As you will likely be aware by now, Google have recently announced that they are to show free results on their Shopping tab alongside the ads that already show there currently. This is something that, at present, is only available in the US, but Google have plans to roll this feature out across the rest of the world later this year.
So why now and how will it work? Well according to Google, paid Shopping ads will remain unchanged globally, although there may be future layout experiments further down the line. The free results will be powered by product data feeds – just like existing paid Shopping ads – all contained and uploaded to Google’s Merchant Center platform. In the US, Google’s Shopping page as a whole was the subject of a makeover last Autumn, and it’s thought that similar aesthetics will follow for the free listings on the search results pages, but the Shopping homepage will, it is believed, continue to feature paid listings only.
The bigger picture: this latest update from Google is undeniably linked to the current COVID-19 crisis, which has seen a huge shift in online retail with physical stores being forced to shut their doors. In a blog announcing the news, Google’s Commerce President, Bill Ready says, “In light of these challenges, we’re advancing our plans to make it free for merchants to sell on Google.” It therefore sounds like this was possibly something Google already had in the pipeline, but has been advanced given the current crisis.
Ready goes on the state “For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. If you’re an existing user of Merchant Center and Shopping ads, you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings, and for new users of Merchant Center, we’ll continue working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months.” This comes at a time when Google have updated advertisers on their ad credit scheme for small and medium-sized businesses; something which is part of a larger commitment from Google designed to help and support SMEs, health organisations and health workers during the pandemic.
It’s too early to predict how the free Shopping listings will take off, especially at a time where online retail is a massively hyperinflated marketplace, however it will certainly be an incentive for some retailers who’ve been put off utilising Google Shopping in the past.