Google Shopping Goes Free – What Does It Mean for Online Shops?

The news is causing a stir: Google wants to allow merchants to sell products for free on Google Shopping. Whether that’s a big deal depends on the perspective.

It was eight years ago that the previously free product search became the paid Google Shopping. Today came the surprising announcement that sounds like a U-turn: “ It’s now free to sell on Google ”.

What is meant by this is that in the future Google Shopping will mainly consist of free listings. As you know from the search, these are flanked by advertisements, which should attract a lot of attention.

This will take effect in the next few days – but only in the USA. The rest of the world should be able to enjoy free listings by the end of the year.

How important is that

What at first sounds like a reflection on the good old days isn’t that big of a deal at second glance. Only Google Shopping is really affected – that is, what is hidden behind the so-called “shopping tab”.

Google never looked at the importance of the shopping tab for shopping ads. We assume that at least 80% of clicks on Shopping ads come directly from Google search. If the proportion of the shopping tab were below 5%, I wouldn’t be too surprised. In any case, the values ​​are likely to be very different depending on the industry (e.g. the platform is more suitable for fashion than for electronics).

There should also continue to be ads on the shopping tab. These are (of course) at the top.

For shopping campaigns, a small part of a small part of the clicks could be omitted in the future. With shopping campaigns, you should therefore only notice minor effects – if at all. This is also supported by the fact that Google makes excellent money from shopping ads and is unlikely to cut its own flesh.

Why is Google doing this?

The opening up to organic search results brings two opportunities for Google: more users and more retailers. Both can also be seen against the background of the competition with Amazon.

A larger selection could increase the quality and benefit of Google Shopping, which in the long term could attract more users to Google.

At the same time, the Google Shopping channel is becoming interesting for retailers who are not yet represented there. Many should not want to miss out on free traffic. In any case, a Merchant Center account is required to provide product data. So the first and biggest step towards advertising later on has already been taken.

Even if Google misses some advertising revenue in the short term, this could be overcompensated in the long term by more demand and greater competition for the few ad spaces.

How can online shops benefit from free listings?

Currently, Google Shopping is still a paid platform for retailers outside of the United States. That should change by the end of the year. However, it could also be implemented as quickly as in the USA, which is why we advise our customers to prepare for it as early as possible.

Addendum: Currently, the complete implementation is only possible for data feeds with US orientation.

In most cases the effort is minimal. Three requirements must be met:

1. Google Merchant Center account

In order to include products in the free search results, an account for the Google Merchant Center is required. A Google account or an email address is required for this. Ownership of your own website must be claimed and confirmed.

2. Opt-in for Surfaces across Google

In the Merchant Center, participation in the “Google Platforms” (or “Surfaces across Google”) program must be declared in the growth area.

It is possible that this opt-in is carried out by Google itself by default. At least it seems that way in the USA.

3. Submit product data

All products to be listed for free or for a fee must be submitted according to the product data specifications. Anyone who is already placing shopping ads has already created the necessary infrastructure.

Product data can be transmitted in various ways:

  1. CSV or XML files (the standard solution)
  2. Google Sheets
  3. Manual addition of individual products ( possible since February )
  4. Website crawling (” automatic feed “, requires markup)
  5. Content API for Shopping (for advanced users)

Most shop systems support the creation of XML or CSV feeds. Beginners can get started with Google spreadsheets or by adding individual products without any special requirements.

Addendum: CSS

Anyone using a Comparison Shopping Service for shopping ads in Europe may not have direct control over participation in “Surfaces across Google”. As I understand Google’s CSS newsletter, the decision should be central to CSS. But I assume that every CSS that allows the placement of shopping ads on the shopping tab will also take this step (i.e.: practically all of them). Anything else would be economically nonsense.

Addendum: Controlled participation

If an account participates in the “Surfaces across Google” program, that doesn’t mean that all products have to appear in the free results. An opt-out is possible for feeds as well as at product level by specifying the target locations or target applications .

For dealers whose CSS participates in the program, this does not mean a loss of control.

You might be interested in the following topics:

Google Brings Free Shopping Results to Search

Best Practices: Call-To-Action Tips for Online Shop Operators

SEO Strategy for Brand Positioning


Google Shopping is becoming more relevant and is becoming an SEO topic again. This is probably good news for retailers.

However, it remains to be seen what effects the opening of Google Shopping will have. Since the vast majority of shopping clicks come from regular Google results, there shouldn’t be much change in the performance of shopping campaigns.

As is so often the case in Europe, we can sit back and wait and see what happens in the USA. In the meantime, we’ll do the opt-in and think about product data optimization again.

Note: This article was subsequently specified or supplemented.

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