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August 7, 2012

Google’s Alarming Changes – An Omen for the Future of SEO? — A SPN Exclusive

Whether we want to admit it, many of us have been enjoying a free ride thanks to Google. Those of us who have found success with SEO know that traditional marketing expenditures have been reduced as a result. Well, we may all be in for a rude awakening.

I am referring to Google’s recent announcement that Google Shopping (formerly known as Google Product Search) will now require payment for participation, starting in the U.S. market and expanding from there.

Until now, this platform was identical to the everyday Google search we all use, in that there was no cost to be a contender for top rankings, except any we may choose to invest in to improve those odds. But by “this fall,” Google will expect merchants to buy AdWords, which are basically pay-per-click ads that will appear along with product images when a shopper searches for applicable content.

What you pay will depend on predetermined bids you have set up in your Google Account from a mind-boggling choice of options. Among these are cost-per-click or cost-per-phone-call (using a Google 800# intercept, which routes the call directly to you while recording the event in your account); cost-per-impression (an accumulation of display ad appearances by the thousand for those who value ad views over ad clicks, with costs also determined by your preferred placement on high-traffic websites, for instance); cost-per-acquisition (a commission-like charge based on “conversions” or sales); plus other options with enhancements that utilize a variable bid process which may cost you more in certain competitive and mysterious circumstances.

While suggested bids start at a minimum $1 for phone calls, what you need to invest is totally enshrouded in secrecy because costs will depend on an unpredictable array of constantly changing factors, some of which the average person may find scary. Keyword strength can drive bid price up to $5 per click and beyond. Multiply that by the number of keywords you may need to second-guess your preferred customers’ search terms, as well as your number of products and desired time-frame to remain an active player, and you’re looking at an exponential fortune when all is said and done.

Unlike free search ranking which relies only on web page keyword relevance, content quality and visitor popularity, your AdWord ranking will be a result of how Google judges the value of both your ad and your website in meeting those parameters influenced by how much you pay, described in overwhelming detail on page after page of instructions and disclaimers, which after having spent hours reading, I am left with nothing but exhaustion for all my effort.

One point which was hammered home repeatedly, though, is that there are no guarantees your ads will appear in all relevant searches, nor will they necessarily appear on page one, whether you pay more or not. While I have a lot of respect for Google and all their geniuses who set up this incredibly complex system, I know from experience that if you give customers too many choices, they will decide to wait rather than act, for fear of making a mistake. Why not just charge a commission for sales and keep it simple, like eBay and Amazon? (Has greed gotten the best of them, trying to extract fees from every possible level of the process?) It reminds me of the intimidations of buying stock on Wall Street, where your decision to pay too high or too low a price ends in having to live with the dire consequences, or bail out with your tail between your legs.

To complicate matters even more, providing your product information to Google Shopping will require the upload of a “data feed,” a dreaded job I do regularly for my clients who sell on Amazon.

This is basically a spreadsheet of values which must conform to approved formats and lists of hard-to-differentiate parameters to qualify for inclusion. Unlike eBay which offers merchants a fairly easy-to-understand but extremely comprehensive template within which to enter information, Amazon and now Google prefer this alternate cumbersome and time-consuming setup which requires a significant amount of research and trial to master. Once you’ve slogged through the process a few times, it does get easier. But, it is always a major investment of time and concentration with lots of room for error, some of which are impossible to correct once introduced into their systems, resulting in failure to appear in appropriate searches.

Having broached the subject with one of my e-commerce clients, warning him that Google may in fact inherit the earth with this move, his immediate response was, “Let’s see what happens.” Luckily for him, because he sells lots of products on both eBay and Amazon, he is currently enjoying top search ranking in Google Shopping because those companies have already bought AdWords for his products. Of course, both companies stand to gain by doing so since they each take a handsome commission with every sale he makes. Jump to Google’s everyday free search platform, though, and his website listings trump both eBay and Amazon in search rank thanks to miracles the SEO gods have bestowed upon me – a phenomenon I fear may unfortunately have its days numbered.

