In the recent months and weeks, Google has tested / launched (the line between the two is more and more blurry) a set of shopping-related features that enhance Google Search, AdWords and Product Search; it culminated yesterday with the announce of important changes on Product Search and new ad formats for AdWords. Quick review and thoughts…
Keeping track of any Google initiative is a full-time job, as Google is busy on a lot of fronts… The noise generated by all the reports on Google announcements or spotted tests can be distracting; but they remain interesting to read… So yes, Google is known to run AB testing on all its products… Yes, only a tiny portion of those tests are likely to be graduated as final/official features.
However, by the number of tests that are run, the fact some features are officially launched / some others seem not, the fact some features are only displayed in specific context, on a subset of results… it seems to me the Google user interface – while staying simple in term of web design – is becoming more and more difficult to predict.
I.E: searching for “red pants” on Google Search, I got a OneBox shopping placement as first result, showing me five products in grid view… Searching for “blue pants”, I got a OneBox placement using a different template. Where is the logic?
Test or feature? I would say feature after having tested on different browsers / PCs. Anecdotal? Not really as similar situation happens with most of the features Google recently introduces (i.e: rich snippets, breadcrumbs in snippets…).
Does it matter? Maybe not according to Google and its analysis of user behavior… However, I still get uneasy when the consistency / predictability of the user interface is too often broken.
As announced on the Google blog, here are the new features launched on Product Search:
Check the Reviews section of our product pages before you buy — we’re now including review summaries to help you see what people are saying at a glance.
We’ve recently integrated video product reviews from YouTube, which appear right on the product pages so you can get an in-depth look at items before you buy.
If you want to see or purchase an item in person, click nearby stores to see a map of nearby store locations for that seller.
Not part of the announcement, but some extra comments:
From the AdWords blog:
[…] product extensions are a way for you to enrich your existing AdWords ads with more relevant and specific information. Product extensions allow you to use your existing Google Merchant Center account to highlight your products directly in your search ads. When your AdWords text ad appears, and your Google Merchant Center account contains products that are relevant to the searcher’s query, product extensions show the images, titles, and prices of your products in a plusbox under your ad. […] Like Product Listing Ads, which we announced as a limited beta earlier this month, product extensions are part of our effort to make ads more useful and relevant for shopping-related queries by allowing advertisers to include relevant product information directly within the ad. However, unlike Product Listing Ads, which are automatically targeted and priced on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis, product extensions are priced on a cost per click (CPC) basis and will only display when your ad is triggered by one of the keywords in your product extensions enabled campaigns.
AdWords product extension, official feature, CPC… Product Listing Ads, limited beta, CPA… It may sound complicated for the user and the advertiser. The interesting part is that Google Merchant Center seems to be THE management interface to manage and publish product listings through all Google products (AdWords, Google Product Search).
Another interesting test going on: SearchEngineLand recently spotted paid listings in product page on Product Search and got the following comment from Google:
At Google, ads are always labeled to indicate that the information is sponsored. We’re currently running a test in which Product Listing Ads appear on the Google Product Search page when a user clicks to ‘Compare Prices.’ Like the product listings, these ads provide information such as prices and ratings, so when a user sorts the information, the list changes the order of both the listings and the ads. As always, the ads are labeled as advertisements, and this experiment is intended to help us understand whether this is a useful experience for our users. This feature is currently in a limited beta with a small number of U.S.-based advertisers, and as with all tests, we may make changes to our current experiment in the future.