Google Shopping Surfaces across Google

Free Product Listings on Google Now Appearing, For Some

By Tony Capetola on April, 28 2020

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Tony Capetola

Tony is the Chief Marketing Officer here at Sales & Orders, along with heading up the inbound and customer marketings teams, Tony also oversees partnerships and branding for our award-winning company and platform.

For anyone looking to get a first glimpse at the new Free Product Listings on Google Shopping there is a good chance that you could search now and find them.

Now that the dust has settled and new week has begun, I took a chance on April 27th in hopes to spot some free Google Shopping listings - per Google's announcement last week to accelerate their roll out in the US.

And YES, I did find them! I first tested this on my smartphone using the search term "puzzles for kids," and then subsequently I ran the same query on my laptop.

Here's what I found on my phone, and maybe you can spot the subtle difference:

free-google-shoppingWell, maybe not all that subtle but as you can see the below the fold listings are those free listings that have been causing a fair mix of joy and confusion for merchants since the announcement hit the news feeds.

At the very top, marked clearly by the word Ads, are your typical Shopping ad units which are served from Google Ads Shopping campaigns. 

Without really knowing it, you could be clicking on free units still thinking they might be ads. On a laptop or desktop computer, I hovered over the more info icon and uncovered the distinction:

google-shopping-free

"Items are ranked based on relevance to your search terms. Some ads data is used to improve the quality of results. Google is not compensated for clicks into these results. Product information is provided by retailers and advertisers. Prices shown include applicable taxes, and shipping costs may vary. Learn more about Google Shopping."

The very same "below the fold" experience occurs in this format as well, however this time I was met with Shopping ads first, followed by Shopping Actions results or "Buy on Google," and then the free listings:

google-shopping-ads-actions

The one distinct thing that the Shopping tab on a computer brings is its filtering menu, which gives shoppers quick and easy ways to filter results based on a number of criteria - such as by color, size, and even by seller.

Best Practices for Merchants

Normally, our advice for succeeding with product listings would involve some amalgamation of campaign structure, bidding, feed management, and other key aspects.

But, these are NOT ads. Merchants need to understand that these free product listings on Google are based purely on product feeds and product data in Merchant Center.

While feed optimization is a constant conversation for us here at Sales & Orders, Google has just upped the stakes - making it ever more important for merchants to focus heavily on having a consistently healthy feed in Merchant Center with only the most optimized of product data possible.

Although "some ads data is used to improve the quality of results," there is no telling what data or how much of it Google is using to help these free listings along.

So, what should you be focusing on? Remember that Google is still a "relevance engine" that uses search queries to match to appropriate listings, and thus the core of optimizing your feed actually has not changed one bit.

Product Titles First

This held and continues to hold true for Shopping ads, so it is only appropriate that it be the same for Surfaces across Google. Ensure that your product titles clearly describe products in an understandable and digestible way. Structure is really up for interpretation but below are some suggestions for how some industries might want to consider structuring titles.

"Front Load" in Descriptions 

Emphasizing something that I have never reconsidered, the next key part to focus on is ensuring that your product descriptions are not only rich with valuable information, but also that the core elements of your product titles are kept near the very beginning, at least within the first 150 characters. If you have already done so for Shopping ads and have Surfaces across Google enabled then you should all set there.

Product Type

The often most misunderstood attribute in a product feed, Product Type is not to be confused with Google Product Category (but we'll get to that in a moment). Product Type is actually a merchant-defined value and follows no pre-determined structure or is based on any Google-defined taxonomy. But for Shopping ads, Product Type is often considered the 3rd most important text-based attribute.

For example, lets say you sell apparel for dogs and you sell a line of "puppy scarves." Product Type, which is optional by the way, allows you to define these products with your own naming and can help improve the search results Google shares with potential shoppers.

Google Product Category

In case you didn't know, Google will now automatically try and map your products to an appropriate Google Product Category.

But now with Surfaces across Google, you may want to consider defining the GPC of your products on your own. Why? Well, because it is one of the components of the Shopping tab's filtering tools:

You should now want to take even more control over your Google Product Category mapping than ever before. Although there has been some questions surrounding how it helps in Shopping ads (it doesn't), for Surfaces across Google it could be a crucial attribute to maintain.

See Google's Product Taxonomy tree for full list of defined values.

Unique Product Identifiers

We're not just talking about MPNs or GTINs here. I am blanketing a wide array of attributes in a feed as UPIs or Unique Product Identifiers.

And yes, Manufacturers Part Numbers, Global Trade Item Numbers (UPC, EAN, JAN, ISBN), and Brand are the standardized attributes to be aware of and maintain in your feed.

There are those other attributes, mostly centered around Apparel & Accessories, that are now even more important than ever before. That includes such elements as:

  • Color
  • Size
  • Material
  • Pattern

Being that Google Shopping is a comparison shopping experience with a wide array of filtering options, making sure that you are providing clear and accurate data on these attributes could be key to driving results on the new free listings.

Reporting Now Available

Yes, the reporting is in Merchant Center - albeit a touch limited at the moment. It is still good to see that it is showing for some accounts.

When you first log in, you'll find one chart on the Overview which shows the click performance side-by-side for paid (Shopping ads) and unpaid (Surfaces across Google).

To find more reporting on Surfaces across Google simply select Performance on the left, and then see the Dashboard:

surfaces-across-google-reporting

Sadly, its just a chart with click data - but wait, there's more! Head on over to Products > All Products and you'll note that a new metric Unpaid clicks is now available in the UI, and you can filter on it to drill down to product level results:

surfaces-across-google-unpaid-clicks

As of right now, paid clicks are still dominant across multiple industries. However, you can see that in some cases there are products already receiving free or unpaid clicks and not paid - but that is suspect as those products may not currently be part of a Shopping campaign in Google.

Now What?

We're going to give it some before we make any predictions or assume anything about this data. 

The real question now becomes: How can we begin tracking sales on these products more easily as a result of the unpaid clicks from Free Google Shopping listings?

We do have a few ideas, and are working on some things to see if this could be a scalable reality in the very near future.

Our team is closely monitoring this and actively working with our customers and users to navigate these new waters. We are also in very close contact with our SPM team at Google.

The more we learn, the more we can share!

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