Is Google Stealing Your Traffic Again? A Shopping Ads Test Sheds Light

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google stealing traffic

How would you feel about paying more for your Shopping Ads on branded search terms?

A new Google Shopping test, spotted recently by Andy Taylor at RKG, actually directs branded search traffic to a Google Shopping results page, rather than back to your website or your own Shopping Ads.

RKG published this screenshot of a test search for the clothing brand Anthropologie:

google stealing traffic

In this test, the Anthropologie shopping results are organized by category in the top right. The “Shop from anthropologie on Google” link takes the user to a Google Shopping page. In fact, clicking on any content (images or categories) in that ad box will deliver the searcher to the category on Google Shopping, not the Anthropologie website.

In the example RKG found, at least, all of the products on the results page were offered for sale by Anthropologie, the brand from the original query. However, Ginny Marvin at Search Engine Land found this additional test result – querying “David Yurman” and drilling down into the “Rings” category surfaced shopping results from multiple retailers:

google stealing traffic

Is Google Shopping Becoming A Competitor To Retailers?

Based on this test, it would appear that’s a real possibility.

Essentially, this would cut out the middleman and drive searchers to make their purchasing decisions within Google Shopping. It adds competition to what began as a branded search – rather than being presented with David Yurman rings for sale by David Yurman, the searcher sees David Yurman rings for sale at Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and other retail sites.

If Google adopts this test as a permanent feature, it has the potential to drive up CPC’s for branded search terms, as people searching for a particular type of product from a specific brand will now be presented with competitor options, as well.

Further, users can do comparison shopping right within Google Shopping, without having to go the retailers’ websites, whether they were searching for a specific retailer/brand or not. It’s another example of Google stealing traffic from your website, like they do with Knowledge Graph and vertical results like weather and flight comparisons.

This could be a welcome change for searchers; this is why Google runs all these tests. But advertisers may be annoyed to learn that searches on their brand name are being used to drive traffic to Google Shopping. The Shopping Ads box is highly visual and designed to draw clicks away from the regular ads and organic results – that’s why they’ve been so successful for advertisers. They’re commercial intent sucking monsters!

However, if users typing in branded search terms are just looking for that brand’s website – in other words, if “anthopologie” is a navigational query – then they probably expect to get there by clicking on those Shopping Ads. If they stay on Google instead, that’s not necessarily a good user experience.

As for advertisers, I’m pretty sure they won’t appreciate Google creating competition for them where it didn’t exist before.

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Larry Kim Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007. He serves as company CTO and is the author of 4 Award-Winning Books on Software Development. Larry also blogs at the WordStream Blog and practices photography in his spare time.

4 Reactions
  1. Despite the “Don’t Be Evil” motto, Google is not your friend as an advertiser. They are a publicly traded company that makes over 95% of their revenue from advertising, so whenever an advertiser sees higher CPCs and more competition, Google sees more revenue and more profit. Therefore it’s pretty easy to know which direction things will progress on issues like this.

  2. I think it only works in the short term. People don’t really like ads except for product keyword. In these keywords, you can say that Google is stealing your traffic. But for others, you don’t really need to worry about it especially if you have a solid brand.