Google announced today that they are now offering Free Shopping Ads for retailers and brands. Here is a great article by my friend, Ginny Marvin, announcing it (and where I first heard of it): Google Shopping Opens to Free Listings.
When I first started advertising on Google in 2010, I remember free Froogle listings and how bummed we were when it moved into the paid offering in 2012. Based on the announcement headlines, it seemed at first glance like we were circling back to those days of free access. Sounds great for SMBs, but the actual situation is a little more complex and I thought it fair to unravel the details of what is happening.
I should be careful to not appear overly negative, this will certainly give SMBs and advertisers access to free traffic they didn’t formerly have access to. However, we’re not remotely back at the 2011 Froogle days, and here is why:
(1) There will still be paid listings, and free listings on the Shopping Tab. This is important, as it likely allows for an Amazon-like Pay-for-Position option for retailers wanting prime spots on the Tab.
From Google’s original announcement (linked to above):
(2) Google states this is only rolling out on the Google Shopping Tab initially, which would mean that SERP listings are still all paid. That’s a big deal since it’s my opinion that most Shopping clicks happen in the SERPs as opposed to the Shopping tab (though Google has never given out this data, and I haven’t seen in from anywhere else either… my opinion comes from conversations with other marketers, as well as other click-path studies. The likelihood is very low, again in my opinion, of a majority ignoring the Paid Shopping Ads listing in SERPs and navigating to the small Shopping tab at the top of the screen).
From the previously linked Search Engine Land article:
(3) This is a genius marketing move because it’s accomplishing three things, with little down-side or revenue loss to Google:
- It’s taking a (well needed) shot at Amazon.
- It’s raising more awareness for its Shopping experience.
- It’s providing a way for retailers/brands to get used to the PLA landscape / Google Merchant Center (GMC) UI / etc., so they’re more willing to pay for slots they want. The hardest part is getting people in the door, right? Google just got a lot more people in the door. It’s a quick, easy next step to start paying when they’re already set up for Shopping.
(4) If you already run Shopping Ads and have a GMC account set up, you don’t need to do anything else unless you aren’t opted into Surfaces Across Google. Well, at least for now. It’s wise to utilize the same feed optimization tactics as Google Shopping Ads to get your products found more easily by Google (don’t know how to do that? ZATO can help with our Shopping Ads only program!).
(5) To opt into Surfaces Across Google in GMC, simply go to Growth > Manage Programs. We’ll also get some level of organic click reporting in GMC as well in the Surfaces Across Google graph.
At first blush, this all sounds amazing. Shopping Ads are free again, we’ve come full circle since the days of Froogle, right?
Well, free is definitely nice, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
We’re not full circle from Froogle days, because it’s important to note that this recent change shows free Google products on the Shopping Tab only (at this point), and there will still be paid ads on the Shopping Tab (undoubtedly in the prime above the fold locations).
In that regard, my suspicion is that things aren’t actually going to change very much for existing Shopping Ads advertising strategies and possibly even auctions and CPCs.
Running Shopping Ads now? I’d suggest not changing a darned thing in your strategy or management. I’m sure we’ll have to adapt at some point to this over-time, but for the reasons noted above I don’t actually think this will impact things that much.
TL;DR: In my opinion, Google has masterfully figured out a way to promote good-will for their brand, take a shot at Amazon, raise awareness for the Shopping tab (which they REALLY want to win so they can get more advertisers on Shopping Actions), all while not likely losing any money at all.
I’m not upset about it, in fact, I respect a wise play like that where everyone wins. I just like to make sure I know what’s happening on the back end, and that’s the way I see it.
Interested in more reading on it? Here is the current Google Policy Page on it: Free product listings on Google Shopping Tab
Want to know how to track revenue from Surfaces Across Google? Of course you do! In this step-by-step walkthrough, we give you an easy way to do that: How to Track Surfaces Across Google (Free Shopping Ads) Revenue in Google Analytics
Retailer or Brand in need of Shopping Ads management? That is ZATO’s specialty! With our Shopping Ads program, we (only) manage your Shopping Ads at a reasonable rate, so you can keep your Paid Search, Organic, Paid Social and all the rest in the hands of your current teams. Check out our program here: ZATO Google Shopping Ads Program