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Ecommerce: Google Offer Takes on PayPal

 12:18 pm on Dec 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google is offering merchants free use of its online payment service as it squares off against eBay's market-leading PayPal.
The Internet search giant introduced Google Checkout in June, with sweeteners such as free ad credits for merchants. In November, it began offering rebates to consumers, $10 off $30 purchases. PayPal quickly matched the offer.

Wednesday, Google ratchets up the pressure by dropping merchant fees through 2007.

Ecommerce: Google Offer Takes on PayPal [usatoday.com]



 7:30 am on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

I posted this over on TW too, but wanted to make sure I said it here as well: I escalated this to the Google Checkout folks as soon as I heard about it, so I know they're looking to see if there's anything they can do pretty quickly to help on this issue.


 8:57 am on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Not sure if this helps the affiliate problem, I'm not one.

There was, what seems like a similar issue when AdSense came out, (no tracking)...


There may be some clues in that thread about how to code your own tracking --- you'd still never see past the checkout point, but at least you'd have some solid data on who you sent there, when, what they clicked.. etc..

If your affiate check is big money from certain merchants, this may help you negotiate some type of payment (if the affiliate code was scrubbed if your referrals ...and if they value your traffic).


 11:28 am on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hey Matt, thanks for the update. Are you referring to the affiliate URL issue?


 12:20 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

...and discovered I needed to be located in the USA

AlexK, thanks for saving my time.

I spent hours and hours looking through the up-front info and developer API help. My first q was whether it was still USA-only (my recall from the summer when it first came out). There is absolutely nothing in anything that I read that states, or even implies, USA-residence-only (until one-third of the way through signing up, when the only option is "United States" as business location). That is why I put an entire afternoon into researching what it would require.

What prats.


 12:37 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

...I escalated this to the Google Checkout folks as soon as I heard about it, so I know they're looking to see if there's anything they can do pretty quickly to help on this issue.

Matt, thank you so much for your efforts on these issues! Assuming you're referring to the tracking situation, there really and truly are people (affiliates included) out there trying to legitimately provide value for users, and once problematic issues are resolved, from a marketing POV, a merchant providing Google Checkout could potentially be presented as an effective and marketable selling point and benefit, to encourage sales for such merchants. It would be a win-win solution for all, once any issues were to be resolved.

I don't know the names of the tech folks at CJ & LS, but Larry Adams would be the tech person to contact at Peformics and Brian Littleton (the Pres. & CEO) at Shareasale for input - all of which would probably also pertain to tracking for the indies as well.


 1:15 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

ispy, NO - Google Checkout will NOT flop, as you so ominously and erroneously predict. There's been too much affinity developed for that to happen.

Please allow me to go on record saying that I have no problem at all, whatsoever, with creating a Google account. In fact I've already done so, as well as running the Google Toolbar in IE 24/7, using the customized G homepage and using Gmail, and staying logged in to all - all the time, including my Gmail (for which I have the homepage preview enabled), and GoogleGroups - Webmaster Help included, under the watchful eye of Adam L. (LOL) - as well as having set up a GoogleGroup and Calendar for my church's website - without even one, single, solitary, little itty-bit of paranoia.

There's simply no place for tinfoil hats when it comes down to the practical reality of effective ecommerce and internet marketing. Reality rules.


 3:44 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree its not a flop.

Now google just needs an auction site.

About time ebay/paypal get some competition!


 4:21 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Wow Matt. So glad you picked this up and got the news to the right folks.

Did the fact that I used the cute cartoon of you pushing Checkout in my blog help get your attention? ;-)

I'll be sure to let people know in the forums and blogs discussing this that Checkout is looking into it, thanks to you! I'm in a private affiliate manager only forum discussing this with affiliate managers from many of the top etailers and will them know too. You ROCK!

Thanks for the help,


 4:39 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think PayPal now supports Micropayments for UK sellers

Thank you for that.

I found the relevant page by searching for "PayPal Integration Center micropayments" (HTTPS and cannot be linked here).

url = https://www.paypal.com/IntegrationCenter/ic_micropayments.html

The page states:
PayPal offers support for Micropayments to merchants for US to US, GB to GB, AU to AU, and EU to EU transactions for Business and Premier accounts. This feature is offered at a special rate of 5% + $0.05 per transaction.

The example that they give is of a Premier/Business account rate for receiving funds at 2.9% + $0.30. This makes the threshold for viability to be $12 per-payment.

I guess that the point re:Google is that their micro-payments are now the lowest on the market... as long as you are resident in the USA, of course.


 7:21 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Please allow me to go on record saying that I have no problem at all, whatsoever, with creating a Google account.

