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Google Expands Free Shopping Ads into Main Search Results

July 7, 2020

Ali Soudi - Head of Digital Marketing

Ali Soudi

Head of Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing

Article Overview

10min read

Last month, Google announced a shift in free product listings, by allowing retailers to run free shopping ads in US main search results – where it before only showcased sponsored links in its “product knowledge panel.” 

Bill Ready, President of Commerce at Google wrote in a blog post titled “Bringing free retail listings to Google Search” that, “When shopping online, it can be daunting to find the right product, the bestseller, or the best value. People often have many high-quality choices available but aren’t always aware of them all or don’t have an easy way to access them. For many merchants, connecting with customers in a digital environment is still relatively new territory or a smaller part of their business.” 

The search giant said that, as online shopping has increased dramatically, it has become crucial to connect consumers with the best merchants for their needs. This inspired Google’s decision to expand its free advertising options for retailers. In fact, the new move comes only two months after Google made shopping ads free in the ‘Shopping’ tab. 

Google Displays Free Product Listings on the Shopping Tab

Earlier this year, Google had made shopping ads free in the ‘Shopping’ tab and the change has produced a significant increase in user engagement, with both clicks and impressions up considerably for businesses of all sizes, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. This substantial increase also means consumers are finding more of the products they wanted from a wider range of options. It helps generate billions of dollars in sales for retailers and brands in the U.S., on an annual basis.

All together – with free shopping ads in main search results and in shopping tabs- that’s a lot of free promotion available to retailers.

Free Shopping Ads in Knowledge Panels

Google’s free product listing in main search results offers easy accessibility to millions of people who purchase on Google each day, regardless of where the customers are situated – across the country or across the street. The feature will initially be displayed in a product knowledge panel, which will show buying options for particular items.

For instance, check out this example of a search for a specific model of tea kettle:

Google-Search-Free-Listing-1024x726

In this example, the listings that are displayed under the “Stores” heading are all Google Shopping ads. Users can scroll down the knowledge panel to look for more stores. This, in turn, will provide a variety of retailers the opportunity to have their ads served.

These product listings were introduced as paid listings, and the company announced that by this summer these listings will be made free. The product offers may be eligible to show in unpaid listings on Google’s platforms such as the Google Shopping tab, Google Search, Google Images, Google Maps, and Google Lens. However the product listings on different platforms across Google vary based on data requirements.

Initially rolling out in the U.S., the feature will be first made available to mobile devices, followed later by desktop. 

Google Announces Free Ads in the Shopping tab to be Successful

Google says that, since its shift to free listings in the ‘Shopping’ tab, they have significantly increased user engagement, with both clicks and impressions that have gone up substantially for merchants. Google has seen an average 70% increase in clicks and 130% increase in impressions across both the free listings and ads on the Shopping tab in the U.S. Therefore, these shopping ads will continue to be a great tool for merchants to engage with consumers. 

Like any other Google’s ad units, these shopping ads will appear separately at the top of the page, letting:

1. Merchants to choose how to show up

2. Shoppers choose where to click.

Free Promoted Pins in Google Maps

Google is also offering promoted pins for free in Google Maps for a business that has a physical location, from now until September 2020. Promoted pins will help businesses to stand out in Maps by featuring certain services and unique offerings that customers are looking for such as pickup, delivery, curbside pickup etc.

The following is an example of two locations using promoted pins:
Image 3

Smart campaign advertisers with a Google My Business listing are also able to display promoted pins for free till September.

Google’s Free Product Listing: A Reply to Amazon’s Threat

Even though Google has launched free listings as a way to support businesses struggling to connect with customers due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, in reality, this change would have arrived at some point — pandemic or not — because of Amazon’s threat to Google’s business.

For years, the e-commerce site has been steadily consuming Google’s key business: search ad revenue and with this latest move, Google might take a fight to Amazon along with luring sellers onto its platform. Google’s shift to free listings also incentivizes advertisers to pay for increased visibility and will allow advertisers to stand out against a larger and more diverse selection of products.

Ali Soudi

Ali Soudi

Head of Digital Marketing

Ali Soudi is a Google Certified Digital Marketer with 10+ years of industry experience. He is a prolific writer on business-related topics, regularly contributing articles to leading digital marketing and business websites.

Ali Soudi

Ali Soudi

Head of Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing
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