In its latest announcement, Google has said that “selling on Google” is set to become free, worldwide, by the end of the year. According to Google, it’s making this change in policy in an effort to support a threatened retail sector. We’ve already seen them step up to the plate and offer $340 million in ad credits for SMBs worldwide.

Given current circumstances, this is Google’s next move to support an industry that has faced increasing challenges over the past few years, only intensifying during the current coronavirus pandemic. As Google reports, “with physical stores shuttered, digital commerce has become a lifeline for retailers”.

Is Google Shopping Free?

It’s a good headline, isn’t it? So, is Google Shopping really going to be free to use for advertisers? Well, partly. Don’t start reallocating Google Shopping budgets just yet. Let us explain this latest move from Google, as well as its likely impact for retailers and advertisers.

For our US clients

The free version of Google Shopping is due to be rolling out next week.

For our UK & European clients

The free version of Google Shopping is due to be rolling out by year end.

So, What Will be Free?

Google Shopping is split into two main areas:

  • ‘Google Search’ results
  • ‘Google Shopping’ tab

The Google Search results page is currently the first port of call for most users and is estimated to be responsible for 85-90% of all shopping clicks. This page will continue to run as we see it today with paid shopping (and search) ads as we’ve highlighted below:

On the other hand, the Google Shopping tab is responsible for approximately 10-15% of shopping clicks, and this is where we’ll see the impact of Google’s latest announcement.

The shopping results page is currently populated exclusively with paid product ads (the entire section within the red box in the image below). However, this is going to change and become free product listings, in a move that challenges Amazon's offering.

Currently, Google is saying that the results page will consist primarily of free product listings, so it’s important to note that not all clicks here will be free and there’s still opportunity out there for advertisers.

Instead, we’ll see the development of paid ads running above and below organic results, much like we see on the search results tab currently. The dashed green section in the image below depicts how this could look, with the top and bottom rows of products being paid ads.

Our Analysis

Google appears to be aligning its shopping offering with the likes of Amazon and eBay, with the aim of gaining market share. A smart move, which will have sent shockwaves through the other conglomerates that currently offer a collection of paid and free listings on their platform.

The free product listings will be a good way for advertisers to test-drive a new market. If you’ve been considering expanding your operations to the US, for example, from 27th April you could take advantage of the free shopping listings to understand whether a full-scale campaign would be a worthwhile investment.

It’s important to remember, however, that paid shopping will still receive the lion’s share of exposure, as free listings are not eligible for the search results page or the top row of the shopping tab.

How to Set-Up Free Google Shopping

While the free shopping listings are currently only available to retailers operating in the US and India, it will be easy to opt in when it launches here; select ‘surfaces across Google’ when you sign up for a Merchant Center if you don’t currently have one.

If you already have a Merchant Centre, simply click ‘Growth’ on the left-hand menu, navigate to ‘manage programs’, and select it from the list.

Getting the Most out of Google Shopping

  1. If you aren’t taking advantage of a Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) yet, it’s wise to do this as soon as possible depending on your media aims. Doing so, you’ll receive either a 20% CPC reduction, or an increase in volume overnight. SearchStar has its own low cost CSS that you can access for just 1% +VAT of qualifying media spend, with no obligation to use any of our other services. Please get in touch if you’d like to hear more.
  2. To be ready for the roll-out, and to take advantage of the opportunity, it’s worth investing the time now to ensure 100% of your products are within your feed, providing they are eligible to be served on Google Shopping. The greater the number of products, the greater the opportunity.
  3. It’s important to acknowledge Merchant Center errors and disapprovals, and implement a resolution as soon as possible to ensure you’re not self-imposing a ceiling on your shopping traction.
  4. Make sure your feed is fully optimised, consider titles, descriptions and product identifiers (GTINS/MPNs). If your feed is in the best possible shape, it will ensure that you’re eligible for the maximum number of impressions

Once free Google Shopping does roll out in your country, it will be an automatic benefit for SearchStar clients as you will be opted in at Multi-Client Account level. This means you won’t have to go through the steps to opt your Merchant Center into the program – we'll take care of it on your behalf.

As ever, if you have any questions about Google Shopping or any queries about how this change from Google will impact your own advertising, just get in touch today >>>

Brought to you by SearchStar’s CSS Team; Jennifer Harney, Nick Crane & Sally Hunt.