On Tuesday, April 21, Google announced that it will primarily display free product listings in the Google Shopping tab, a major shift in how the company serves shopping results. 

Since 2012, merchants wanting to list their products through Google Shopping had to pay for any clicks or direct purchases, but Google has recognized retailers are suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their businesses.  Yet, customers — many of whom are quarantined at home — are  turning to online shopping  more frequently to meet their needs. “In light of these challenges, we’re advancing our plans to make it free for merchants to sell on Google,” the company announced.  

Google says the change will fully take effect in the United States before the end of April and expand globally by the end of the year.

What’s Changing: 

Free product listings will replace paid listings as the primary results used across the Google Shopping tab and the Google Shopping platform hub at

What’s Staying The Same: 

There will still be paid shopping ads displayed on the top and bottom of the page within the Google Shopping tab. Additionally, there will still be no free product listings within the main Google search page, which will continue to display paid shopping results like carousels and product listing ads.

What Should You Do?

We recommend these steps to increase your likelihood for appearing in the now free “organic” results.

  1. Create a Google Merchant Center Account. If you don’t already have one, this article will walk you through the steps.
  2. Opt-into the “surfaces across Google” feature. Within Google Merchant Center simply navigate to Growth and then Manage Programs.
  3. Set-up your product feeds. Google covers all the necessary information to include in this article. If you already have product feeds set up, take this opportunity to ensure all products are included to maximize potential visibility. 
  4. Optimize your product listings. Just like the main search organic listings, Google will surface the best results for users. Following best practices like descriptive titles, high quality images, and accurate product details will give your products the best chance for visibility.
  5. Track performance. Your Google Merchant account will provide detailed data on your product listing performance but also recommend monitoring traffic to product description pages closely to monitor any shifts. For a more accurate view of performance, you can also set up parameter URLs for your product pages, giving you the ability to isolate traffic from Google Shopping results.

How Can Searchlight Help? 

As we anticipate a dramatic increase in retailers entering the Google Merchant marketplace, there are a few workflows Searchlight users can leverage to get ahead.

  1. Research how customers search for your product. Utilize Explorer to uncover how your audience searches for your products and leverage the most common keywords in your title and answer queries in your descriptions.
  2. Spot recent trends. In this environment, there’s plenty of volatility in how users search and shop for products. Using the Google Search Console integration, you can see extremely current data and spot queries that are gaining traction.
  3. Track product description page performance. Create Content Segments for your product description pages so you can see shifts in organic traffic and conversion to those pages. It’s unclear how this traffic will be attributed, so it’s important to stay on top of the data.

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