Google Shopping: Free For All

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Just like the search results page has organic listings in tandem with paid listings; the shopping tab on Google has been expanded to include free listings too.

Sell for Free on Google

Back in April 2020, shortly after the UK and other countries globally entered lockdown, leading to many brick-and-mortar stores having to close their doors, Google opened up it’s paid shopping listings to include free, organic listings, also known as ‘Surfaces across Google’.

The coronavirus pandemic had, and continues to have, a lasting effect on many retail stores worldwide. While some have closed their doors or made the switch to online more permanent, building the bridge between online and offline has never been more prominent than now.

Google had already planned to introduce free shopping listings for retailers, however, in light of the pandemic, they introduced the changes sooner than originally anticipated.

list products free merchant centre

Initially launching in the US, Google made free shopping available for retailers in Europe, Asia and Latin America, as of October 2020.

“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.”

Google followed this up by stating that “many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online”.

What does this mean for advertisers and retailers?

For advertisers, it means that free listings can be interspersed with paid listings in the shopping results. If you’re already running Shopping ads via the Google Merchant Centre, you’ll already be eligible and don’t need to make any adjustments to your feed or campaigns.

For retailers that are not running shopping ads, it opens up the opportunity to have product listings appear across Google for free. There are a couple of ways in which your products could be eligible to be shown on Google.

Firstly, you can set up a feed via the Google Merchant Centre and select to opt-in to surfaces across Google. The second option is that if you have structured data markup on your website, your products will automatically be shown on surfaces across Google. Note that you must meet one of the above-mentioned methods to meet the eligibility requirements.

Surfaces across Google Formats

There are different types of listings available, depending on the data available as well as eligibility.

  • Unpaid standard listings – these can appear on Google Search and Google Images
  • Unpaid enhanced listings – these can appear on the Google Shopping tab

The enhanced listings require more information and require you to comply with policies for Shopping ads as well as Google policies.  Note that at the time of posting this article, enhanced listings are available in the US only – although this may change in line with the rollout of free shopping listings this month.

How to Track Surfaces Across Google Performance

Currently, it’s possible to see click data in Google Merchant Centre for free listings, but unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes from Google for now. While this does give some insight, it doesn’t give nearly enough useful information for my liking.

In Google Analytics, any traffic that comes from surfaces across Google will be automatically reported as Google/organic. Although that’s not untrue, it would be more logical to know how much of this organic traffic is from search listings, free shopping listings, etc.

Zato did some digging and found that it’s possible to track these through the use of UTMs and overriding the feed rules within Google Merchant Centre. Before you do that, make sure you know what UTMs are and how to use them.

zato surfaces across google

As Google opens up their Shopping results to more retailers paid and organically, especially in time for the biggest retail season of the year, it’s more important than ever to ensure your retail strategy is in place.

For more information on utilising free product listings across Google or to discuss your retail marketing strategy, feel free to get in touch with me on LinkedIn or speak to a member of the team.

Sophie Burrows
As a Senior Digital Strategist, Sophie's role is focused around working with clients to achieve their business objectives, through a mixture of digital marketing channels. Having worked closely with clients in a variety of disciplines over the last five years, Sophie has gained an invaluable insight into what makes for a successful campaign. Applying a strategic process along with deep analytics insight has made Sophie an in-demand digital strategist.