It stands to reason. Now that Google has gotten us all used to free success (or failure…as the case may be) at their expense, it’s past time for them to cash in on the cash cows they have created. Just as we all had to pay through the nose to be competitive in yesterday’s printed yellow pages, now we will all need to pay our way to show up in tomorrow’s Google search results, or so I predict. But economically speaking, could Google have picked a worse time to spring this on us?

Marilyn Bontempoz, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing, based in Holmes, New York, has been developing strategies for business success for more than 36 years. A professional writer and graduate of Bard College, she has won numerous awards for excellence in marketing, photography, graphics, writing and web design. As a specialist in branding, she assists many of her clients with management of their social media and public relations initiatives. In addition, she handles e-commerce for a number of online merchants not only on their own websites but through eBay, Amazon and others. View her work at

39 Responses to “Google’s Alarming Changes – An Omen for the Future of SEO? — A SPN Exclusive

    avatar Joel Milne says:

    Interesting way to look at it. I tend to look at it like Google makes billions by introducing people to websites. Ultimately those billions come out of the pockets of every searcher by paying for the marketing costs of the businesses they buy from. So really Google is the one getting the free ride. I foresee a day where people either get rewarded or paid for their search efforts, and businesses pay next to nothing to be found, and Google has to sell all its servers off on Ebay.

    avatar Primoris Financial says:

    It is not surprising that google is trying to increase it’s revenue in this area. It is the start of what google seems to be doing and will continue as google starts expand directly into other areas (like a direct credit card comparison service in the UK). They have the size and now they need to find ways to continue the growth!

    avatar Tom Hargrave says:

    I’ve already signed up to the program and until everything finally goes into effect my products are still listed in the standard search.

    My take of the program is this:

    As long as it applies to everyone then it’s fair and I have no issue with Google making a profit on my postings. They are a “for profit” business!

    This is the same opinion I share with a national online sales sales tax that gets bounced around every once in a while. As long as it applies to everyne I have no issue with it.

    I’m all for a fair playing field.

    avatar fgwapo says:

    I hope this is the start of Google going down!

    Stop using Google services and lets see who wins!

    avatar fgwapo says:


    what made you say fair playing field? What will going to happen to small businesses? They cant compete big companies spending millions for ads.

    Think about it!

    Greed will always put you down. I hope google will

    avatar Fabian says:

    Never we know the true rules in Google.

    avatar Chris says:

    I’ve been signed up to it for a few weeks and i’ve already seen great conversion results. No doubt once more people are on it, the costs will rise up dramatically.

    Your alarming title suggested Google had moved the algorithm goalposts again, but on reading the content it showed that this has nothing to do with actual SEO, just a necessary Google service for online retailers.

    Google runs on a distributed network of thousands of low-cost computers and can therefore carry out fast parallel processing.It stands to reason. Now that Google has gotten us all used to free success (or failure…as the case may be) at their expense, it’s past time for them to cash in on the cash cows they have created.So its fair.

    avatar Dating Sites Australia says:

    This IS a bit scary.
    We’ve always known Google to generate its income from advertising and other means which simply require people looking at pages.
    If Google is shifting to a paid format then we might be in trouble.
    Imagine if they start charging for gmail, analytics, or organic serps!!!

    Fingers crossed…

    avatar pat says:

    American Corporate Greed hidden behind reams of disclaimers. Pushes their wealth up and yours down!

    avatar Papadan says:

    Google is opening the door for another search engine to eventually replace it. The mighty can fall.

    avatar Kelly says:

    Sounds like Google is a bit more concerned about Facebook than I thought.

