Google Expands Affiliate Advertising Test in Pay-For-Play Shopping

Following the change in Google Shopping the previous month, in which the service was rendered as pay-for-play only, the company is looking for new ways to allow affiliates to take part via Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in the US.

According to Eric Tholomé, product management director of Google Shopping, Google Shopping has been working on and testing various approaches for several months that would allow them to work with affiliates. The testing was in alpha, and now the company is uncovering the beta to further participants.

The notion behind the concept is to let affiliates place bids on PLAs for products that are being sold by their merchants, which further add data to Google Shopping. This way, Google will be able to penetrate and take advantage of a completely different type of advertisers for such kinds of ads. Out of this beta test, affiliates are not allowed to create PLAs.

Even though Tholomé does not believe that Amazon affiliates are taking part at present, the terms of this plan would let these affiliates purchase ads – allowing Google Shopping to display products from the principal e-tailer of US, which is not taking part itself – if Amazon has no objections against it.

Test is Confined to US

The test is restricted to affiliates based in US for US-based merchants, who are allowed to submit feeds aimed at the US population only. According to Google Help pages, a sub account in AdWords is made by affiliates for each merchant they deal with. The feeds are then submitted for the products that they want to advertise, while updating the data constantly. To maintain user experience, the links have to resolve directly and instantly to the landing page for the product on the website of the merchant.

Merchants have the option of bailing out of the program completely if they wish to do so, or they may get in touch with affiliates who are advertising their products, and ask them to discontinue. For beta, Google has developed an interface for the merchants who wish to opt out of the program. This interface is in their Merchant Center account and can be spotted under the tab of “General” Settings. This allows merchants to view the affiliates who are targeting their website, as well as their contact info. This, however, is possible only in case of at least one affiliate who is advertising their products.

Merchants are Preferred on Google Shopping Site

It is possible to create more than one PLA for a single product, thus a ‘pre-auction’ determines the PLA that will take part in the main auction. Google employs two separate algorithms for the pre-auction. On the Google site, the “best offer” is chosen by the algorithm, based on quality score and bid. On Google Shopping, the merchants are always given preference if they are participating.

Tholomé said, “merchants might feel like they are competing with themselves”, which could be a problem.

According to Google, “a handful” of affiliates took part in the alpha. Google is not revealing the identities of the merchants or affiliates, except for Nextag.

Affiliates who may be interested in participating in the beta program may do so via a sign-up page created by the company.