgets, will probably appear at the top of the results, but you will ultimately find what you're looking for at a good price. However, if you are looking for something less common, maybe even unique, you may be presented with no results after the Google change, where results would be available before the change.

Why is this?

Smaller merchants, like Woolvey, do not have high marketing budgets and do not have sufficient volume of any particular item to justify specific product marketing. At Woolvey, we have decided we can no longer send product feeds to Google. If we had thousands of identical light bulbs to sell, a small advertising cost to promote the product would be justified, because it would be one advert for many sales. As we have well over 2000 currently available products, most of which are one-offs, we would need to have thousands of adverts for one sale each. Both the cost of bidding against larger companies for product placement and the effort of defining and determining the appropriate advertising are beyond what we can afford.

What does this mean?

Well, if you were to search today for "Dolfi First Love courtship", you would find in Google Shopping results just one result; that result would be the link to our currently offered product; a beautiful, limited edition, hand-carved wooden figurine. After October 17, when we will no longer sending Google feeds, you will find no results in Google Shopping.

We are just one small business that will no longer be sending feeds to Google. There are many small businesses in similar situations and hence the number of products Google Shopping can show going forward will be significantly less. This means less choice for the shopper.

Is there an alternative?

There is! To start, Google's own web search will still provide results that are based upon relevance, rather than paid advertising. Although the format of their web results is not as easy to navigate when looking specifically to make purchases, merchant product pages will still be included (for now) within the search results, if you have the patience to scroll through them.

Alternatively, Microsoft?s Bing search engine also has a shopping feature, which still provides merchants with the ability to provide product feeds for free. However, they have recently suspended the acceptance of any new merchants to this program, so small businesses migrating away from Google Shopping can still not be found in Bing Shopping, unless they were already enrolled.

This is a disappointing development for both small businesses and people who like to shop for things other than the mass produced items offered by the largest retailers. In a similar way to the demise of independent stores in the high street and the elusive search for quaint stores in less well traveled locations, the Internet shopping experience is also forcing shoppers to work much harder to find those special items. We hope that our more astute customers will bookmark our website and that of other small merchants to help support the independent spirit of small businesses, who can provide a more personalized and truly caring customer service. We also hope that they will visit us and other small businesses on Facebook and other social media.

(c)2012 Woolvey LLC

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