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    avatar Rasool says:

    Thanks for good job.

    avatar No BS SEO says:

    At the end of the day Google is a business and as such they are obliged to make as much profit as they can for their shareholders.
    However according to their own stats (for Australia at least) over 70% of their users will click on an organic result before a paid ad. That said I wonder the impact the proposed “new system” will have on the perceived quality of a Google search. Unless I am mistaken there are still 2 very good search engines waiting for the big G to make a mistake and allow them to make some serious inroads into the search market.

    avatar matt says:

    I have been using adwords for the past 5 years and we get a fair amount of business, but I think we all will have to use all aspects of the web for our business. Email, social, search rankings, and adwords. It does make me think how relative Bing or Yahoo will become if Google does this. I think this will push people to start looking at other places for their advertising budget.

    avatar aggers says:

    Google will kill itself with its own greed. It’s customers will add up the cost of advertizing through Google and weigh against the other possible routes to market, and switch their spend to the better value options. i.e. those where you aren’t paying for a stupid user to click on your website, read and leave because it wasn’t what they wanted. We’ve used PPC before and it’s incredibly poor value for money in terms of customer conversions.

    avatar cmsbuffet says:

    We will start seeing many Google Announcements like:
    “Google [put service name here] will now require payment for participation”

    avatar biketravelcase says:

    I already see that for main money making keywords, it is very hard to rank before a whole page of paid results. In the future, SEO will be talked only for long tail keywords. I suggest bloggers to start email lists as soon as possible.

    avatar Patrick says:

    I like that 70% still click on organic search results. However, Google keeps changing the look of the top paid results to look more like organic results. Soon there will be no distinction, that’s when the organic search results will hit the dirt. I’ve been doing my on SEO since 1997 and I believe the next step is paid ads, fortunately I have the extra money from the cancellation of all my yellow page ads.

    avatar CF says:

    Disappointing but not really surprised.
    Ever since we began buying bottled water nothing surprises me and this may be a test that Google are trialing to see how dumb their audience is.

    avatar AleR says:

    Increasing the cost of ads following by decreasing of profit, which pull increase of cost of product what is decrease amount of sales. So, you will pay for nothing! The small businesses would fall down. Also, from my point of view, Google going to extend it’s rule over the whole world.

    avatar kc says:

    Google really needs to be stopped… The internet is for everyone. Why on earth are we all playing along with Google’s greed and self absorption? Google has forgotten how they became who they are. Greed Greed Greed!!! I say enough already…Unfortunately they are a prime example why the government eventually has to step in and stop the craziness.

    avatar DAS says:

    The only thing I would consider is a pay-per-purchase, which doesn’t exist. Let me get this straight, I’m to spend hours on end keeping up with Google and their changes, give lots of money to Google for my site to rank, etc., etc., not feeding the monster. Oh, their hog wash about delivering the best content is a lie. He who pays the most gets the highest ranking.

    avatar TM says:

    Given how many changes Google have implemented in the last few years, resulting in the loss of thousands of sites, it is no longer a viable search engine anyway. Now that youtube has proven to be a waste of ad time, and ppc has never worked due to the refusal of people to click on them, Google has nothing but search and email left to keep it going. When it starts charging money for those, watch everyone abandon their email accounts for another service. Google has already ruined it for the rest of us who also had the idea of posting books for sale, but now have to punish Google for scanning books illegally. I am debating the idea of closing all Google accounts and moving on, because if I can’t gain access to customers through search I will be effectively out of business for Google. What point would there be then to purchase AdWords?

    avatar martin says:

    they keep moving the goalpost !

    avatar Thomas says:

    Google knows what people are looking for…while Facebook knows what people have, what their friends have, and what their friends, friends have.They know what members like to do in business and in pleasure. I agree with Kelly (above). Google is very concerned with Facebook and they should be. Google+ is a Facebook wanna be…the 7″ Nexus is a life sentence of signing onto everything Google…and hey, I’m really waiting for their techno browser glasses. A log cabin in the wilderness and some binoculars…Indeed, perhaps I just found what I was really “searching” for. (Yeah…I’m Feeling Lucky!!!)

    avatar Barb says:

    This may be the proverbial bullet in the foot for G. It is a well known fact the users click organic results before they click paid ads. I’m guilty of it myself. The paid ads are practically invisible to me.

