While the coronavirus pandemic has businesses closing their doors and shoppers forced to turn online, many brick-and-mortars are quickly learning how to get their business online. While some industries are seeing increased volume during COVID19, many aren’t and many more businesses may not have the budget to increase their marketing during this crisis— even if they desperately need new customers.
Google seems to have heard that lament and yesterday announced plans to help retailers find more customers online—for free. Beginning later this month, Google will allow merchants to show their products across Google Shopping, which reaches hundreds of millions of shoppers a day. For searches on the Google Shopping tab, results will be primarily free listings, much like on the Google search results page. Google Shopping ads will also still appear in these search results like they do today.
Interestingly, this isn’t Google’s first time offering these product listings for free. Back in 2012, Google first began offering shopping listings to retailers for free before they ultimately transitioned these listings into a paid ad space with shopping ads.
In order to have your products appear on Google, you’ll need to create a free Google Merchant Center account. From there, you’ll also need to create a feed for each of your products. A product feed is simply a spreadsheet of data information about your products that Google uses to create your listing and match it to relevant searcher’s queries. Each product in your feed will need to have the following attributes:
Current retailers with their products already in Google Merchant Center can opt their products into these free Google Shopping listings by opting into “Surfaces across Google” within the left-hand menu, under “Manage Programs.” Retailers can view the performance of these free listings within Google Merchant Center under the “Performance” tab within the left-hand menu.
All retailers can opt-in to show their products across Google for free once they submit their product feeds to Google Merchant Center. Keep in mind that Google does restrict listings for illegal, regulated, or sensitive products.
All US-based retailers can expect see these free listings begin to go live before the end of April. Google intends on expanding these listings globally throughout 2020.
Google will pull all the information about your product from your shopping feed within Google Merchant Center, so to get the most out of these free listings be sure to prioritize optimizing your Google Shopping feed. Optimizing attributes within your Google Shopping feed will help both your free Google Shopping listings and your Google Shopping ads. Start by focusing on:
1. Perfect your product title: Your product title is the largest text that will appear alongside your product and is weighed heaviest in Google’s ranking of your product. Your product can only have one name – so be sure to optimize it for what your customers would most likely search for. If you’re not seeing the amount (or quality) of traffic from a product, try testing a new product title!
2. Test different images: An image can really help your product stick out on a busy SERP, so pay attention to your product photography. Avoid low-resolution images or stock photography. Search for your product and observe how all the other products look? Are they all against a blank background? Are they all the same color? Are any of them shown in use? Being the exception to the norm can help your product quickly stand out!
Results for “Weighted Blanket” searches on Google Shopping. You likely notice Baloo Living & Layla’s listings first, despite their higher price and lower position in the results.
3. Provide as much detail as possible: Although your product listings only need to have a few attributes to show, providing more information will help Google match your items to a user’s search and help it show in filtered product searches. Include as many relevant feed attributes as you can , such as your product category, product type, color, condition, size, and color!
Retailers can continue to show their paid ads alongside these new free organic listings. This will allow retailers more flexibility in how they chose to promote their full inventory across Google. Once their products are approved in Google Merchant Center, a retailer can create a Google Shopping campaign within Google Ads and promote specific items across Google, paying only when a searcher arrives at their site.
Current Google Shopping advertisers will continue to show their ads on the Google Shopping tab, primarily towards the top and bottom of the pages. Nonpaid (organic) listings will take the remaining real estate within that tab.
The shopping results from the Google search results page, partner search engines, Google images, the Google Display Network, Gmail, and YouTube will still only feature paid shopping ads at this time, so advertisers won’t expect to lose much of their shopping ads traffic.
For more cost-effective marketing ideas, check out our post 11 Free Ways to Reach Your Audience During COVID-19.