As I covered at Search Engine Land last night, according to a Wall Street Journal article, Google confirmed that it has systems that automatically will add products to your e-commerce site’s shopping cart. It does this to verify the price merchants give them matches what is found in the shopping cart.
Google indeed confirmed it and emailed me last night “We use automated systems to ensure consumers are getting accurate pricing information from our merchants. This sometimes leads to merchants seeing abandoned carts as a result of our system testing whether the price displayed matches the price at checkout.”
It makes sense – you sometimes see sites that say “special price in shopping cart.” Or sometimes you won’t see the price at all until you add it to the shopping cart. I am not sure if it a tactic to get shoppers one step closer to checking out or if there are some legal issues with showing prices for some products at a discount on the main product page. Maybe it is both. Or maybe there are bait and switch tactics Google is trying to crack down on.
Google is using automated methods in Google Shopping to double check the Google Merchant is not violating any Google Merchant/Shopping policies. One such policy is “failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose the payment model and full expense that a user will bear before and after purchase.” In fact, Google’s very own Merchant Center Terms of Service allows Google to crawl those pages to double check, it says “if the content you submit contains URLs or similar content, you grant Google the right to access, index, cache or crawl the URL(s) and the content available through such URL(s), or any portion thereof. For example, Google may utilize an automated software program to retrieve and analyze the websites associated with such URL(s).”
Google Merchant Center does have a help document on controlling crawling. But it seems it uses Googlebot and Googlebot-image to crawl the site and if so, then technically, you can block it from your cart pages?
Google did tell us that the company is looking into clarifying how these automated systems will interact with merchant websites in the future, and the company is committed to working with merchants through our support channels to address any other issues they may encounter when participating in Google’s Shopping programs.
Just a reminder, Google recently said it would very rarely submit forms on your pages – this might be one of those cases I guess.
Hopefully Google will clarify this so that you can filter out these behaviors in your analytics and not see inflated shopping cart abandonment rates?
Forum discussion at Twitter.