Google saw a 50%-plus increase in search traffic in December to its “popular products” integrations, where shoppers can view and filter results with a variety of product details in an ecommerce-friendly carousel display, as it works to claw back the enormous flow of checkouts to dominant Amazon.
Later this year, Google is expected to begin testing checkout right from “popular products” results pages, as it adds more data from merchants using the feature in order to build critical mass. The idea is to make Google more attractive to shoppers, as it seeks to make the ubiquitous search engine stickier and capture more ecommerce revenue.
The traffic statistics were compiled by search data firm SEMrush, which monitors more than 150 billion web visits per month to client sites. It showed that in December 2021, Google searches with commercial intent displayed “popular products” results 17% of the time, which increased to 29% in December 2022. For transactional queries, they showed up 50% of the time that month.
Marcus Tober, SVP of enterprise solutions at SEMrush, said Google spent last year looking to up its game in transactional searches by leveraging aggregated shopping feeds based on structured data gleaned from merchant sites as part of “preferred products.”
For instance, Tober said, searching the term “children’s bike helmets” on Google yields featured results where shoppers can filter by various categories, including brand, price and style. While the “popular products” integration was launched in 2019, it hadn’t gained much traction with merchants until last year, he said.
“This is serious, it’s got to be a big game changer,” he said. “And Google needs a game changer, they need success stories. Very likely it will be a long-term turning point. Google’s traffic isn’t growing anymore. While they don’t actively report it, they do report revenue from search. They need to find new ways to monetize.”
The company’s stock surged after Google’s major I/O event last week unveiled a number of new generative AI capabilities, even though many observers were disappointed at the lack of Android 14 news. The steady AI drumbeat at I/O was something investors and analysts had been craving from parent Alphabet, after Microsoft gained first mover advantage with its integration of ChatGPT from OpenAI in its Bing search engine.
Tober said he has noticed Google experimenting with different combinations of filters in conjunction with “popular products” in order to spur engagement, which in turn draws more merchants and inventory. “Shopify, for instance, is collaborating with Google, letting its sellers send data to Google with one click,” he said. “That’s pretty large in and of itself, creating a flywheel that will display the integrations more often.”
While nowhere near the volume of Google, SEMrush saw traffic to Microsoft’s Bing search engine increase 50% between December and April, after the introduction of ChatGPT, in November, although the growth has slowed, Tober said.
Based on traffic data from the top 50,000 U.S. domains, search traffic was slightly lower in 2022 than in 2021, SEMrush noted in a recent report, as people and businesses emerged from the pandemic. In early 2022, search contributed to 16% of overall traffic, down from 21% in the prior year. By the end of 2022, search traffic increased slightly to 18%.