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Google Shopping Free Listings: How to Add It to Your Marketing Mix

August 31, 2020
Jacqueline Zote
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With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to stay inside and businesses to shutter their physical stores, retail transactions are increasingly taking place online. At the same time, many struggling small businesses can’t afford to invest in digital solutions that can help them reconnect with their customers. To help ease the struggle, Google recently introduced Google Shopping free listings so you can have a more affordable way to increase your online visibility.

This allows retailers to showcase their products for free in the Google Shopping tab, making it easier to attract prospective customers with minimal financial investment. This means shoppers get to discover more stores and products through this tab and have a seamless shopping experience.

Here’s a detailed look at what the Google Shopping free listing means for marketers and how it changes the current landscape. 

Understanding Google’s Update

The update of the Google Shopping list enables you to display your products organically across various Google "surfaces", including Google Search, Google Images, Google Lens and Google Map.

With the update, the Google Shopping tab is now a part of these Google “surfaces.” That means your products can show up organically in relevant search results under the “Shopping” tab, free of charge.

Before that, this tab only displayed commission-based marketplace listings and sponsored product ads. So there wasn’t any room for organic listings to show up under this tab. This free shopping website listing offers a budget-friendly solution for businesses to gain online visibility for their products.

How Free Listings Appear on Google Shopping

The free Google Shopping listings don’t look all that different from sponsored ones, at least on a desktop. They appear just below the sponsored ads, with the only difference being that they take up a bit more space as you can see below.

The free Google Shopping listings don’t look all that different from sponsored one.

On mobile, however, Google takes care to clearly separate the ads from the free listings. It also uses different layouts for the free listings depending on which product category they belong to.

For most product categories, you’ll get the free listings in a vertical list as in the following example.

For most product categories, you’ll get the free listings in a vertical list.

In some product categories such as furniture, you’ll see 2 free listings that appear side by side.

In some product categories such as furniture, you’ll see 2 free listings that appear side by side.

For categories such as clothing, however, the free listings appear much larger with each of them taking up about half the page.

For categories such as clothing, the free listings appear much larger with each of them taking up about half the page.

In each of these layouts, you can see a clear distinction between the sponsored listings and the organic ones. Google also gives shoppers the option to filter these results using different characteristics such as size, pricing, style, material and more. This enhances their shopping experience and allows them to seamlessly browse through various products from different stores without ever leaving Google.

How Does It Affect Paid Google Shopping Ads?

The biggest way this update has changed Google Shopping ads is that the tab no longer solely displays sponsored listings. However, Google still prioritizes sponsored listings and reserves the top and bottom sections of the page for them.

As you can see in the previous screenshots, the top row still prominently displays the ads in a carousel format so shoppers can easily browse through the sponsored listings to find what they need. That means marketers investing in paid Google Shopping ads can still get their money’s worth by getting their products featured more prominently than organic listings.

In addition, you can still see paid Google Shopping ads on the front page of Google search results. See the example below.

You can still see paid Google Shopping ads on the front page of Google search results.

Who Is Eligible for Free Listings on Google Shopping?

All retailers are eligible to opt-in to show their products on the free Google Shopping list online as well as on other Google surfaces. For this, you need to submit your product feed to the Google Merchant Center and meet the policy guidelines for surfaces across Google. You should have no trouble getting a free listing if you’re already using Google Shopping.

In addition, your business must be based in a country where Google Merchant Center is available. Google initially rolled out the free listing option only for U.S-based retailers, but plans to expand this offering globally by the end of 2020.

How to Get a Free Listing

For merchants who already are using Google Shopping and have opted into surfaces across Google, you won’t need to do anything else to get a free listing. You’re automatically eligible to show your products for free under the Google Shopping tab.

If you’re an existing merchant but haven’t opted into surfaces across Google, follow these steps to opt-in:

  1. Log into your Merchant Center account.
  2. Select “Growth” from the vertical navigation menu at the left-hand side of the screen.
  3. Then choose “Manage programs.”
  4. Select “surfaces across Google” to opt-in.

For those who’ve only heard of Google Shopping but haven’t used it yet, you’ll need to begin by creating a Google Merchant Center account. The Merchant Center is where you’ll set up your store and provide information about your products.

Setting up your store involves providing basic information about your business and configuring the settings for tax and shipping. You also need to claim your website and verify it. Then comes the part where you create and upload a product feed, which is a spreadsheet of information about your products. This is the info that Google will pull to create your listing and display it in relevant searches.

Google provides a detailed list of the product attributes you need to include in your feed. In general, each product in your feed requires the following information:

  • Basic Product Data – Include attributes that provide basic information about your product such as the unique identification, title, description, link and image link.
  • Price and Availability – It also should have attributes that showcase the product price and whether it’s available. If it’s on sale, you should also include the sale price.
  • Product Category – Use attributes that provide specific information about which category your product belongs to and which product type it is. Although this is optional, providing these attributes help you override Google’s automatic categorization process and include more detailed information about your products.
  • Product Identifiers – Include information about the brand and GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) or MPN (Manufacturer Part Number).
  • Detailed Product Description – Provide additional attributes that help shoppers understand the specific characteristics of your product. This includes the product condition, color, material, size, pattern and which intended age group and gender. For certain product types, you should include whether it contains adult content and whether it’s a multipack or a bundle.
  • Shipping and Tax Information – Include any shipping costs or tax information that shoppers will have to pay on top of the product price.

