What do Google’s search-within-search, the Google Affiliate Network, and Google Suggest have to do with each other? It’s all about Google’s transformation from being a bridge and toll-gate on the information superhighway to being bridge, toll-gate and destination!
(Image courtesy of Little Odd Forest Boutique)
We’ll see how:
- How Google will eliminate search as an affiliate marketing channel
- How merchandising will need to adapt to the needs of SEO
- Why Google is likely to come into conflict with the mega-retailers like Amazon and eBay
1) Google will offer sort-by-price options for popular products, eliminating many thin affiliate sites.
Note also how the definition of “thin” changes over time, since price-comparison was once “thick” and “value-added” (and, officially, still is considered that way). The thing is that when everyone became a price-comparison site (or a dropshipper like Amazon/Overstock/Buy.com/Insert-General-Store-Here) then any given price comparison site wasn’t adding much value as compared to the others.
In fact, Google already has this ability with
FroogleGoogle Product Search.
2) Merchandising will need to integrate more closely with SEO in order to feature more cheap products and expensive products where G’bot can access it.
As a result, the middle ground of average products at average prices will see its market share gradually lost to either end of the spectrum. Just like Seth Godin suggested would happen, in his book Meatball Sundae.
There, he discusses the case of two ice cream shops. One’s your average neighbourhood shop that will sell you a good sized scoop in a nice cone for a fair price. The other’s this extremely indulgent, totally extravagant place that makes your ice cream be a whole five-star meal and, as the brand gurus would say, sells the “experience.” The former gets by. The latter has a line around the block.
3) After price, Google can offer other modifiers in dropdown menus.
Things such as color, size, material, brand etc. Again, SEOs will react by going after the most profitable or highest volume colors, sizes etc. To an extent this is happening already, but modifiers means getting into the longtail, an area still largely ignored by ecommerce SEOs.
This will also reinforce the trend towards keyword consolidation, eliminating much of the medium-tail to the detriment of advertisers established on those terms.
4) The organic search results for obviously commercial searches will be dominated by Google Base products.
For example, anything with a call-to-action verb like buy, purchase, get, request, compare, shop, find, hire, pay … Google Base itself will be transformed from free traffic to an affiliate feed. This is obviously much easier with Google’s acquisition of Performics, now known as Google Affiliate Network. (CJ is surely hoping it does indeed become a big Gaff…)
Once this happens, Google becomes the largest affiliate worldwide. For existing affiliates, that means that SEO will become much less viable as a channel while for merchants, this means that writing quality copy for your descriptions becomes more important than ever, since that will be the big differentiating factor against the other merchants. You’ll be competing on CTR, like AdWords.
Bundling strategies and especially those integrating related services will also be a source of competitive advantage… at least until the competition bundles those too. I recommend Meatball Sundae for finding out what you can bundle to create value, and especially Seth Godin’s bit on what is scarce vs what is abundant.
5) In turn, the margins for internet retailers will become thinner as Google progressively steals marketshare and people just use Google as their default product search. Call it Froogle 2.0.
eBay, Amazon and others will use their weight and initial ecommerce marketshare advantage over Google to encourage manufacturers to exclusive deals with them. These ecommerce “general stores” will block Googlebot from indexing their exclusive products to ensure that potential purchasers visit their sites to find these products. Cross-selling and upselling will dramatically gain in urgency.
Is this all just crazytalk? Well, consider the factors required for this to become a reality, current events, and the incentives for Google to push Froogle 2.0 .
A. Google is aggressively pushing its payment processor, Google Checkout.
Advertisers can use Google Checkout badges to boost CTR. Merchants can offer customers a $5 discount on items processed using Google Checkout. Plus advertisers’ AdWords click charges cover a corresponding volume of “free” payment processing. (For extra fun, see this post on SEL where, reading between the lines, it seems that Google is cloaking Google Checkout and other URLs to Googlebot :D.)
“Free”? That’s a reference to the costs down the line when Google Checkout has gone so mainstream that Google is self-contained as far as ecommerce goes. This is the whole moral of the story.
B. Google has shown, by rolling out Google Suggest, that it wants to direct searcher behaviour to a more limited set of keywords.
Not necessarily short phrases, but just less variety in the phrases that people use. Having more people search for ‘red soccer jersey’ instead of ‘maroon’ or ‘burgundy’ jerseys flows along in that direction. (Photo Alun Machin)
C. The move makes sense relatively to Google’s brand, which is largely centred on user experience.
The homepage is simple and uncluttered. They are constantly testing. And the horse opened its mouth recently to tell everyone “what Google wants.”
Rather than risk a poor user experience by sending visitors to ecommerce merchants who can’t be trusted to test and iterate as fast as Google, Google can and will host the whole shopping experience on their own site. And since everyone will already be using their payment processor, that’s one less component of the experience to have to worry about being suboptimal.
Of course, if you think that this is limited to ecommerce, you’re kidding yourself. How about the news vertical, for instance? Surely Google won’t hire armies of content producers?
Nah, the wire services do that just fine. All Google has to do is get the meat of the story from the wire services, then glue on those paragraphs that are original to individual publishers as “snippets”.
WSJ unique commentary/angle para
And of course, once you own an affiliate network and a PPC network, plus multivariate testing software… monetization gets automated and optimized at breakneck speed.
D. Wikipedia ranks for 970/1000 most popular queries online.
Knols are ripping off Wikipedia content, and monetizing it. Knols are ranking. Well, perhaps they will recruit that army of content creators after all.
So where does that leave you, fellow webmasters?
Well, first, build up cash reserves for the lean years ahead as you prepare to change your business model.
Second, figure out how you can become independent of Google, and drive traffic from alternative streams.
Third, get ready for the lobbying fight of a lifetime: the Google anti-trust wars are just beginning.
Fourth, come back later this week as I share four business plans that don’t depend on ecommerce or affiliate marketing or Google, which plans I will not be pursuing for lack of time.
Fifth, read XMCP’s excellent piece on Google making their own web. Also, the guy’s back and blogging again :D.
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