I have no problem with it whatsoever either - personally. But my problem is that I cannot integrate Google Checkout as a primary form of payment collection into my various ecommerce clients' sites when it requires a Google Account first - most of these are B2B sites, and we're already concerned with the time it takes for users to create a store account, without adding the creation of a Google Account into the process as well. The business users are an impatient bunch - most don't use PayPal for business transactions either.


 8:27 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Linda, if I say the cartoon didn't hurt, I'll be up to my ears in Matt cartoons. :)

lorax and Marcia, yes, this is about the affiliate tracking issue. Sorry, I should have been more specific.


 9:57 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

It would be nice to have multiple websites under the same merchant id. Right now it only allows for one website to display a little google checkout badge. Basically I was told today that if you have two websites selling you need two merchant accounts in order to show that little green shopping cart for two different websites in google base.

This is kind of a downside since its real nice to use the same login for adsense, adwords, checkout, etc..


 7:22 pm on Dec 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

We setup lots of sites for different businesses, and setup different payment gateways. Any one of the following problems means I will not even consider trying Google Checkout.

1 Only for USA
2 The buyer has to create a Google account first
3 Tracking.

Of course, if they fix these we're very interested.

Re.2: buyer has to create a Google account first
Perhaps I misunderstand a previous post. I assumed the post meant the buyer has to setup a Google account. I don't care about setting up an account, but site visitors wanting to buy stuff should not have to jump through that hoop. This is one reason we didn't use PayPal, they changed (ie you don't have to have a PayPal account to buy) so now we setup PayPal on some sites.

IMO PayPal is the most confusing payment provider (for the buyer), so I tend to recommend other providers. Last month I setup a test group and watched them all try to use PayPal (most of them for the first time ever). These were inteligent folk, most of them were Managers of teams in a Global company. It was staggering to watch, about half of them made serious mistakes and could not complete their transaction. The problem with PayPal is the extra links that confuse non-web-savy buyers e.g. 'Click here to setup your PayPal account, or click here to just buy the damn thing...' (well, something like that). There has to be a linear checkout WITHOUT ANY side-tracks to get lost in. Protx does this very well, but PayPal is a nightmare.


 9:29 pm on Dec 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Okay, here we go. When I first saw this at [searchenginejournal.com...] the discussion was around pixel tracking not working with Google Checkout.

Documentation for pixel tracking went live I believe late last night:

I think pixel tracking in Google Checkout should help with this issue.

(Also posting this on TW and the original SEJ article)


 12:12 am on Dec 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I believe Google have the balls to win this one and I thank them for keeping my costs down.

Google have really helped my small business and are always there with a sensible reply from CS




 4:57 pm on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Can anyone confirm if the buyer has to create a Google account when buying from a site that uses Google Checkout; or is it just the Merchant that has to create a Google account?


 10:32 pm on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree I bank on Paypal a lot.. but still getting customers who dont understand/dont care/dont trust, asking, "Can I just call you directly and give you my credit card?".

I want to say, "Why the hell would you give a basically unknown website your credit card info and not Paypal" but you just can't do that with a customer.

I am anxiously awaiting Google Checkout but it has to break out of the US and cover ALL countries in the world where primary method of travel is not a donkey.


 11:42 pm on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google's documentation for Checkout is AMAZINGLY bad.

(1) How many people here are wondering whether an account is required for a customer to check out? That's because Google doesn't bother to make that information clear, up front.

(2) I took a look at the docs to see how I might convert from PayPal, and there's all kinds of technical jargon, like API's, XML, parameterized URL's, etc. I'm not keen on learning several new concepts/technologies just to add a different checkout option, especially when my PayPal solution is already working, and all it required was some simple HTML (and Perl to receive the order info back from PayPal to put it in a database).

(3) How do I pass custom info to Checkout that I can get back once the order is completed (e.g., affiliate ID, referral URL, etc.)? PayPal gives you a simple custom field (<input type=hidden name=custom value=whatever-you-want>), but I didn' see any such in the Google docs. Instead of a simple custom field I'm supposed to use PIXEL tracking?! Are they NUTS!? Granted, this is more of a problem with their implementation than with their documentation, but still....

(4) Knowing that many people considering Google Checkout will be migrating from PayPal, the obvious thing to do is to have a PAYPAL MIGRATION GUIDE that helps such webmasters along the way. (e.g., a two-column table, with the headings "How you did it in PayPal" and "How you'll do it with Google Checkout") A side-by-side feature comparison wouldn't be a bad idea, either, showing what features that are available in one service but not the other.

Is it inevitable that as companies grow and get older they also get lame?

Extremely unimpressed. I'll stick with PayPal (which is already set up and works) for the 2.5% transaction fee.


 11:54 pm on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Michael, I think that the problem may be that when folks are very familiar with something (and/or technically capable), it's hard to be able to see how it seems to those who aren't, especially to those who are "technically challenged."

