Many ecommerce companies know what it means to advertise within Google’s Shopping network. Since 2012, when Google began accepting money for ad placements, Shopping has been strictly a pay-to-play arena.

In their announcement blog post, Google’s President of Commerce, Bill Ready says, “Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google.”

In case this is unclear, this announcement affects every single ecommerce business. Oh yeah, and you have less than a week to prepare.

Advertisers will continue to pay for positions in this new product feed, but their listings will appear in more prominent positions. It will likely feel similar to a traditional search page with ads at the top and bottom.

This announcement comes while we’re all knee deep into the coronavirus crisis. This new feature should make it easier for ecommerce businesses to be found online, hopefully leveling the playing field between the big dogs and SMB ecommerce players. However Google has made it clear that this announcement will outlast the global pandemic.

How to qualify

Those that are already familiar with Google Shopping ads will know their way around Google’s Merchant Center. Existing customers will be ready to go when the rollout comes next week.

In the same announcement listed earlier, Ready has said, “If you’re an existing user of Merchant Center and Shopping ads, you don't have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings, and for new users of Merchant Center, we'll continue working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months.”

Those that haven’t opted-in, or are new to Google Ads in general, should have an easy time opting-in to organic listings in this Shopping setup.
Willing participants can opt-in to Shopping placements via surfaces across Google within their Merchant Center (or at sign-up) to begin creating your product feed.

To opt-in, head to your Google Merchant Center account and navigate to the Growth tab on the left-hand navigation menu. From there you will see a drop-down for the following options: Opportunities, Price Competitiveness, Best Sellers, and Manage Programs. Click Manage Programs from the drop-down list. Select the surfaces across Google program card.

Early bets for ranking factors

There’s no hiding the obvious that this is a blatant attempt for Google to beat Amazon at its own game. While the platform may look and feel quite different, the ranking factors will be quite varied.

Because these are free listings, ecommerce companies should make it a priority to enlist and begin optimizing all products for next week’s listing.

It’s well documented that Amazon’s product ranking is largely determined by user metrics, for example conversion rates. Amazon wants to make more money, and they take a piece of every item sold. So they are motivated to put high converting products front and center. Not too dissimilar for Google’s own YouTube, which rewards videos with better rankings from user metrics like click-through-rate and watch time.

Like all updates, we all know little concrete information. However we understand how Google operates, and we can make some assumptions. We believe that the following recommendations will increase the likelihood of increased rankings within Google’s new feed.

  1. Start by filling out as much data as possible within your product feed including product reviews, images, accurate pricing, etc.
  2. It wouldn’t hurt to do some research when adding your product titles to ensure that your title conforms to the similar language of those ranking organically in the traditional SERP for the product you intend to rank in the organic Shopping listing.
  3. SEOs should lean into their keyword research and semantic analysis to identify additional terms that can be included in the title and product descriptions.
  4. It remains unclear as to what role links and site authority will play in this new venture, but if you’re able to, consider allocating some link-building resources to see if Google’s Shopping feed values links and authority in the same way that traditional SERPs do.

These metrics alone will get any organic listing off to a great start once the platform begins dropping organic listings next week. But there’s sure to be more metrics and tactics as the system evolves and matures. Sign up for the 97th Floor newsletter to get the essentials delivered to your inbox monthly.