Google Shopping for Suppliers (in beta) was introduced in late January 2013 (as yet, for the U.S. market only) and sees Google targeting the B2B market with a dedicated search facility for suppliers.
According to Google, the new service is:
designed to help buyers discover suppliers who can fulfill their business needs. Drawing from a wide-ranging set of verified global suppliers, Shopping for Suppliers presents detailed product and company attributes, including certifications. The standardized and informative format makes it easy to discover the specific product and suppliers that fit your needs.
Search Engine Land reports on the new notion at the heart of the new service, “Google Verified Suppliers“:
The revenue model at this point is tied to a new Google Verified Supplier program, which includes a one-time verification fee: $1,000 for suppliers in US and Taiwan, ￥6000 plus 6% VAT for suppliers in China and HK$7500 for suppliers in Hong Kong.
The benefits of becoming a Google Verified Supplier include getting a badge on your listings and having products show ahead of those from unverified suppliers. The company also notes that as a Google Verified Supplier “your products appear higher in the Sponsored results section on Google” as well. (Bolding is theirs.)
It is unclear at this point how or when products from Verified Suppliers will appear in the ad results on Google. A Google spokesperson said that they don’t have any AdWords integration plans to announce just yet. However, the company documentation notes that verification fees “may change in the future, including to a pay-per-action model.” Perhaps there will be a Product Listing Ad model or integration at some point, based on the success of that program.
The beta is in its infancy; however, there are some issues to watch. After performing several searches, Verified Suppliers listings appear to be heavily weighted to show above unverified suppliers, even when the products are less (or not at all) relevant to the search query. A search for “electric fans,” for example, produced 9 results for products from Verified Suppliers that aren’t electric fans before an unverified supplier result for an actual electric fan.
Our own investigations confirmed that Google Verified Suppliers are displayed first, even when the products displayed are only peripherally linked to the search term; non-verified suppliers didn’t show up until Page 3 of the search results.
We also noted that every Google Verified Supplier carries a +1 button (further proof that Google is implementing the Google Plus social layer through all its products) — and that the listing which took the Number One position in the search results (in our search for “laptop”) had already attracted a +1 score of 2. That may be coincidence (but we suspect otherwise).
Google points out (through a popup link) that attaining “Google Verified Supplier” status is all about money and not about any quality or reliability verification or guarantee:
In our view, the label “Google Verified Supplier” suggests much more than it actually delivers. If the service goes beyond beta, Google might need either to replace the word “Verified” with a lesser label — or actually introduce effective verification, perhaps along the lines of eBay’s Feedback system (which allows for suppliers to be rated for individual aspects of their service):
Similarly, freelance site eLance.com enables purchasers to grade suppliers across a range of criteria:
The Marketing Opportunities for Google Verified Suppliers
As we’ve already seen, becoming a Google Verified Supplier will get your products presented at or near the top of the Google Shopping for Suppliers search results.
So if you’re a B2B supplier offering electrical or electronics products* to the United States, you really must check out what you need to do in order to become a Google Verified Supplier (details here). It will give you a significant advantage over unverified competitors, especially in the early stages of the Verified Supplier rollout.
*Applicable products likely to expand in due course
You should also upskill yourself on Google Plus. Google has stated elsewhere that it is using its social layer as one of the key signals to shape search results. (Ahem — we offer an online training course on how to use Google Plus for business. We recommend you check it out).