Product search and price comparison sites are one of the biggest lead generators for online merchants and for years major players like Google Product Search, or as it is now known Google Shopping, have dominated the market.
From its inception, Google Product Search stood firmly against the paid inclusion model used by similar sites. It was free to have your products listed and so everyone from your local corner shop to major high street retailer were listed side by side. The range of results was staggering, and if you wanted a fair comparison of what was available online then this was the place to go. In a statement from 2004, Google said :
“Because we do not charge merchants for inclusion in Froogle [as Google Product Search was known in the beginning], our users can browse product categories or conduct product searches with confidence that the results we provide are relevant and unbiased.”
This all changed last year when Google announced that they would be moving away from their free model to an entirely paid inclusion model, and rebranding the service to Google Shopping. In a more recent statement Google said the reason for this was “having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date.” Google began this transition in the US last year, but has only recently rolled it out into UK product search results as well. Hundreds of thousands of listings have been dropped from retailers not willing to take part in the paid inclusion model, and now only premium advertiser’s products can be found using the service.
Since the paid inclusion model is being used by nearly all the major product search engines, will this open the door to new search engines and price comparison sites who are willing to list the products of any reputable online retailer and present unbiased results to their site’s users? One UK product search engine will be celebrating it’s official launch next month. The Laminated Book of Dreams began development after hearing the news of Google’s transition from the free inclusion model. From the start of this year they have gone through strenuous beta testing and have risen up to an Alexa traffic rank of 25,000 in Britain before they had even launched. The Laminated Book of Dreams promises to only show relevant and unbiased results. Their website states :
“The Laminated Book of Dreams is about relevance and impartiality.
“Practically all other product search engines manipulate their search results to give the highest paying sponsors higher priority, even if those sponsor’s products are not as relevant to your search query. Many only show advertiser’s products so there are no free listings at all. This lowers the range of results that are returned and also the relevance of the results.
“The Laminated Book of Dreams will not manipulate its results to give sponsors higher rankings and so our results are an unbiased mix of both free and paid listings.”
Of course we’ve heard this before. Time will tell if these new product search engines will live up to the old mantra “Don’t be evil.”