There are several optional attributes besides these, so you can include them as well to provide even more information about your listing. In many cases, these detailed listings could stand an even better chance of converting prospective customers as they describe your product more thoroughly.

You have the option to manually create and upload your product feed using Google Sheets or Excel. However, this could get a little time-consuming and complicated in case the pricing and inventory change regularly. So ideally, you should automate the process to save time and keep your feed constantly updated.

Most of the major ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce already offer integrations to automatically import and update your Merchant Center product data. This would be great for retailers with an expansive inventory, although it might not be necessary for smaller businesses.

Alternatively, you can host a file on your site and schedule a time for Google to regularly fetch updates.

You can host a file on your site and schedule a time for Google to regularly fetch updates.

What Does the Google Shopping Update Mean for Marketers?

With this update, marketers have access to a more affordable way to increase digital visibility. At the same time, it presents a major challenge.

Indeed, the ability to advertise your business for free on Google may be the best news for small and struggling businesses with a limited budget. However, now that more businesses have the option to get a free Google Shopping listing, the landscape is bound to get more competitive.

As you no longer only see sponsored listings under this tab, it’s going to become a lot more challenging to gain visibility. This calls for a need to optimize your listings so that they stand out and attract prospective buyers.

In addition, it might be wise to augment your free listings by using them in tandem with sponsored Google Shopping ads if your budget allows it. Because Google still prioritizes sponsored listings and places them prominently at the top, they get a much better chance of attracting prospective customers. Instead of solely relying on free listings to generate traffic and conversions, you could go for a hybrid approach to ensure your listing reaches the most relevant audience.

How to Optimize Your Free Listing

As discussed, the Google Shopping free listing space is on its way to get highly competitive. The best way to improve your visibility is by creating listings that stand out. This maximizes the outcome of both your free listings and your paid Google Shopping ads.

Use these 3 tips to optimize your listing and get the most out of Google Shopping:

1: Create Winning Product Titles

The title of your product is one of the most prominent elements in your listing. As such, it weighs heavily on how your listing looks to shoppers and whether they’ll click on it. FindWAtt, a provider of data feed-optimization software, conducted a case study and found optimizing your Google Shopping product titles can increase impressions by 70.8%. It can even increase clicks by 151.6% and click-through rate (CTR) by 47.3%.

In this case study, FindWAtt optimized product titles by expanding them and making them more descriptive. For instance, “outdoor pendant” became “outdoor pendant light in regency bronze.” Here, the added keywords and search terms made their listing more likely to turn up in different search results.

Ideally, your product titles should be similar to the words and phrases that your target audience is most likely to use in their search. They also should contain multiple words and phrases that are relevant to your product listing. For example, you could include the brand, material, color and size along with other features and characteristics.

You could even test different variations to see what works best. In the listing below, the title contains several product characteristics such as the brand (Wilton), amount (2pc), material (ceramic-coated) and other standout features (nonstick). This makes the listing more likely to show up in multiple searches such as “Wilton cookie sheet,” “ceramic cookie sheet,” “nonstick cookie sheet” and so on.

This title contains several product characteristics such as the brand (Wilton), amount (2pc), material (ceramic-coated) and other standout features (nonstick).

2: Review Your Keywords

Keywords are the main factor that Google will consider to assess whether your listing is relevant to a particular search. In addition to your existing keyword research strategy, don’t forget to review the keywords for your paid Google Shopping campaigns for more ideas.

Go to your “Search Terms” reports to find out which search terms have been triggering your ads. This will help you figure out whether there are any unused search phrases that Google deems relevant to your listing. Make a list of the most popular terms that you aren’t currently using and consider adding them to your product titles and descriptions.

This will make your listing more likely to show up when people search for those phrases, thus increasing the impression share for your listings.

3: Invest in High-Quality Product Photography

Besides product titles, images hold a lot of weight in Google Shopping free listings. Product images are among the first things shoppers will look at before deciding whether to click on your listing. It gives them an idea of what your product looks like and how well-built it is. So pay close attention to product photography if you want to improve your listing.

Avoid using stock photography and low-resolution images, for one. Showing products against a white background is usually a safe option, but you can still play around to see what works best for different categories. In the case of products such as furniture, you might want to display them in a room to indicate scale and help people visualize how the item would look inside their house.

Check out the following listings from Wayfair, for example.

In the case of products such as furniture, you might want to display them in a room to indicate scale.

Gearing for Growth With Google Shopping Free Listings

Whether you’re a small business on a budget or a larger one that’s struggling to scale, free listings on Google Shopping could be revolutionary. 

To get the most out of this update, however, you’ll need to make some changes to your existing strategy. This would require optimizing your listings and even creating a strategy that seamlessly integrates free listings with paid Google Shopping ads. If this sounds like a complex and time-consuming process, leave everything to Kantaloupe and let us ease the transition.


Jacqueline Zote

Jacqueline Zote is a digital marketing and entertainment writer who makes regular contributions to Sprout Social and She also writes fiction and her short story has been published by HarperCollins Publishers and Zubaan Books.

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