3 min read

How ecommerce brands can make the most of Google Shopping’s free listings

Who else was around in the PPC industry back when Google’s product listing ads were free? (I’m showing my age here!). However, the company shifted to a purely paid model in 2012 and has remained that way ever since – until now. Google is taking huge steps in opening up Shopping search results to organic and unpaid listings. 

There were already hints of this significant move coming. Google opened up Merchant Centre a year ago to all retailers, allowing them to show their products organically in surfaces across Google, including Image Search, as well as in the Popular Products section. 

Another key factor behind their move to open up free product listings is the rise of Amazon. Amazon’s market share has continued to grow in both product search and advertising. All of Google’s shopping results are currently paid ads, which has limited the volume of products and advertisers eligible to use this platform. 

Bill Ready, Google’s President of Commerce wrote in a blog post: “For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs,” he said. “For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.”

What will happen to paid shopping ads?

Paid ads will remain in the shopping carousel on the main Google search page. Ads will also be eligible to appear at the top and bottom of the Shopping results page. With so many updates to Shopping over the last year, we predict further changes and testing from Google. For example, they may blend ads in between free product listings, similar to Amazon’s current approach.

How do I opt into the free product listings?

For your products to be visible on these free listings, businesses must:

  • Have a Google Merchant Centre account.
  • Have an uploaded product feed to the account. 
  • Opt-in to “surfaces across Google” to be eligible for organic exposure. 

Google Support has put together a step by step guide on how to ensure you are opted in for this: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/9838672.

These changes will take effect in the United States before the end of this month, with Google planning to expand them globally before the end of this year. As a Google Premier Partner agency, we are working closely with our team on the roll out. We will announce any further information on dates and specifics as and when they become available.

What are the key opportunities and benefits of this change?

  1. Any businesses that currently sell to the US, or are based in the US should be taking this opportunity right away. This change is being rolled out within the next week for this location. 
  2. For businesses that have fully optimised shopping feeds this will be an amazing opportunity, as it will mean your product data and attributes are up to best practice. This will have a positive effect on organic visibility.
  3. There are huge benefits for small businesses that don’t have a paid marketing budget. These businesses will now be seen by consumers, free of charge. This will have a huge impact on those affected by COVID-19 or struggling with marketing budgets. 
  4. It is a real opportunity for businesses who have never used Google Shopping before to dip their toes in and see more organic traffic and performance.
  5. As this move will increase the amount of retailers and products appearing on the shopping results page, it will be a benefit to consumers to see more options available from more retailers for key product search terms, where currently, bigger brands dominate the majority of listings.  

This is a significant move by Google, which will no doubt have a huge impact on performance for all ecommerce brands. Sellers who are investing in product feed management and optimisation will reap the benefits when this change comes into effect. Those feeds achieving Google’s best practices will be eligible for more search queries and increase the amount of free impressions available.

Prepare for this change now – get in touch with our Shopping Feed Management team if you need a Google product feed to be created, or if you have one but is not optimised to best practice standard. 

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