Making the Most of Google’s New Free Shopping Listings
Overview of the Update
On April 21, Google announced that they were “advancing [their] plans to make it free for merchants to sell on Google,” a powerful move at an unprecedented time for eCommerce. Their plan included launching free listings on Google Shopping and new partnerships with Shopify and PayPal to allow a more seamless business experience for merchants.
The free listings are available within the Surfaces across Google program, an option within Google’s Merchant Center that you must activate to take advantage of this update. Advertisers can find program opt in and opt out options on the “Growth” page in the navigation menu of the Merchant Center.
Free listings will appear in dedicated positions on the Google Shopping Tab, as well as the Google Shopping website. For now, this update is exclusively in effect in the U.S. with plans to expand globally by the end of the year.
These listings are completely separate from “Sponsored” PLA listings, which will continue to get the premium positions through Google Ads campaigns. Advertisers bidding for “Sponsored” PLA listings are also eligible to show up in complimentary spots in addition to the premium units they pay for, unless they explicitly opted-out of “Surfaces Across Google” in Google Merchant Center.
If brands have an active Google Merchant Center account with a feed, nothing further is required to set up (but keep reading—there are ways to optimize!), as current advertisers have automatically been opted into the Surfaces across Google program.
If brands do not have an active shopping feed yet, advertisers can take advantage of this update by creating a Google Merchant Center account and submitting your product feed. Google included in their announcement that improvements to this onboarding process are in the works.
Shopify and PayPal partnerships will allow smaller advertisers who may not have eCommerce websites to take advantage of Google as a marketplace in the future. As more details on these partnerships emerge, we will share our strategic point of view accordingly.
Best Practices & Success Strategies
This massive shift in Google Shopping will increase competition within free listings with the rapid increase of retailers submitting their products. Taking a strategic look at your content now will help you stand out long-term within surfaces on Google. Consider these steps for optimizations:
When determining the free listing priority, Google tries to answer “would a person want this product and will they have a good experience in trying to purchase it?” Factors like merchant quality, product data quality, availability, and user engagement will likely influence rankings.
Start by reviewing your product images so that in-market customers recognize your product’s benefits at a glance, and edit any product titles or descriptions that aren’t descriptive and helpful for browsing customers. If you own the eCommerce process on your site, make sure the customer journey is seamless.
Additional Attributes for Google Crawling
There are technical steps you can take to make your feed easier for Google to navigate. Structured data markup on your website should include additional attributes such as “canonical_link” and “availability” which communicate landing page and inventory details, respectively. More best practices (and required attributes) can be found here.
If you are active in Google Merchant Center and have products you’d like to suppress from appearing in these listings, additional attributes are available to make that possible.
Google representatives have shared with Rise that early experiment data indicates a 3-5% increase in aggregate clicks as a result of this update.
While measurement is limited, Google released a new dashboard on April 27 that allows retailers to track aggregate clicks from surfaces across Google. Marketers can find this data now in Google Merchant Center.
Additional reporting and measurement capabilities, including URL tracking parameters, are expected to be released as soon as May.
Since this update is still relatively new, we will share additional insights about the features and its Search strategy impact as we learn more. If you have any questions in the meantime or would like a Rise expert to discuss Search optimization opportunities with you, reach out to us.