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Google Shopping: Was the EU Right?
29th June, 2017

Occasionally stories crop up in main stream media that need a bit more explanation and understanding, was the EU decision on Google shopping right.

What Happened

It’s not always easy to understand, but in principal Google was fined for putting it’s Price Comparison service above other Price Comparison services.  We’ve all seen these website that compare the best deals for you, should you shop with John Lewis or Tesco and where should you get the cheapest price for a Toaster or Kettle or some other product.

Quite simply Google Shopping does this and it’s results are always at the top of the page with pretty pictures too, so you can see exactly what you’re getting.

Other Price Comparison websites end up further down the list either on the Paid Advertising system Adwords or lost in the free search results.  Eitherway they are lower in the rankings.

The EU

What the EU have done is excellent – they have absolutely highlighted the power of Google influencing what and how we buy things, we’re at the thin end of a wedge with technology companies evolving masses of ways to make us buy more of one product or another, the information collected about us is huge and very very specific, Google could technically track our purchase of a Toaster, assess the average life span of that make and model of the Toaster and begin influencing us to get another Toaster at the right time a year later.

The EU have also highlighted the massive advantage of being at the top of Google.  Be it on Google Shopping in the Adverts or top of the free rankings – there’s no question if you’re not on page one you’re nowhere.

Aside: This was beautifully illustrated on Amazon recently where the average product is sold once a year, by definition is a blockbuster book sells a million copies on Amazon, that tells us most products on Amazon are simply not sold at all, probably ever.

The EU is basically saying watch out Google – we’re watching and if you decide to promote your services and products – we will try and make sure you have competition , they want to flatten the playing field again.  This reaches into the very fabric of our society at the moment as companies seek to monetise their offerings in more and more ways, think phone voting for Reality Shows, from simply and obvious tricks to more complex and sneaky behaviours.

Google’s Argument

This has been going for for a little while now, but Google are saying if you do a search for ‘What’s the weather today’ – they want to give you the answer… I mean why put in the extra clicks to some MetOffice or BBC website – when Google can simply suck this information from these websites and give it to you straight away.

Same goes for buying decisions – if you’re looking to buy a Toaster and Google knows where to get it cheapest – why not skip straight to it.

Their argument holds water for our fast moving, high on demand society, Google have all the research , this is exactly what people want.  They do not actually want to go to some comparision website – they just want to know where to buy the best Toaster.

The trouble comes with Google’s Monetising efforts, they believe this information has a price and they want us to pay for it.

Google Shopping

This used to be free – you could organise your eCommere website to have a feed that contained all the information you need for Google Shopping to work.  Trouble is in about 2012 Google decided to restrict Google Shopping to Adwords customers only.  I remember being distinctly frustrated at this news.  Google Shopping would not cost between £0.50 and upwards per click.  It still produced sales and results.  But the Advertiser would have to pay for it.

I could understand this on the actual Google Shopping Page – where you might give paying customers an advantage over the free listing (as per Gumtree and all the rest) but on the 1st Page of Google results in normal search this was wrong.  It was a money grab that I for one am grateful to the EU for curtailing.

It’s unlikely that Google will revert to free listing, but at least it will give normal advertisers and SEO more of a chance.

Relating this back to NCompass

This Blog is intended for our clients, so I will say this.  Google Adwords, SEO and Google Shopping are all efforts to get to the top of Google.  If you’re not on the proverbial Page 1, you’re out. It’s completely true.  Google rewards people that make an effort, not people that have the best product.  I fine this annoyingly astonishing.

Looking at this another way, in the good old days of Yellow Pages – you paid your £50 and were listed for a year.  Sure as a business you might want to invest in a slight bigger advert, but paid a reasonable sum for it.

Today, you probably still ought to be paying Yellow Pages, but you definitely need to be paying for Adwords (often £’000s per yer), Google Shopping (‘000s per year), SEO (often ‘000’s per year), Content Management, Maintenance, Upgrades, New websites – the list goes on.  Where your marketing used to cost a fraction of what it does today… and ultimately for very little extra income.  In truth it’s far more likely that your Prices have risen to meet this marketing demand on the wallet than widgets sold.  If you sole 10,000 Toaster a month before you are probably selling the same number today… BUT only if you’re on Page 1 of Google.

I think the phase running to stand still comes to mind.  And that’s how all this relates to NCompass, I do not mean to recommend all these services and additional costs to clients, but the truth is if you don’t others will – and I have not quite a collection of clients in exactly this position.  Successful business that have literally seen their business erode, until the kick in the Google programme of additional spending.

A final look at Google

Let us not forget Google is an American company, I’m not anti-American, but none-the-less it is extremely important to understand that GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) take home to America a staggering about of money.  That is literally money leaving everywhere else in the world, from the poorest countries to the UK’s and EU’s of the world and putting it back into the American Economy.  There is no wealth distribution here, there is no other Industry that is like this.  The largest UK website company is SkyScanner.net. Where as America has Bing, eBay, PayPal, literally name after name.

The result of this is that the EU has been accused of political gains by basking away at Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and now Google…  but their is good reason for this.  America is there to make money first and foremost and nothing else.  I suspect the rest of the world still sees some holes in that argument.

For me – all is OK – until it becomes blatant profiteering with no real competition to turn to.

And the risk? Well imagine if the EU had it’s own version of Google, or the UK had their own search engine, that only worked in the UK, we’d see a huge reduction in the advantages of the Internet, if we weren’t able to buy direct from China or India, we’d rightly complain – so we love the advantages, but must look after the Gatekeepers of our interaction – in this case Google.