It’s been 10 days since we highlighted to consumers Google Shopping’s pay-to-rank practice and challenged them to change their policies. To date, Google’s only response to the concerns highlighted by the Scroogled effort had been to avoid addressing the issue at-hand and praise their shopping service. Finally, according to a report from Politico’s Dec. 6th edition of Morning Tech, Google responded directly to the issues we raised. What we find curious, however, is what Google said. Instead of owning up to consumers about their pay-to-rank policy, Google delivered a misleading and inaccurate statement.
Google told Politico:
Google contends that it clearly labels the search results on the shopping service, which comes with a disclaimer that “Google is compensated by some of these merchants.” “Our new paid Google Shopping results are ranked first and foremost by relevance, are clearly labeled as sponsored, and are clearly separated from our unpaid search results,” a Google spokesman said.
Here are the facts:
First, from Google: “Starting on October 17, Google Shopping results in the US will come only from merchants who are Product Listing Ads advertisers. We will be ranking these results based on relevance, with bidding as an additional factor.” That means that all of the listings on Google Shopping are now paid ads and payment is a factor in the ranking and “relevance”. As Google themselves have said, payment playing a part in determining relevance is at odds with the core principles of objective search.
Second, to the casual observer, the statement that Google Shopping results “are clearly labeled as sponsored, and are clearly separated from our unpaid search results” makes it look as if there are both paid and unpaid results within Google Shopping. There are no unpaid Google Shopping results. Google Shopping results are all ads and that, by their own admission, “Google is compensated” by all of the merchants – not by “some of these merchants” as they said in their Politico statement.
As we’ve said before, we think it is important consumers are aware of Google Shopping’s pay-to-rank practice and have a clear understanding of what exactly they’re seeing when using Google Shopping. Again, we urge Google to change their practice and do the right thing by consumers.
– The Bing Team