So Google recently made Google Shopping free… again!
Google Shopping hasn’t been free since it’s last days as Google Product Search in 2012, before it formally became Google Shopping... but a lot has changed since then.
With this and other recent changes, Google has effectively redefined product marketing across its ecosystem.
Let’s talk about what that looks like and what you need to know about getting your products onto Google.
So what’s actually happening is that Surfaces Across Google now includes Google Shopping.
Launched in early 2019, this program surfaces your products across various Google experiences for free; this includes Google Search, Google Images, Google Lens, and now Google Shopping.
Google gets to reference and learn from your product information, and you get free advertising.
That said, these free listings are rarely found on Google Search results pages and never found in the traditional ad spaces of those pages. Instead, they’re abundant on Google Shopping and the Shopping tab.
That’s the line between free and paid Google Shopping – sounds fair, right?
Now anyone can freely market all of their products on Google through Surfaces Across Google, boost their best products through Shopping ads, and even sell directly on Google through Google Shopping Actions.
Now more than ever, there’s no reason to not be selling with Google.
Existing Merchant Center users
If you’re an existing user of Merchant Center and you had already opted into the Surfaces Across Google program, you’re good to go.
If you’re an existing Merchant Center user that has not opted in:
- Within Merchant Center, go to Products > Feeds
- Select your feed
- Go to Settings
- Click the destinations box and check off Surfaces across Google
Seriously, it’s that easy.
You can also manage this and all other Merchant Center programs in Growth > Manage Programs.
GoDataFeed supports Surfaces Across Google, so if you’re opted in, your existing product feed will work with these new free listings.
Getting your products onto Google
Everyone else just needs product data and a Merchant Center account.
Your product data
First things first, you’ll need to have product data hosted somewhere and/or available in the form of a feed file (TXT or XML) – with certain required attributes.
- Unique id and title values
- Titles with important keywords/product attributes (strong brand names, age group, gender, size, color, size type, or personalization options)
- Good, high quality images
- Detailed product_type values
- Up-to-date pricing and availability
- GTIN whenever possible
- As many optional fields as possible
If you aren’t already prioritizing data quality, focus on sharpening your catalog. Your success on a platform like Google Shopping heavily depends on clean, complete data – especially when we’re talking about the free end of the platform.
Getting started with Google Merchant Center
Merchant Center is Google’s platform for storing and managing product data. It’s the backbone that supports Google Shopping, Surfaces Across Google, Shopping Actions, and more.
Setting up an account is free and easy.
After you've registered, you’ll need to verify your site.
Then you can go on to link your data; your options for importing data are:
- Google Sheets - easy, manual
- Scheduled fetch - easy, scheduled
- Upload - easy, versatile
- Website crawl - easy, but data dumps can be problematic
- Content API - advanced (not recommended unless you know exactly what you’re doing)
Smaller merchants can easily host their data off Google Sheets using the Merchant Center add-on… but expect your product data duties to scale exponentially as your business grows. This is where a catalog manager like GoDataFeed shines.
Add a primary feed in Merchant Center
- Within Merchant Center, navigate to Products > Feeds
- Add a primary feed
- Set the appropriate country and language
- For destinations, check off Surfaces across Google (you can enable/disable these at any point)
- Name your feed (this is not the file name)
- Choose your preferred method of connecting your data; upload if you're using GoDataFeed
- Enter the exact name of the file you'll be submitting (document it if you’re establishing this now)
Set feed default currency
Navigate back to Products > Feeds, click on the feed you just created and go to Settings.
Then locate the Default currency section and set your default currency to the appropriate currency.
Setup FTP submissions to Google Merchant Center
- In GoDataFeed, go to Feeds > Google Shopping Merchant Center > Settings; you’ll be copying & pasting FTP details from Merchant Center here
- Reference or modify your file name if needed
- In Merchant Center, click the Settings icon on the upper right-hand side of the screen and choose SFTP / FTP / GCS
- Create an FTP account unless one already exists; you'll be using the values here in your GoDataFeed settings
- Copy and paste uploads.google.com into the FTP Host Address
- Copy and paste the username
- Click RESET in Google; copy and paste the password into GoDataFeed (Please consider all of your connected apps/services; connections may be severed when you reset the FTP password).
- Enter 21 for the port number
- Choose default for SSL Protocol
- Save the submission parameters in GoDataFeed
Schedule submissions and enable email alerts
Next, you’ll want to select a schedule submission time in GoDataFeed. You may see a set time already set by our system. You’re free to change that up.
Lastly, under General settings, choose which email alerts to receive and enter all relevant recipients.
Everything else you should know
Once you have a Merchant Center account, you’ve connected your product catalog, and you’ve opted into Surfaces Across Google, your products will become eligible to appear across all of Google.
Your live… but there’s a bit more that is worth your consideration.
Enhanced listings for Surfaces Across Google
When Google shifted its Shopping gears, they also announced a new PayPal integration for Google Merchant Center.
Currently labeled as something to “Show more of your products across Google if you’re a trusted retailer,” it’s actually something tied to enhanced listings for Surfaces Across Google – which are said to be “content-rich listings on the Google Shopping tab.”
Eligibility for these enhanced ads is based on account status and data quality; you need to be golden on both fronts. However, you can influence your eligibility by providing Google with high-quality info that helps build your credibility:
- Opt in to the Google Customer Reviews program
- Link your account with a third-party platform (currently only PayPal)
There’s yet to be a clear indicator for enhanced listings, but doing both of these is probably a good idea if you want to look your best for Google – especially if you have an active PayPal business account.
It’s also worth mentioning that Merchant Promotions – a free feature that enables the distribution of online promotions through Google Shopping – applies to Surfaces Across Google listings.
These promos appear as badges on product listings and offer some % off, free shipping, gift, or other incentive to customers.
Shopping ads are better than ever
Lastly I want to just bring up Shopping ads again.
Google Shopping and the Shopping tab have always generated a much smaller portion of traffic compared to Shopping ads on Google Search results places, and that’s likely not going to change… but there’s the distinction between free and paid Google Shopping again.
Again, that's not to say free listings don't appear on Search results pages – they're just rarely found on Search results pages and never found in the traditional ad spaces of those pages.
Ultimately you want to run those free listings, and reference those free performance insights. You don’t want to miss out on promoting your all-stars!
Keep your eyes peeled! We’ll be updating our readers with strategies to succeed with Shopping ads.
Leveraging Google for Retail
One tiny change and suddenly Google Shopping has a whole different landscape.
This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to market their products online – this is free exposure on Google we’re talking about, after all.
Want to know more about how GoDataFeed integrates with Google? Feel free to reach out to us!