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Google shift changes results for online shoppers

Friday - 12/21/2012, 12:43pm  ET

What Google's change to shopping results

Ken Colburn, Data Doctors

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Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - When looking for a gift online, search results could vary depending on which Web browser is used.

Google recently made some changes that may alter the online shopping experience. It comes down to advertising.

Ken Colburn of the Data Doctors spoke on WTOP about what the change means.

"There's a shopping section for Google that I think a lot of people use. Back in October they switched from various methods of ranking retailers to a straight pay-to-play system," Colburn says.

Now when consumers click on a Google Shopping link, they will only see the stores that paid Google. Consumers may have seen the recent Bing advertisements slinging mud at their competitors for the change. The ads use the tag line, "You got scroogled."

On a practical level, it means when people go to the shopping section of Google, shoppers are not going to see any offerings from Amazon.com because Amazon is not willing to pay Google.

"This change means you won't necessarily see all of the low-price retailers in the Google shopping results," Colburn says.

Comparison shopping online now means using multiple browsers.

"As shoppers, we need to understand we can no longer rely on one source when it comes to trying to find the lowest price. I think that's a good lesson for all of us. I wouldn't rely on either Bing or Google as the single source for the best price," Colburn says.

Comparison shopping websites might produce better results, Colburn says. He suggests sites like NextTag.com, PriceGrabber.com and TheFind.com.

"What's cool about that is it looks at all websites either on a national or a local basis. Especially if you're trying to shop locally, and try to find the best price. It'll compare online/offline," Colburn says of TheFind.com.

If nothing else, the shopping-specific websites give consumers another opportunity to compare prices for the item they're looking for.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)