How to Max Out Free Shopping Listings (In a Way That Google Will Love)

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ClickThrough’s Client Director Sarah Fieldhouse and FeedSpark’s CTO Matt Rogers on the introduction of free listings to Google Shopping.


How to Max Out Free Shopping Listings (In a Way That Google Will Love)


The opening of Google Shopping to free listings is a great opportunity for retailers to generate incremental sales, but what do you need to know to claim your rightful share? In our recent joint webinar, “How To Max Out Free Shopping Listings (In a Way That Google Will Love)”, ClickThrough’s Client Director Sarah Fieldhouse and FeedSpark’s CTO Matt Rogers explain what’s changing, how you can meet the new, more rigorous data requirements, and what the changes tell us about the future of Google. Read more below.


what is changing on Google?


You may have read in recent content that Google are launching a new marketing channel called Surfaces Across Google. This channel was effectively rushed out by Google and has already been released in the US. The aim of this channel is to help retailers with the impact that they have seen from Coronavirus.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of Surfaces Across Google, it’s worth us revisiting how Google Shopping initially kicked off. Some of you may recall Google Froogle, a shopping tab that appeared within Google search results to show product listings. Those product listings were loaded into Google using Google Merchant Center (a service that was entirely free).

Around five years ago, Google began making those listings paid for and started showing product ads on various other locations in Google, including the main organic search. This programme, Google Shopping, became a massive revenue, traffic and conversion driver for retailers, and has now existed for around five years. For some retailers, 70-80% of revenue is now coming from their shopping channels.

When Google Shopping launched, Google faced some anti-competitive accusations. People claimed that Google was preventing other shopping comparison engines from being active, and in the process, their businesses were struggling. As a result of this, Google has been trying to find ways of alleviating this issue. As such, it has decided to make the shopping units that appear on the shopping tab organic.

At the moment, the shopping tab in the UK is still paid for. However; at some point between now and the end of the year, the sponsored tab is going to disappear and the results that you will see on the page will be organic. This means you do not need to pay for it or to be running a shopping campaign at all. All you have to do is push your product through Google Merchant Center.

In the UK, Surfaces Across Google is a Google Shopping tab, but it is also the image tab, so there will be some product images that appear here. These are already free in the UK. So, if you search for a specific product, you will find that some of the organic listings in the text results will specify product details, such as if the item is in stock and what the price point is.


What does this mean for retailers?


The number one thing that this is going to mean for retailers is that you will start seeing traffic come through from the shopping tab that is entirely free. This is good and bad. It’s good because it’s free traffic that will drive conversions through your website, but you will be losing some data. You will no longer be seeing impression data from the tab or search term data in Google Ads.

If you currently have a site that will take traffic from the US, there is no reason why you can’t be running a feed through the Merchant Center, targeting the US for free to gain traffic.

This is also going to mean a rise in competition. Now that this is free, we can expect many smaller retailers to start moving onto Merchant Center, and when that happens, Google is going to be more aggressively upselling to get those customers onto the shopping programme. This is a critical part of the approach that Google is taking – the aim is to offer something that is free so that it can drive more traffic and more retailers onto the platform, before upselling to get them live onto the shopping units. Although it’s worth remembering that even when the shopping tab becomes organic, PLA units will still be shown at the top and bottom of the page.

Because the organic listings are no longer going to have a paid element, you are going to have much more competition around the accuracy and value of the data that is being pulled through. Google is going to be much more interested in the quality of the data being sent to Google Merchant Center because there is no longer a price or bid that determines how that listing is ordered. So, your data quality is the main driver of performance.


So, how do you get access to this free traffic?


First of all, let’s look at the sort of traffic levels you can expect to see from this. This is very early data based on only a couple of weeks of the programme being live in the US:

This is data for two clients in different categories in the US who are on Surfaces Across Google – fashion and cosmetics. We are seeing that around 10% of their Google Ads traffic is now free. So, if you have an Google Ads shopping campaign running in the US driving 5000 clicks a day, you can expect to be getting 500 free clicks a day when you set up your Surfaces Across Google programme.


How can I ensure that I give Google good quality data?


Now that there is no bid element associated with the ranking for products on the shopping tab, how do we ensure we have good quality data? This is our recommended checklist:

  • Ensure that you have a non-CSS GMC account in place with up-to-date data
  • Ensure all core data fields are fully populated and relevant (and optimised where needed)
  • Review and update product types
  • Localise titles and keywords
  • Ensure strong images are showing
  • Check all products have high-quality descriptions


New data fields


What are the changes to the content of product fields?


Google is making a number of changes and adjustments to the data that we’re supplying in the product field. They are asking for new information, and they’re doing this because they are trying to make their shopping listings a much richer experience for the customer. This data is also being used to help Google figure out how to merge product records together.


What do the changes look like in practice?


These new data fields are live on Google already and retailers will be supplying this information:

  • product_highlight – Perhaps the biggest change we’re going to see. Google is requesting a bulleted list of product-selling features; for example, ‘available in eight different colours.’ This data is going to be highly visible on Shopping. In terms of supply, you are free to not supply at all, but this will lower the quality of your listing and make it less likely that your product will show. If you do choose to supply, a minimum of 2 fields must be provided, but Google recommends between 4-6.
  • product_details – A request for ‘tech spec’ data. This is information with an attribute name and attribute value. These details will typically be shown where you’re selling consumer electronics.
  • Mandatory description – In the past, the description field has made very little difference. But Google have recently announced that description is now a required field and will be much more visible on Shopping. They are also going to start using extracts from the description in other locations. If it’s missing, your products are going to be much less likely to surface.
  • Mandatory gender, age group, size and colour – From September onwards, Google will be asking for category-specific information. If you are selling clothing, you are now required to submit gender, age group, size and colour for those products.


So, to sum up, there is free shopping traffic available and you need to make sure you’re in the right place to snap it up. Ensuring effective optimisation of the different attributes in your feed will result in traffic and revenue growth.

Are you looking to review your existing Google Shopping listings? Do you want to find out how better feed management can improve your reach and sales? Book in a conversation with our experts today to find out more.

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