How Will Free Shopping Ads in the US Impact the Way We Work?

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In her latest article, Macy Edwards talks us through how free shopping ads in the US will impact the way we work. Read on to find out more.


How Will Free Shopping Ads in the US Impact the Way We Work?

We have all heard the news that Google are launching free Google Shopping placements in the US. For many of us the US remains a very important market, so what impact will this have on us?

Well, in short, not much… and I will go onto explain why.

PLA vs Google Shopping

We optimise and pay for prime placements on the PLA (Product Listing Ads) unit in search results. The way we optimise, and the strategies we use will remain the same, as this roll out will not impact that.

However, click through to the Shopping tab (which appears when viewing search results on a retail specific section) and you will notice a difference. Rather than replace PLA, Google will be expanding the number of units you see; paid ads will still gain priority, so optimising for these spots is still important. However, the further you go down the more free ads you’ll see.

Unfortunately, this move comes hand and hand with the possibility that more retailers will be attracted to participate in the Shopping auctions, and therefore more competition.

What do I need to do?

If you are an existing user of the Merchant Center and Shopping ads, you do not have to do anything. You will be included in the roll out automatically. If you don’t currently run Shopping ads in the US then to participate you’ll need to set up a merchant center account and launch Shopping ads through Google ads.

How will this improve the retail experience for customers?

There will be a much broader inventory to shop and explore. The Shopping tab will allow users to customise their search across retailers and products:

  • Filters for variables like Brand, Colour, Price, Merchant, product style and more
  • Better-placed price comparison, so you can see the same product across retailers
  • Multiple images will be available for a single product
  • You will be able to see more product data e.g. title, description
  • You can bookmark products to add to your comparison, aiding your research


Not only this, but you will be able to link your PayPal account to your Merchant Center. This will be a ranking factor, as it’ll be classed as a higher quality result due to the fact users can buy now in the Shopping tab. In addition, Google will be exploring their existing partnerships with Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce to see how they can make digital commerce more accessible for all businesses. So, if you use any of these, watch this space!

You can read more on the change here.

Advice from FeedSpark

It is not yet clear how the product ranking algorithm will work on the Shopping tab, but as it is going organic (i.e. free) there won’t be a bid, so bid price will not affect your ranking! This means that historical CTR and data quality will be king, and therefore your optimisation strategy will need to shift.

The Shopping tab itself has various features not present in the PLA unit. Ensuring that your products are setup to use these is important:

  • The shopping tab includes filters for Colour, Brand, Item styles, Genders, etc. As a result it’s important that these fields are cleaned and optimised in your feed.
  • Alt images can be viewed, which are not currently used in the main PLA ad unit. So, it is worth checking that your feed includes these.
  • Descriptions can be viewed. Therefore, make sure that these read well, include relevant keywords, and are correctly formatted.

Of course, classic title optimisations will no doubt still prove to be important, and any work you’re doing here should be maintained.

To access this traffic, make sure that you have “Surfaces Across Google” enabled in your Google Merchant Center:

Finally, if you need help understanding what improvements you should make to your feeds, get in touch with us today to find out more about requesting a free audit from FeedSpark.

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