A few days ago Google made a big announcement regarding the initial launch of Google Adsense for Shopping, or is it really Google Shopping for Adsense? At any rate, this evolution is something I (and of course others) knew had to be somewhere on Google’s road map, it was just a matter of time. When I did a few searches to satisfy my curiosity, at first all I could find was more or less the same article with the same announcement and limited details, regurgitated over and over. I knew there had to be more to this, so I set my search to show only results prior to August 2014, and magically this page appeared.
Wait, what the May 19th? Did I miss the party? Could I have been tinkering with Adsense PLAs (or AFSh as they appear to be labeled) on my own for the past four months? I mostly play in the affiliate monetization space and have comparatively limited experience with Adsense, though how could I have missed this? After speaking with a PLA specialist at Google this morning, who had also never seen the above page, maybe they were originally hidden and used by the beta testers of this project to spec out their ad units?
So what do these ad units look like? Aside from Wal Mart, shoppers will soon be able to find these ads on Target, Amazon, Next Tag, Kijiji, Ask, Smarter & AOL. If you’d like to see these ad units in the wild, just go to WalMart.com and search for a basic product like a grill or skateboard, then look in the lower left column, likely below the fold. The Vita Mix example on the left was taken from their site today.
If you’re a retailer engaged with PLAs and would like to ensure your products are eligible to be served on these (and future) sites, just make sure the “include search partners” box is checked in your campaign settings. When this selection was still included in the “new” PLA specific campaigns launched earlier this year, I knew it was there for a reason, though it had no purpose at the time. My guess is that Google is only using a small subset of PLA advertisers to populate these ad spots, at least for now. A flawless merchant center product feed, being a Google trusted store and customer review integrations are likely the prerequisites here. Other than that, I’m not sure what else can be done to ‘tease’ your PLAs onto these sites. If you’ve got a large ecommerce related website that already uses Adsense ads and you’d like to be considered for participation, you can fill out the basic request form to get started. If you’d like to see if your store’s PLAs have been served on any of these sites, you should be able to find this referring source data in Google Analytics, however I haven’t been able to find it my client’s reports as of yet.
Watching Google evolve their shopping product over the past couple of years has been quite interesting to say the least. Back between 2007 and 2009 I was working on project where we had built out over a dozen niche shopping comparison websites that utilized custom granular filters not available on any other comparison shopping website at the time. Alas, due to circumstances far outside of my control, these sites no longer exist. It was only earlier this year when I saw some of these similar product filters show up on Google Shopping, like filtering snowboards by length. While retailers could do that, comparison shopping sites using data from thousands of sources couldn’t find a means or time to standardize any of it. Adding structure & usability to unstructured & unstandardized data is what a majority of new start ups on the web are doing every day, huge opportunities everywhere.
Another interesting facet is how these Adsense units appear to work, very similar to affiliate tools like the eBay Partner Network’s custom banner, or the Amazon Associates widgets. Enter your publisher ID, enter your desired keyword query, set the ad unit size and some other parameters, and off you go. It appears they’re not “contextual” in the sense that Google decides which products to show based on the page content, as the keyword query needs has to be defined in each individual ad unit. By using a string replace for the keyword query based on the query the user entered on the website, these sites can dynamically display highly relevant product level ads. Here’s the main information page, the code generator page, an implementation guide and a reference document for all the parameters. I tried to set up an implementation with my adsense ID but couldn’t get the ad to display.
If you’ve been here before, you might recall I’ve predicted similar evolutions of their product offering in rants here and here. So when will Google open up these product listing ads to the rest of the Adsense community? Will they eventually add this feature to the Google Publisher Plugin for WordPress? Of course. I really hope there’s some independent 3rd party affiliate tools like Prosperent’s WordPress plugin that can keep up with Google Shopping, otherwise Google is poised to further dominate the landscape until there’s no competition left.
It’s worthy to note that the affiliate network Avant Link announced yesterday that as a merchant partner you can supply them with your Google Merchant Center feed and they’ll reformat it to their standard for their affiliate publishers to use. At one point, affiliate network data feeds were king for product level promotion, now the tables have turned and the networks are realizing it’s easier to get a merchant to supply them with the Google Merchant Center feed instead. Oh these times they are a changin….