Free products listings on the Google shopping tab

For the first time in 8 years, Google has made significant changes to its shopping platform and is now letting any business owner advertise their products for free.

Originally announced back in April 2020 by Bill Ready, President of Commerce, it was mentioned that the new change applied to the US and would roll out worldwide by the end of the year. Fast forward a few months and it’s readily available in most countries.

Whereas once, the Google shopping tab only showed paid listings, it now shows free listings alongside paid ones. Businesses that pay will feature in more prominent positions, but this once only paid advertising platform is now available to all.

How to enable free shopping listings

For the first time in 8 years, Google has made significant changes to its shopping platform and is now letting any business owner advertise their products for free.

If you run an e-commerce store and are looking to increase the visibility of your products online, head over to the Google Merchant Center to get started.

Once you’ve created a free account and supplies some basic information, you’ll need to create a product feed. This is a structured data file that includes different attributes such as description, price, availability etc. You can find the full list of product feed attributes here.

Image showing Google Merchant Center

Definition of free

The placement of where free shopping ads are being displayed seems to be changing and Google are testing different placements on different devices.

However, for a business that generated over £100 Billion in ad revenue last year alone, paid ads are here to stay and will continue to dominate their positioning and strength within the shopping results.

With saying that, this is a fantastic move from Google and one that benefits retailers, consumers, and Google themselves.

For retailers, it means putting their products in front of more people online. For consumers, it ensures more options and hopefully means more competition on pricing. For Google, it’s a clever move. It enables retailers to get a feel for what free ads can generate, and then convert them to paid ads with the hope of increases sales.

Stats showing Google Ads Revenue from 2006 - 2019

How to track and measure traffic from Google shopping

Data is the key to success. Yes, it’s not the first time we’ve said that. However, the statement stands. If you’re going to take advantage of free shopping listings, it’s wise to track and measure the impact.

Most website owners use Google Analytics to monitor their traffic. Sadly though, visitors who landed on your site from Google’s free ads will be bundled in with ‘Google / Organic Traffic’ which skews the results as this includes as the title suggests, your organic traffic from search engines.

To get around this, you will want to look into building either UTM parameters into your product feeds.

How to optimise your free listings

Google is all about providing users with relevant results. Over the years, it’s become more sophisticated in how it puts context into content and determines what shows up within its free organic results as well as its paid shopping ads.

When it comes to search marketing, SEO and PPC work together.

What is SEO? SEO is about understanding, developing, and deploying an intent-driven funnel that meets customer’s needs.

As can be read on the above link, there are four types of search intent. One of these is ‘Transactional’ and if you are going to target users who are looking to buy, there are some techniques which will greatly increase your chances of converting your shopping impressions to clicks.

Optimise your product titles

It’s a simple one, but one that is often overlooked when it comes to e-commerce advertising. Optimising your product titles using high-volume and long-trail searches results in increased impressions.

Perform some keyword research and identify what customers type when searching for products rather than leaving it up to guesswork.

Optimise your descriptions

A lot of e-commerce websites don’t fully leverage the power of product descriptions. From duplicating what is written elsewhere, to sometimes having no description whatsoever.

Descriptions not only entice users to purchase, but it’s another chance to tell search engines what your product is about. If you performed keyword research when choosing your titles, you would have been presented with additional data that was not able to be included in your titles. This is your 2nd chance to include relevant info to help Google decide if your product is more relevant than another advertiser.

Optimise your images

It’s what people see first so this needs to stand out to increase your CTR. Use high quality, compressed/optimised images of your products, ideally in use. Perform split testing (A/B) to see which perform better and monitor the results.

How to convert the clicks into customers

So, you’ve got the traffic, but not the sales? If this is the case, you will need to look at further optimisations to turn those clicks into paying customers.

Look at your flow chart

First thing first, look at your user behaviour. Different digital marketing tools can help with this including the free, yet slightly more basic than other offerings, for example, Google Analytics.

One of the things GA includes is a flow chart. It allows you to see where users enter and exit your site and the journey they made.

This kind of data will show you if there is a bottleneck or problem somewhere along the customer journey.

Use split testing

There are numerous ways to increasing conversion ratios but a simple one is split testing. Test different placements of buttons, colours and CTA’s and use measurable data to continually monitor and analyse what works best.

You might be thinking ‘How much difference is something this simple going to impact our sales?’. You may be surprised at the answer.

Google tested 41 shades of blue for their advertising links which increased its revenue by $200m a year. That’s huge for such a simple change, but that’s design and psychology for you.

We ran ‘1%’ experiments, showing 1% of users one blue, and another experiment showing 1% another blue. And actually, to make sure we covered all our bases, we ran forty other experiments showing all the shades of blue you could possibly imagine.

…But the implications of that for us, given the scale of our business, was that we made an extra $200m a year in ad revenue.

Conversion focused design

When it comes to web design, the little things can have a big impact on how users interact with your website. From the visual aspect to performance, security, and functionality.

Visual

Consistent branding, adequate use of white space (AKA a clean site) and a complementary colour palette can all significantly impact the level of sales you generate.

From content that is easier to scan, to promoting elegance without the sales tactics, clean and simple wins here.

Performance

If you keep the appearance of your site clean, then performance optimisations will be much easier to perform.

You’ll want to ensure your site is quick to load as to reduce bounce rate and increase time on site. There are various methods of improving the performance of your site such as caching, minification and CDN’s if your e-commerce store targets users worldwide. Just make sure not to cache certain pages such as the basket or checkout.

Security

Without trust, you will never sell online. When it comes to security, you’re looking at protecting your customers as well as your reputation. First and foremost, ensure that your site has an SSL certificate installed so that customer data is encrypted as it is sent from the browser to the server.

Functionality

You might be wondering why we’re talking about functionality when the purpose of this section was about converting clicks into paying customers.

If you’re generating the traffic and you’ve got a nice clean looking website, you’ll get the sales, right?

This would be true if cart abandonment rates were not so high. For 2019, the average abandonment rate was just under 70%.

Screenshot of stats showing global cart abandonment rates 2006-2019

What is cart abandonment?

Cart abandonment is a user who has placed products in their basket but for one reason or another has decided not to complete the process and checkout.

Why does cart abandonment occur?

There are various reasons why this happens. It could be because the search intent was ‘investigational’ and not ‘transactional’ or it could be a variety of other reasons including:

  • Shipping costs did not align with product prices.
  • The user was comparing prices.
  • Payment options.
  • Technical issues.

Cart abandonment recovery

We have all experienced it at one time or another. You go online and start browsing for products or services, but you don’t complete the process. A short time after you get one of those emails letting you know you’ve left items in your basket, or maybe a time-sensitive discount code to promote a sense of urgency.

This is what is known as cart abandonment recovery. It is a digital marketing strategy designed predominantly for e-commerce that gets the best results. If you run an e-commerce website and don’t have this functionality you’re losing out to sales.

We hope the above has been helpful. From how to set up Google free shopping listings to improving how users behave whilst on your site.

At Silver Scope Media, we help businesses connect more customers to brands, through web design, competitive research and training. Get in touch with us to find out more.