What You Need to Know About Google’s Free Product Listings
Google recently launched a new program for merchants to list their products for free. Learn more about the new Google Merchant Center program, Surfaces across Google, and how you can make the most out of this feature.
What is Google Merchant Center?
Google Merchant Center is an extension of your online marketplace through your ecommerce website. It is a platform for your business to manage your online products including providing descriptions, images, and pricing. If set up properly, your website submits a feed to Google and showcases your product in Google Shopping searches. Google Merchant Center is part of the wider Google ecosystem and integrates with services like Google My Business and Google Ads for your marketing and ecommerce.
Through the Google Shopping tab, you will find paid product listings that can take consumers directly to the business’s ecommerce website. As of the end of April 2020, Google announced that businesses can now list their products for free through the “Surfaces across Google” program.
Bill Ready, Google president of ecommerce, notes that:
“…[S]earch 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.”
What is “Surfaces across Google”?
Google defines Surfaces across Google as “a Merchant Center program that allows your products to be seen by customers, at no cost to you, in unpaid product listings in places like Google Images and Google Search.” This update is a win-win for retailers, shoppers, and advertisers alike. Ready notes:
“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.”
WISE Digital Partners’ own Director of Paid Strategy Coleton Smartt has the following insights.
“The Surfaces across Google program provides a small percentage of traffic but this could change in the future. As a business owner, you benefit from the free listings as an additional traffic source to help grow your overall revenue. Having multiple traffic sources is an effective strategy to get your business in front of as many people as possible.”
Surfaces across Google also impacts existing partnerships with platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. Additionally, Google is working on a new partnership with PayPal wherein merchants can link their accounts.
With this new feature, it matters that you strike while the iron is hot. Smartt advises that if you can adapt to this change early, you can harness the power of SEO and ecommerce and reap the benefits in the long term. But how exactly does SEO play into this?
SEO, Ecommerce, and You
One of the goals of SEO is to get what your business offers in front of people who are actively (and specifically) searching for your products or services. “Without the paid ads, it is almost impossible for smaller companies to see SEO gains and rank highly in Google,” Smartt says, “but with the free listings, these smaller companies have access to the same playing field as the big brands that can afford to pay for prime listings.” This is why it’s crucial that you’re implementing an SEO strategy for your ecommerce website.
If your business is on a platform like Shopify, it will have a plugin that Google pulls your product information from. It is then key that your product titles and descriptions are up-to-date and managed well in order for them to appear in relevant searches. This can be done directly in Google Merchant Center or through the use of a feed management software. For businesses that are not on an ecommerce platform that doesn’t integrate directly with Google, feed management software is a must, as doing it manually is not ideal.
Optimizing Your Website
I asked Coleton for important considerations when working within Google Merchant Center. He recommends ensuring the following items are optimized:
- Schema or structured data. Structured data is a type of code in a specific format that lets Google or any search engine understand what each web page in your website is about. Optimize it for both free and paid listings. Schema markup is important so that your website is properly crawled. Because it involves coding, you may want to consider having an experienced web developer set this up for you.
- SEO. Make sure your product descriptions are unique, accurate, and contain keywords that you want to rank for. This includes properly and strategically filled out titles, descriptions, image alt tags, pricing, and making sure there is no duplicate content. Supplement your existing SEO plan and monitoring to account for Google Shopping rankings, or consider having a strategy in place. A solid SEO plan impacts not only your online shop but also your whole website’s rankings.
- Feed and listings management. With the right strategy, your business could benefit from both the paid and free listings. Take a look at your paid ads, how they’re performing, and see how you can weave in the free listings to your advantage.
Schema and SEO work hand-in-hand to help boost your traffic and increase visibility of your products and services. Google notes that the onboarding process for new users of Merchant Center will increase “over the coming weeks and months.” But to get the most out of the program, you could benefit from having paid strategy and marketing experts manage your listings. Save time and frustration by having the experts go through the ins and outs of the necessary code, strategies, and optimizations. There are exciting developments in the ecommerce industry and we’ll keep our blog updated with news as they come.