Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Tom Simonite

A View from Tom Simonite

Google Charges Online Stores to Appear in Some Searches

Stores that want their goods to appear on Google Shopping must pay for the privilege.

  • September 10, 2012

Google has a new revenue stream, the New York Times reports today – charging online stores to be included in search results.

It’s part of a revamp of Google Shopping, the part of Google’s search engine that kicks in when you search for a product (here’s an example) and shows prices from various stores in a box at the top of your results. Google used to include entries considered the best from the online stores that its Web crawlers had explored, but now only includes stores that have paid Google to be considered. A disclosure statement accessed by clicking an information icon explains that:

“Google may be compensated by some of these providers.”

How much a store must pay to get a shot at appearing in the box is unknown, but it is clear that this is something of a policy change for Google. The company used to be firmly against the idea of charging sites for a chance at ranking in search results. As Search Engine Land noted back in May, Google’s original filing to go public in 2004 even explicitly said paid shopping results were a bad idea:

Because we do not charge merchants for inclusion in Froogle [the original name for Google Shopping], our users can browse product categories or conduct product searches with confidence that the results we provide are relevant and unbiased.

Figures quoted by the New York Times suggest why Google feels the need to change how its product search works. More shoppers are bypassing Google and starting their search for shopping on Amazon’s site instead:

In 2009, nearly a quarter of shoppers started research for an online purchase on a search engine like Google and 18 percent started on Amazon, according to a Forrester Research study. By last year, almost a third started on Amazon and just 13 percent on a search engine.

Charging retailers may help change that by increasing the quality of Google’s shopping results, since it will likely weed out smaller stores less preferred by online shoppers. The new fees appear to have also served to irk Google’s rival for shopping searches - items sold on Amazon no longer appear in Google Shopping results.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.