Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Google Shopping listings were free of charge. Things changed back in 2012 (that makes me feel really old!) when Google realised that Google Shopping could generate a lot of ad revenue, so shifted to an ad-based model. This meant that retailers then had to pay if they wanted their products to appear in the shopping tab. However, back in April of this year, when the world was in lockdown due to COVID-19, Google announced that it was bringing back the free listings in the US, with plans to do so across the rest of the world before the end of the year.
Then a couple of weeks ago, Google announced that this change will be coming to Europe, Asia and Latin America in mid-October, so should be any day now!
Many are saying that this move wasn’t one made out of sympathy for its retail advertisers who could be struggling due to the pandemic, but in order for Google to fully compete against Amazon in the organic search results. But whatever the reason for the change of heart, it’s great news for retailers and something that they should be utilising.
How to get your products listed for free
More good news is that if you already have a Google Merchant Center feed set up, you may not have to do anything as your products could be eligible to show already. If not you can “opt in” by visiting Growth > Manage programs, which can be found in the left hand navigation when logged into Google Merchant Center and then simply choose “surfaces across Google”. Here is where you can add more products to make them eligible for a free listing.
Google also says: “For new users of Merchant Center who are interested in joining this program, it’s open to you today and does not require Google Ads, but we’re working to significantly streamline the onboarding process over the coming months. You can opt into surfaces across Google during the Merchant Center sign up process and start creating your product feed.”
These free listings will appear in the Google Shopping tab, alongside paid listings, so advertisers still have the opportunity to pay to be at the top of the listings and in the main search results. Shoppers will be able to tell the difference as the paid listings will be marked as “Ads” or “Sponsored”:
Sadly I have not seen any of the free listings in the UK as yet, but once available they will also be eligible to appear in other “surfaces across Google”. These include Google Search, Google Images and Google Lens, so if you haven’t signed up for Google Merchant Center yet, or created your feed, now’s the time to do it.
How to make the most of your feed
When it comes to creating a feed for shopping ads there are some best practices to try to adhere to, for example:
- Ensure you include at least all the required attributes but the more information you can give Google, the better:
- Product ID
- Image Link
- GTIN / MPN
- Make sure the attributes listed in your feed match those that Google uses, for example don’t include some wacky shade of red that no one searches for to describe your product, it should just be listed as red
- Optimise your product titles and descriptions – use as many keywords as you can, including search terms and those of Google’s attributes that make your product unique:
Hopefully the free listings will be available in the UK any day now – and we’ll be sure to update you when they are!