What is Google doing with Shopping Data?

Matt Wynne / 29th July 2014 / Comments: 2

Google Shopping

With the forced migration away from Product Listing Ads (PLAs) to Google Shopping, many of us on the agency side have been working to upgrade our clients’ campaigns to Shopping over the past couple of months, ahead of the August deadline. As with any Google product “improvement”, we naturally ask ourselves, “Why is Google doing this?” and, “What’s in it for them?” As we learned with Google’s transition to Enhanced Campaigns – which limited the ability to launch and manage mobile-specific campaigns and segment mobile and desktop budgets – there is always something in it for Google.

As our team finished the migration of PLAs to Shopping as well as a massive product expansion for one of our e-commerce clients, our director of SEO approached me to ask what we had been working on for the client as he had noticed a dramatic improvement in Organic Search performance over a very short period of time.

In the six weeks following our roll out of Google Shopping, we saw a 35% increase in Organic Traffic and a 10% increase in organic revenue.

It struck us as odd that without any major onsite SEO initiatives being implemented in that time frame, and seasonality working against us, we would see that type of performance increase. As any good search marketer would do, we dove into the data, looking for anything that could help us identify the cause of the improvements so that we could learn from it and try to find more opportunity for the client. What we found was quite interesting.

The data requirements for Google Shopping are significantly more advanced than for traditional PLAs. Product category, sub-categories, inventory levels, product descriptions, unique product page URLs and custom variables are all pulled into the Google Merchant Center on a frequent basis (in most cases a minimum of once per week) allowing Google to ensure that the Shopping ads being served to users are not only relevant, but that the source data is actively curated and highly accurate.

We were able to determine that the performance improvements on the organic side began within 48 hours of our initial Google Shopping feed being approved and our Shopping campaigns launched.

Although correlation is not causation, it certainly appears that Google is using shopping feed data to augment organic search results.

This brings us back to our original question – what does google get out of the forced migration to Shopping campaigns? They get access to voluminous, carefully scrubbed product data that has been structured per their specifications – without having to discover and interpret that data via site crawls. In short: Google gets better, more detailed data, spoon-fed to them. This enables them to more accurately match product-related queries with results that more perfectly serve user intent.

Forcing advertisers to improve data quality makes sense for Google. Advertisers will gain increased visibility and granularity to manage their Product Ads more efficiently and ultimately increase spend with increase performance, and Google gets control of a plethora of high-quality data to improve organic search results.

Given indications that Google search traffic is in decline, a move like this that improves user experience should help Google to retain users, market share and revenue – and that’s what’s in it for Google.

By Matt Wynne