Google to make products in the Shopping tab free to list

From mid-October 2020, it will be free to list your products in Google Shopping in UK and Europe through the Merchant Centre:

"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. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.

For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. 

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." 

Read the announcement

What does this mean for advertisers?

Advertisers are now automatically opted in to ‘surfaces across Google’, which means that free listings will be eligible on the Shopping tab. To check, go to the Growth tab in Merchant Center under Manage Programmes.

We don’t think that this is actually going to have a major impact on advertisers since, despite the large volume of listings on the Shopping tag, the majority of Shopping ad clicks come from the search engine results page, and this will remain an exclusively paid-for ‘surface’.

There will also still be paid listings in the Shopping tab – probably at the top and bottom.

Why is Google opening up listings?

The first reason Google is taking this path is in response to the massive gain in product advertising share for Amazon in the last few years.

Secondly, it will raise the profile of the Shopping tab, and appeal to consumers as well as advertisers. Potential new advertisers can ‘try before they buy’ and become familiar with the platform before deciding whether to pay for product ads.

The change will, of course, raise awareness of the Shopping platform. It also improves Google’s argument that it is opening Shopping up to competition, complying with the EU’s competition ruling that saw the company fined $2.4bn in 2017.

Google’s own line is that it has introduced the change to help struggling businesses who can’t afford to advertise at scale. They claim to have brought the plans forward in response to current crisis.

We feel that this is a good move in many ways for both consumers, retailers and Google, and it will indeed go some way to combat Amazon’s dominance in product listings. We will watch with interest to see how the change affects advertisers, and of course we will discuss the developments with our clients individually.

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