By now everyone’s probably seen the news that Google has been fined £2.1 billion by the European Commission for prioritising its own Shopping service in search results over its competitors.
According to the European Commission, this gives Google an unfair advantage over its competitors because of the percentage of traffic which originates with Google and it also denies internet users a choice by pushing them to use Google’s comparison service over the marketplaces of Google’s competitors.
Google has been given 90 days to make changes, but is planning to appeal.
What does this mean for Google?
If Google loses the appeal then they will have to change their results. This could take a number of forms, but we suspect that the most likely scenarios are as follows:
- Google removes its Shopping feature altogether. This is highly unlikely, however, as it earns them a lot of money and is a very useful feature for searchers.
- Limit the shopping results to the ‘Shopping’ tab. This is also highly unlikely because it would, again, reduce the likelihood of searchers making use of the shopping results which would have a huge impact on ad revenue.
- Make the Shopping results less prominent by moving them down the page, reducing the size or putting them into the Knowledge Graph box on the right-hand side of the page. This is a distinct possibility - but would still primarily drive traffic into Google’s offering.
- Offer an ‘organic’ shopping service, much like they do with standard search, which shows a mixture of paid and non-paid results within shopping. This is a likely scenario as it would give competitors a chance of showing up in search without paying for placement.
- Offer Shopping Search options, by providing prominent links to other comparison engines. Making use of the APIs from competitors, Google could offer the option of a default search engine to power its shopping results. This, too, would run the risk of losing huge swathes of revenue and sending shoppers off-site to a competitor.
What does this mean for businesses?
First of all, any changes to Google are not going to happen immediately, if they happen at all. Google is appealing the decision - which took 7 years for the European Commission to make.
However, if you have an e-Commerce business, then you’re probably running Product Listing Ads in Google Shopping so any changes will impact the results you get from those campaigns.
Depending on the solution that Google implements, you may see a drop in click-through rates and conversion rates as companies fight for a reduced level of visibility.
However, if Google does bring back organic Shopping results, businesses could benefit from well-optimised product feeds and could take advantage of using SEO to gain prominent placements for products. Budget would need to be split between paid and organic shopping search and feeds would need to be keyword-optimised to take advantage of the right opportunities.