    If this Google Shopping is going to be anything like the “fraught with problems” Google Places, good luck folks. You will need it. Oh I can just hear the complaints now! More law suits for G and the whole gamut. Going to be bumpy ride.

    G makes PLENTY of money. They’re not hurting for increased revenue. However, GREED knows no bounds and bigger companies than G have fallen because of it.

    Oh, BTW, I have no use for Google Shopping and therefore, won’t be using it. I don’t jump to the sky or shake in my boots because G has come out with a new or refurbished toy.

    avatar Rehan Sheikh says:

    I am waiting for the day , when google will announce a ‘Lion’ update stating that
    ‘we are going to reserve the first page of search results only for the paid advertisers’ . means your SEO efforts will be starting from second page….
    SEO still falls under interruption marketing rather then referral marketing.
    if we will stick to the organic rules of marketing we won’t be dependant on google wholly.

    avatar Rick says:

    Google going down for that reason.I am 100% sure.

    avatar repoulin says:

    Everytime Google, Facebook, or YouTube do something that hurts its users, it opens the door for other websites to fill the hole.

    I use other search engines, news aggregation, and video networks because of things like this.

    I would like to use one network for everything, but Google falls short a lot of the time.

    Nothing against charging fees, but maybe they should open a new section. I like using their product search, but by charging the retailers the buyers will take the hit. Google may not be the best place to compare product prices.

    avatar Ladya says:

    Google is acting like a drug dealer. Theyve given us product search for free for years, then when we’re hooked they demand money.
    What will be next pay for videos on YouTube, organic listings or what.
    How can they say that this will be an enhanced experience for the shopper/searcher. Small business will be priced out, the big boys will rule once again, giving no real choice to the shopper. I tried adwords when it first appeared, was horrified to realise at the end of the first year that Google had made as much out of my hard work as I had. Its a mugs game, constantly being out bid by the big companies, just trying to stay ahead of the game, and (call me paranoid!) but I was never convinced that my competitors werent clicking on my ads to use up my budget!

    avatar Mister_Papagiorgio says:

    It will be interesting to see what the other search engines come up with. I know a lot of people who are fed up with G (non seo/im folks) and have already switched to Bing.

    avatar Ian Smith says:

    I agree with fgwapo. Small businesses are getting hit most and undermines what was the benefit of the internet – the leveling of the playing fields between big and small companies.

    Google is now attempting to make money from every square cm of the SERPs page. A long way from their original ethos. The time is now ripe for a Bing comeback? Or even a new competitor in the Search game?

    avatar remonatrix says:

    Gvt browsers in many countries disable adword content as the core mandate of gvt is not for profit.

    If Google becomes a huge Adword network, gvt browsers navigating to will have nothing to show …

    two edged sword … better be carefull or we will all move to … dare I say it … Bing and Yahoo 🙁

    I don’t like it one bit. I am new at learning all this and have a young web site, once I master SEO they now want to change it all and make it harder for the little gal with no $ to get their site seen 🙁 O well

    avatar Jamie says:

    I actually believe one day they could very well adopt a fee such as the old phone books used too. Instead of paying the phone company for your number, you will have to pay google per domain name, kinda like when you register your domain. They would make billions and billions by charging you just to be listed in their search engine.

    If Google is just a bunch of ads everybody will stop using it. Google knows this. The whole reason Google is powerful and it has all these eyeballs is that it is the best search engine. People find what they want. If they mess with that they are toast.

    This is like when they say that facebook will become payable…people will just switch if they do this.

    avatar hazara says:

    thats the disturbing news that Google chucks often, i simply cant wait when google start charging for access gmail!

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