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Google Search results differ from user to user. That includes products, to some extent.

So how does Google decide which organic product listings to users? Well, it depends but it all goes back to data – the data they have on users and the product and business data they've collected from merchants.

Before we dig into how Google decides which product listings to display, let’s quickly review Google's open product marketing programs:

Surfaces Across Google (Google Shopping)

  • Search
  • Images
  • Shopping
  • Gmail

Surfaces Across Google is an unpaid Merchant Center program that allows your products to be seen by customers, at no cost to you.

Google's most recent change to the program puts it front and center as it's now responsible for all non-paid listings across all of Google Shopping.

By opting in, Google adds your products to the Google Search Index. In return, participating merchants become eligible to appear on surfaces across Google (Search, Images, Shopping & Gmail). On one hand, all businesses can (and should) take advantage of the opportunity – which means lots of competition. On the other... it's hard to argue with free.

If you sell products online, you don't want to miss out on free Google exposure.

Google Shopping Actions (Sold on Google)

  • Search
  • Images
  • Shopping
  • Assistant
  • YouTube

Originally commission-based, Google has transitioned Shopping Actions into a free program.

Google Shopping Actions enables merchants to list their products for sale on Google. Not to be confused with Surfaces Across Google and the general surface that is Google Shopping. Participating listings are actually sold on Google – they're marked with the "Buy on Google" badge.

Shopping Actions products are only pushed on traditional Shopping surfaces when Google can nearly confirm that a product would be a perfect match. However, you can always easily search through “Buy on Google” options exclusively, or browse Stores on Google Shopping to find a wide array of GSA products.

Additionally, products sold on Google are available to order through Google Assistant and should soon be available through YouTube, as well.

How Google decides which Shopping ads to show

If a user is logged in, Search results and Images Search results are personalized – along with a lot of the rest of the Google experience.

On Google Shopping, however, results don't change much from person to person. Similarly, the results displayed for a "Buy on Google" filtered query would be the same for all searchers. The higher a product is here, the more optimized its data.

Products with good visibility in Google Shopping are going to fare well as organic recommendations if and when ideal searchers come looking for it.

What product data affects search results?

When Google first evaluates your ads, the only thing they’ll be reviewing is the product data you’ve provided. 

While this is basic information, it’s a step that can’t be overlooked. Google doesn’t want to risk making assumptions about your products when it comes to ads. If you aren’t including the most basic information, they won’t appear in Search.

The product attributes Google requires for products are fairly straightforward. Here are the most important attributes that you must provide to Google:

  • id: Each product must have a unique identifier. Most companies just use the product’s SKU.
  • title: Put the most important details first. How does your market refer to your product? If relevant, include other descriptors like color, style, size, etc.
  • description: Describe your product to Google using terms you know your market will immediately recognize and understand.
  • link: Where do you want your Google Ads to send people who click? This is the landing page URL for your product.
  • image_link: Your product images – which are extremely important – have a separate URL you’ll need to provide Google, so it knows what to show potential customers.
  • availability: When you’re initially setting up Google Ads for a product, its status will generally be “in stock.” However, if that ever changes, be sure to note that in your ads.
  • price: Google cares about your product’s price just as much as your customers do. When you enter this information, make sure you select the currency for the country you’re targeting with your ads.
  • google_product_category: Google provides a wide array of product categories. Pick the one that best fits your product.
  • brand: What brand name does your market associate with this product? If your company manufactures it, it’s probably your brand name. Otherwise, use the name of the company that does manufacture it.
  • gtin: Manufacturer-assigned UPC, EAN, JAN, ISBN, or ITF-14.
  • mpn: Submit a product’s manufacturer-assigned part number if it doesn’t have a GTIN.

Build out your data as much as possible.

Be sure to give Google all required product information, as well as all possible optional info. The more information Google has about your products, the more likely it will be to show it to relevant searchers.

For the full list of required and optional product data attributes, check out this Google Merchant Center Help article.