Reviewed: Google Checkout Payment System
Ian Lurie Jun 29 2006
Google released their new Google Checkout payment system today, and I took it for a test drive, as a consumer and as a merchant.
A quick note about the test case: I used the simplest version of Google Checkout – their ‘buy now’ button. The ‘buy now’ button takes the customer to checkout.google.com to complete their purchase. Google does offer a complete API, where you can integrate their service directly into your own site, but I wimped out.
Setting Up My Store
I decided to add a Google Checkout button to my book page. I already have a Google account, so it took me about 20 minutes, start-to-finish, to input a product (my book) and place the Google ‘buy now’ button on my site.
The process was pretty straightforward, with two exceptions: One, when you set up your account as a merchant, it’s very easy to wander back into the consumer side of things and get lost. I had to stop the signup process and start over again when I somehow ended up moving from creating a merchant account to setting up my consumer account. Two, the Google Checkout system doesn’t let you save the buttons you create; if you want to edit them, you have to create a new button. That’s merely annoying for me, since I have one product. It would be maddening for anyone with several products. But PayPal suffers from the same problem, so I can’t complain too much. All in all it was absolutely simple – anyone who can handle even the most basic web page editing can use Google Checkout.
Two major features are missing, though: I didn’t see any way to control where the customer lands after completing their order. That’s a major deficiency when compared to PayPal. And there didn’t seem to be any way to integrate shipping into the process. I went to look at the Google Checkout Blog, but at the moment that site appeared down.
On the plus side, though, if you spend $1 on Google Adwords, you can process $10 in sales for free. So, if you spend, say, $3000/month on Google Adwords advertising, you can sell $30,000 in goods through Google Checkout at no cost. That is a huge advantage over PayPal.
Also, by linking your Adwords account to Google Checkout, you get a slick little Google Checkout badge next to all ads you run for that site. That might generate higher purchase rates – we’ll see.
Making a Purchase
Next, time to test it all out. I used a separate Google account, set up my purchasing options by entering in my default credit card, and bought a copy of my book.
Checkout was super-simple. The cart gave me the option of receiving e-mails from Portent Interactive, and purchasing was basically a one-click procedure. Google Checkout did just dump me on their own ‘thank you for your order’ page.
Google swears they’re not trying to compete PayPal and eBay through this service, but it looks to me like they’re going to go head-to-head. Their system lacks a couple of features that PayPal has, and that could hurt them in the short run.
In the long run, though, Google’s ability to integrate Checkout with their advertising network and hopefully their analytics tool could make them a force to be reckoned with.
Test drive of their more advanced Checkout integration options coming soon…
A Quick Update
I linked my Adwords account to my Checkout account. That is supposed to show small checkout badge in my Adwords ads, and indeed my Adwords account shows that ‘Google Checkout Badges are active’. It also shows the badges in Adwords. But 12 hours after that message showed up, I still don’t see any badges in Google search results. Hmmmm. More bulletins as events warrant.
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Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More