A lot of things really take being made "idiot proof" to be easily understandable to everyone at all levels, especially those who are in a hurry - which is a lot of people nowadays.

Unfortunately, there aren't a whole lot of technically challenged people at Google - at least I imagine not - so what they need is some volunteer "token idiots" to alpha or beta test not only their offerings' features, but to check for how understandable documentation is, very early on.


 12:39 am on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

so what they need is some volunteer "token idiots" to alpha or beta test not only their offerings' features, but to check for how understandable documentation is, very early on.

I wholeheartedly agree! Why Google thought they could skip this step is a mystery. Perhaps they think they know best and don't need to know what their customers think -- which is a kind of corporate arrogance. If they keep it up, it will limit their success. They've certainly lost me as a potential merchant, even though I was *anxious* to try a viable alternative to PayPal.

I've almost finished coding an affiliate program from scratch, and before I launch it to the world the first thing I will do is ask a couple of non-techie, simple webmaster friends to go to the site and sign up for the affiliate program. I won't give them any further direction or explanation, they need to get everything from the site. And I'll be able to find out from them what questions weren't answered, what was confusing, what they would have preferred to see, etc.

Now, I have far less resources than Google. I'm a one-person shop. Surely Google could out-perform me in this department...if they wanted to.


 2:20 am on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google Checkout will succeed if they begin to offer merchant accounts to international companies. Right now you have to be a US merchant to work with them.

Google Checkout, matched with AdWords, will definitely be a hard product to beat since they will provide promotions for use with both.

PayPal has no real tactic except that they are established. Ebay and Paypal are both products that are not going to survive well placed competition. Their customer support is worse than horrendous and their products and mechanisms are not very good. Amazon, for example, is far more attractive than Ebay for resellers.

That being said, Google has to expand and offer the perks they are offering. But they NEED international support. They need to at least match Paypal in usability.

Once they do this, I have no doubt that Google's ability to create easy to use systems with top notch tech support will make google checkout a great product. The google brand is also extremely trustworthy in the eyes of both merchants and consumers.


 6:01 pm on Dec 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google are sitting on a gold mine thats just waiting for them to open the door. They are almost there, but the bits they have missed make it a nightmare.

All they have to do is make a payment gateway:
- With the Google brand, for trust.
- As easy to pay for stuff as Protx or WorldPay,
- No funny hoops to confuse buyers (like setup an account to pay).
- Provide the Merchant Account for those who don't have one,
- As easy to setup as PayPal,
- A helpline for webmasters.

Bang! They will be taking a commission on millions of sales per day, and become the worlds most popular payment gateway.

So, why are they making it difficult?


 12:04 am on Dec 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

So, why are they making it difficult?

I remember a few years back before the big IPO, Jill Whalen made the prediction: "If Google goes public, expect them to start to suck within a year."

Maybe she was right, though not necessarily on the timeframe.


 9:22 am on Dec 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

I remember a few years back before the big IPO, Jill Whalen made the prediction: "If Google goes public, expect them to start to suck within a year." Maybe she was right, though not necessarily on the timeframe.

technical jargon, like API's, XML, parameterized URL's

I don't understand what you expect. If you want to run a shopping cart online, you need to understand that stuff because it's not jargon it's technology. If you don't feel like learning it, you hire someone who's competent with the technologies involved. Sheesh.

Żes user-friendly documentation is always a plus but theres only so far you can lower the denominator before the techies complain that theres too much fluff.


 9:30 am on Dec 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

I don't understand what you expect.

I thought I made that clear: Documentation that's as easy to understand as PayPal's.

PP's documentation could be improved, to be sure, but it was mostly enough to get me up and running. I certainly didn't have to screw around with XML, API's, or parameterized URL's.

I'm not a technical neophyte. I know a fair amount of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Perl, MySQL, UNIX, and .htaccess/mod_rewrite. I've developed web-based auction systems, affiliate programs, and shopping carts from scratch. And if *I* can't understand Google's documentation, then the average small webmaster certainly can't.

Bottom line: If Google wants the small webmaster as a customer, they need to make their docs accessible. Faced with the choice of either "hiring someone competent with the technologies" or just sticking with PayPal, which do you think the small webmaster will choose?

I know what I chose.


 9:48 am on Dec 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ummm... excuse me, but just because JW speaks at conferences doesn't make her right or an expert on all things search, or an accurate prognostigator and seer of what the future holds.

NO WAY is Google on the downhill path since or because of going public. There is no way stockholders, who may have investment smarts but little else technical and otherwise, could know about how to operate search quality or algo construction, etc., etc., and have any say in the functioning of those.

I fail to see what could be objectionable about making documentation replete with essential details and the kind of clarity that's understandable for all levels of users. Unfortunately, geeks and techies are not necessarily capable orf writing idiot-proof instructions and documentation.

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