In the world of eCommerce, qualified referral traffic can be often be the difference between success and failure. One of the biggest drivers of ‘purchase-minded’ prospects has been comparison shopping sites, such as Pricegrabber, Nextag and Google free product search. Oh, wait…scratch that. Google’s free product search hasn’t been free for a while now, as they themselves have staked a claim in the ‘comparison shopping’ market. And in doing so, it seems they have also killed (or are killing) the competition.
But of course if we’re going to make an outrageous claim like this, we’ll need some evidence. Here goes:
Victim #1: PriceGrabber
If we look at PriceGrabber’s monthly visitor traffic from the past 2 years (according to SEMrush.com), we see a pretty dramatic drop in the early summer of 2012, continuing to decline from its high of 1.8 million visits a month to a modest 50,000 monthly visits from search. When did Google switch from free product search to paid product search? I’ll let you guess.
On to victim #2: Nextag
If PriceGrabber’s drop in search traffic was a fall from the roof, Nextag’s decline is like a barrel roll off the edge of the grand canyon. At their peak in 2010, Nextag received around 18 million visits from search each month. While they did have a gradual slide in traffic for the next few years, it wasn’t until mid 2012 when things totally tanked. Coincidence?
Now let’s look at the accused: Google
Now before you start calling out objections, let me just say that I fully realize it’s impossible to make correlations based solely on 3rd party traffic trend data. That said, I’m going to show this chart anyway. It would be impossible to determine how many product specific search queries hit google during a given month, but I’m willing to bet that number hasn’t decreased. In fact the only thing that has decreased is the amount of space given to organic search results. Since search traffic may not be the best way to evaluate this, maybe we should look instead at their earnings.
That money has to come from somewhere. I’m betting a large portion of those earnings have come from ads.
Let me wrap this up by saying that I’m quite aware that these comparison shopping sites may still received 100s of thousands or even millions of visits each month – from people who skip search and go directly to those sites. They may very well still offer a great experience for shoppers to find the best deals, but for how long?