The Google Product Search Monster: Take Cover in the Niche!
In an innocuous sounding 144 word note posted last night, Google’s product search team released a revelatory snapshot of what the future looks like for many online marketers – and in particular ecommerce marketers.
It’s not all that rosy. We may be witnessing the awakening of a monster.
Be scared. Be very scared.
Here’s what’s happening.
Google is a business, with a thirst for growth and money. The more traffic Google keeps on its own site and for longer, the more revenue it can generate (from ads, tie ups, etc). In cases of people searching for products, why would Google rest happy just listing websites and passing on all that traffic and $$$revenue$$$??
So instead of passing the traffic on to other websites directly, in Google’s ideal world they’d list every single product themselves. And then, you could assume, also take a cut of the sale for passing on the lead, or charge advertisers for inclusion in the listings.
In last night’s announcement, Google indicated how they’ll be going about this task with serious intent. Google is now going to be taking product data – descriptions, reviews, images, videos – all the data that you’d be providing as an ecommerce website owner – directly from manufacturers and brands, and with the help of their new partner Edgenet, who specialise in providing this product data. Affiliate websites are going to be particularly worried.
Could Google even end up bolting on a logistics division and doing fulfilment itself, for the world’s most popular products? This would be a very similar strategy to that of Amazon.com – allowing 3rd party retailers to sell rare and niche products that don’t shift so easily, and cashing in on the no-brainer high volume products by stocking those items and selling at much better profit margins.
It’s incredible how far Google has come from being a pure-play search engine, 13 years ago, but it’s an inevitable trend. We’re only at the beginning.
Interestingly, there are some very big boys, like Amazon, who aren’t going to like this trend.
Google Product Pages – Amazon without the personality.
I’m an ecommerce site owner – what can I do about this?!
Well, in short, don’t expect to last long doing something that Google can do better – and has much more leverage to do.
That means, you have to do more than just:
• Provide bog standard product information
• Sell products that are easy to find elsewhere – commodity-like products
• Rank your site in Google to make money as an affiliate or direct seller
• Rely on providing replicable information and a replicable user and customer experience
Google is doing all this – and is going to be doing it in ever larger and better ways.
Instead, ecommerce sites are going to need to focus on differentiation from what Google can or will attempt to do:
• Target a niche with which your name becomes synonymous. Become an expert in that niche that no generalist like Google can threaten
• Build a brand that people come back to for its own sake
• Build customer loyalty and customer relationships – show your human face
• Don’t rely only on traffic from Google: social media, real world relationships, classic PR, can be great drivers of website traffic
• For Google product traffic, be prepared to compete on price. In a world of perfect information and commodity products, price is a race to the bottom
• Generally, be careful with the largest most commodity-like markets. Random niche markets with only a small number of retailers are less worth Google’s time in targeting, and sometimes harder for Google to add value to
• Have a personality that people remember: Google’s brand is built around its cool, lawyer like style. But don’t expect to hear many good jokes, or see a phone number you can call for genuine interaction. Not today at least…
Google may eventually over-reach itself with the huge diversification of its original business model.
But as an ecommerce site owner, don’t rely on that happening any time soon.