“Google’s Big Announcement”

In April this year Google announced that free listings will be available in Shopping results. Starting in the US and set to continue to roll-out to other countries and will be available in the UK before the end of the year.

Only placements on the “Shopping tab” will be made available for free listings whereas paid placements will still have prime Search Engine Results Page (SERP) real estate on the “All” page.

This is a somewhat circular move from Google as Shopping ads originated as Froogle, created in 2002 and completely free, evolved throughout the years to become a purely paid product since 2012. As Google Product Listings rolled out under the new name Google Shopping, now in 2020 it has become a mixed paid and organic platform retaining the name Google Shopping.

Why Has Google Made This Change?

The timing of this change from Google has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak which forced brick and mortar retailers to close their doors and move online. Google’s President of Commerce Bill Ready outlines this in his product update; “In light of these challenges, we’re advancing our plans to make [Google Shopping] free for merchants”.

Google have also improved their ability to provide better quality results than previously possible, by investing in technology to ensure the information within a product feed matches the data on the website.

This latest move from Google also looks to “check” Amazon within the ecommerce realm. Amazon has evolved and grown exponentially in recent years gaining market share and dictating ecommerce across the globe. Amazon’s platform is available to all merchants whereas Google, until now, had limited its reach to merchants by only being available for paid placements.

What Are The Key Take-Outs?

  • Google says the change aims to “help merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google”, Bill Ready.
  • Google also unveiled a new partnership with PayPal “to allow merchants to link their accounts. This will speed up our onboarding process and ensure we’re surfacing the highest quality results for our users” Bill Ready.
  • Now’s the time to review your Google Merchant Centre (GMC) set up to be ready to take advantage of free listings.

What Is Tug’s Take?

We believe that this change will positively improve user journeys and merchant discoverability. Offering a “free introduction” to Google Shopping will likely encourage new merchants to invest in paid placements too, enabling Google to compete more heavily with Amazon.

There are some key factors that will be need taken into consideration by advertisers:

  • Position of the placements, the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings leaving the prime spots for paid for placements. We expect that there will be lots of testing and optimisation to come here.
  • Google Shopping performance (paid and free) is much dependent on the power of your product feed, so ensure that your feed is up to scratch and work with website and SEO teams to update Product Detail Pages (PDPs) pages as they will affect your Google Shopping performance.
  • Tracking the performance of paid and organic Google Shopping campaigns will need to be considered. It will be possible to track click traffic of both paid and organic within the Google Merchant Centre (this was launched earlier in the year in April, 2020) however, you will need to decide how you will track post-click actions such as sales, revenue, ROAS etc., as well as determining between free versus paid traffic. We suggest using Google Analytics, as most of you will be using this already, tracking can easily be set up in the back end via Auto-Tagging or a Tracking Template. If that’s not possible for you, you could use UTM value track parameters.

How Will This Affect Ecommerce?

This change will affect all parties across the ecommerce board, retailers, users and advertisers. Google’s Bill Ready outlines; “for retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. 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.”

The two major areas this change will affect are the number of ad placements available and the number of advertisers. So, what may this mean for CPCs? It remains to be seen what the impact on CPCs will be in the wake of this change. It’s possible that they will increase as more advertisers enter the market and fewer placements are available. For retailers and advertisers, this could have a negative effect on the performance of paid shopping campaigns however, with the right team and skills in place this can be mitigated with tactics and strategy.

The flip side of this argument is that brands with smaller budgets could be the biggest winners from the change – Google Shopping placements were previously out of their reach due to small marketing budgets but will now be attainable for free.

What Should Marketers Do Now?

With the knowledge that free shopping will be coming to the UK and other countries by the end of the year, marketers should take the following steps to prepare:

  • All placements will be available via the Google Merchant Centre so if you don’t have an account, create one and claim your website. (Don’t worry other merchants will not be able to claim yours if you don’t as it needs to be verified)
  • Get your shopping feed in order, here are some of the main fields that will be required:
    • Unique item ID and GTIN
    • Title and description
    • Link
    • Image link
    • Price
    • Brand
    • Other important fields to note are: Availability and the ability to use Custom Labels, for example, to help optimise your ads
  • Ensure that all your digital channels (PPC/SEO/Amazon) are aligned with the same quality information so that they work together.
  • Consider how you will track the success of your Google Shopping feed (paid and organic working together).
  • And finally, if you are already running paid ads be ready to “opt-in” for free listings.

If you have any more questions, please get in touch.