Google Checkout glitch disconcerts advertisers

A glitch caused Google Checkout icons to appear in ads of merchants who don't use the Google online payments system.

Google this week temporarily attached Google Checkout icons to ads from companies that haven't signed up for the online transaction system, a glitch that caused some confusion among advertisers.

"For a short period last night [Tuesday], the Google Checkout icon was inadvertently assigned to ads for U.S. AdWords clients who are not Checkout users. We resolved this very quickly and do not expect it to impact ad performance," a Google spokesman wrote via e-mail on Wednesday.

Merchants don't have to be Google AdWords advertisers to offer Google Checkout as a payment transaction option on their Web sites. However, merchants that are AdWords advertisers get a break on Google Checkout fees. Specifically, for every US$1 merchants spend on AdWords, they can process US$10 in sales through Google Checkout at no charge.

These merchants' ads also appear with a Google Checkout icon, to let potential shoppers know that they'll be able to complete the transaction using that Google system. This week's bug was noticed by various users and commented on in discussion boards and blogs.

Reprise Media Inc., a provider of search engine marketing services, wrote about the problem in its SearchViews blog (http://searchviews.com/archives/2006/08/suspicious_over.php) after officials noticed on Wednesday morning an overabundance of Google Checkout shopping cart icons in AdWords ads.

"To see whether this truly was an explosion in the use of Checkout or just a weird glitch, we Googled ourselves, and sure enough ... the little blue cart denotes Reprise Media as a certified Google Checkout merchant, along with two other sites. We're not," the blog posting reads.

Over on ThreadWatch.org, others commented on the proliferation of Google Checkout icons and wondered if it was a bug or a sign of broad adoption of the service.

Google Checkout, launched in June and is seen by many as a potentially serious challenger to eBay Inc.'s PayPal, has been criticized recently by some merchants and shoppers that feel Google sometimes takes too long to review and approve sales orders.

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