This week, Google officially started rolling out organic product listings within the Google Shopping tab, opening the door for retailers to further showcase product lines.
This change was planned for later this year, as a way for Google to be more competitive with Amazon, who has continued to grow their share of product searches and advertising dollars. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Google pushed up the launch to help support retailers, especially small businesses, during this difficult economic time.
This is not a surprising shift by Google, as all signs were pointing to this update as they made multiple changes throughout 2019 to enhance the retail search experience. This is also a turn back the clock moment for Google, returning to the days of “Froogle,” which was replaced by the pay-to-play Google Shopping model that launched in 2012.
This change ultimately makes Google more competitive with Amazon, especially with the Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce integrations. You can also argue that this move makes Google less dependent on Amazon as an advertiser, who is one of the, if not the biggest, spender in eCommerce/shopper space.
What are the implications for brands?
The new shopping tab will consist of primarily free listings for retailers, meaning “free exposure to millions of people who come to Google for their shopping needs.” Since organic listings will be limited to the Shopping tab and Shopping.Google.com at this time, where a low percentage of users click, impact to both paid and organic traffic likely won’t be significant, at least at the onset. This change will begin in the U.S., with the goal of rolling out globally by the end of the year.
If the Shopping tab and Shopping Google.com becomes a larger driver of traffic and sales, overall CPCs could be impacted as competition begins to increase due to the reduced real estate. That said, since the increase in traffic and sales from shopping would likely be incremental to the home SERP shopping ads, we don’t anticipate a significant rise in CPCs.
Brands will also need to monitor competitors that might not have been in play from a paid perspective, but are now taking a share of sales through their organic presence, impacting overall performance. By lowering the barrier to entry for new Shopping Ads auction participants who will now have an organically optimized Merchant Center feed, this change will likely gradually increase the number of free and paid participants in the Google shopping space. Google will also test and develop new ways to drive users to the Shopping tab, to drive more engagement and visibility to retail products.
What can we do now?
For brands that are already existing users of Merchant Center and Shopping Ads, no further action is needed to showcase products in organic listings. Brands that have not previously used the Merchant Center will need to opt-into Surfaces Across Google (Search Results, Images, Lens, etc.), which will make products eligible for consideration in unpaid listings across Google surfaces.
Unpaid clicks will soon be added in the new performance report in Merchant Center, allowing brands to begin to monitor the presence and impact of their products in these new listings. For brands whose main revenue driver is Google, SEO could become more important than ever, making integrated paid and organic Search strategies more critical.
In the near term, brands should be:
- Reviewing and optimizing product feeds to ensure information is accurate and includes all key elements.
- Reviewing and optimizing on-site Product Detail Pages (PDPs) to ensure a seamless experience and promote further opportunity to maximize organic visibility throughout Google surfaces. Now is the time for brands to ensure their schema markup is implemented and error free.
- Review and update tracking to ensure traffic and conversions are properly attributed in their Merchant Center and site-side analytics (source of truth). This will include Merchant Center attributes, such as ads_redirect, link, mobile_link and/or canonical_link.
- Closely monitor performance trends in Google Merchant Center and site-side analytics for both paid and organic traffic, especially if brands have previously been running ads in Google Shopping.
- Develop an integrated approach to measurement and optimization since brands now have the opportunity to balance products between paid and organic listings.
- Retail sites who have disabled buying functionality during COVID-19 could consider opting-in to this offering to gather learnings, but should be cognizant of the consumer experience and potential letdown if only “browse” is available at this time.
Google will be rolling out more documentation in their help center to help new users streamline the process for launching their products into the new organic listings. This is another opportunity for retail brands and agency teams to further integrate their paid and organic search strategies, to maximize performance and drive incremental growth.