are one of the most important advertising tools available to eCommerce retailers. There are a variety of reasons for this, including product visibility, elevated traffic levels, and (of course) effectiveness.
However, many moons ago, Google Shopping listings were free to upload. It wasn’t until 2012 that the search engine began charging to showcase products in this format within the SERPs.
That said, 2020 changed many things in many ways. One of the things that was altered by the events of that year was that. As the company stated in that blog announcement:
“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.”
This is an excellent opportunity for merchants to increase product awareness, website traffic, and sales. The best part is that all it costs is a little bit of time and elbow grease.
To help merchants get started, today, we are going to cover exactly how to make Google Shopping Ads (listings) for free.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Where Do Google Shopping Listings Surface?
Where free Google Shopping Ads visibility is concerned, these listings do not appear on the main SERPs, as those are reserved for those paying top dollar to Google.
Instead, free Shopping listings are featured, meaning that searchers would need to click this tab in order to see the free product listings.
Much like the organic pages featured on the main results pages, the Shopping tab will have the free Shopping Ads sandwiched in between paid Shopping Ads at the top and bottom of the page.
Moreover, paid Shopping Ads will be tagged with an “Ad” symbol as a way of showing that advertisers paid for their positioning.
Why Are Shopping Listings Suddenly Free?
This is an excellent question, and there are several possible answers, including:
- COVID-19: In the company’s blog announcement of free Shopping listings, Google cited the challenges of the coronavirus shutdowns and their impact on the retail industry as a driving force behind the move. However, given that Google also stated in that blog that “we’re advancing our plans to make it free for merchants to sell on Google,” it would seem this was in the works anyway and not the primary motivator.
- A Means of Boosting Ad Revenue: Given that making Shopping listings free would undoubtedly result in a significant influx of retailers showcasing their products, it would stand to reason that many would also become paid advertisers.
- Better Compete with Amazon: is a hotly debated topic in the retail industry. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Google is attempting to gain the competitive edge on Amazon in the product promotion arena by making Shopping listings free to online merchants. Through this move, Google could potentially attract more paid advertisers while also facilitating an increase in consumers using Google Shopping as a result of a considerable uptick in options, thereby helping the search giant better compete with Amazon.
While all of these are reasonable assertions and likely had varying degrees of influence over the company’s decision to allow sellers to make Google Shopping Ads for free, only Google knows the real reason behind the change.
How to Make Google Shopping Ads: Laying the Foundation for Free Listings
When it comes to how to make Google Shopping Ads for free, there are three things that sellers must first do:
- Create a
- Link the feed to Google Merchant Center
- Opt-in to
For those who are unaware, the Surfaces across Google program enables retailers to showcase their Google Shopping products on “Google Surfaces.” This includes (but is not limited to) Google Images, Shopping, Google Lens and the like.
In effect, Surfaces across Google helps sellers to bolster their reach by highlighting products on various Google properties instead of just the Shopping tab.
With that aside, let’s go ahead and take a look at these prerequisites in closer detail.
Create a Feed
The first necessary step in setting up Google Shopping campaigns is to establish the company’s product feed. The process of completing this step will largely depend on the CMS that retailers utilize.
For instance, Shopify features various free that sellers can install to automatically create a product feed using the information that is already present on the site. Depending on how well merchants have documented their products, some fields might need to be filled in manually.
Similarly, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento and the like have their own solutions for product feed creation.
However, if retailers wish, product feeds can also be created manually using a spreadsheet like Excel.
Link Feed to Google Merchant Center
Next, retailers need to link their newly minted product feed to their Google Merchant Center account. However, if sellers do not have one, it is necessary first to as this is where the product feed is stored.
When setting up a Merchant Center account, retailers will need to include some basic info about their website, agree to Merchant Center’s terms of service and verify the site’s URL.
From there, retailers can go ahead and link their product feed to their Merchant Center account. There are several ways of doing this, including:
- Direct Upload: Through this method, retailers can store their product feed file such as an Excel file on their computer and to get started or when changes are made. The file must be smaller than 4GB. To upload it, retailers can use SFTP, FTP, Google Cloud Storage or just upload it manually.
- Google Sheets: Retailers can also add their product feed to Google Sheets and then link the spreadsheet to the Merchant Center. Using this method, whenever product information is altered on the seller’s site, it will need to be manually changed in Google Sheets as well. Alternatively, retailers can find a way to automate updating their Google Sheets product feed.
- Scheduled Fetch:, retailers will have their product feed automatically fetched from a specific place on their website at periodic intervals.
- Content API: This is another automated option for uploading and updating product feeds in Google Merchant Center. However, as opposed to the scheduled fetch strategy that updates feeds a certain number of times per day, the content API approach automatically updates product feed info when changes are made within the retailer’s CMS. As a result of that dynamic, this is the preferred method for many merchants.
With the basics outlined, let’s go ahead and dive into some of the finer details on how to make Google Shopping Ads for free.
How to Make Google Shopping Ads: The Details
Fortunately, learning how to make Google Shopping Ads for free from this point is relatively simple.
The things that merchants will want to consider and complete from this point forward include:
Options for Getting Products Listed
Once sellers have their product feeds set up, they have two different options for how to for free. Those options are:
- Include Structured Data Mark-Up On-Site: Websites that have will automatically have their items featured on Surfaces across Google. However, if sellers so choose, they can opt out of this program and utilize the second option.
- Opt-in to Surfaces Across Google: For those who do not have structured data on their site, then it is necessary to manually opt-in to the Surfaces across Google program within the Merchant Center.
For sellers who opt for the latter, there is a good chance that they have automatically been enrolled in the program. However, in the event that sellers do need to opt-in, simply log into Merchant Center and navigate to Growth > Manage programs > Surfaces across Google.
Meeting the Requirements
There are a handful of requirements that sellers must meet for their product feeds to be accepted and have the merchant’s items shown via Surfaces across Google.
However, even if a merchant’s product feed is accepted, Google will analyze the quality of that feed in relation to the competition. If Google determines that a rival’s product feed is better, then there is a good chance that Google will end up showing the competition’s products instead.
Therefore, it is critical that retailers take the time necessary to to ensure that their organic Google Shopping listings get in front of consumers at the right time.
Product Feed Optimization Tips
Given how popular (read: competitive) Google Shopping Ads are in the retail space, organic Shopping listings also have a considerable amount of competition.
Therefore, it is imperative that merchants take the necessary steps to increase their chances of their products surfacing instead of those sold by competitors.
One of the ways that retailers can to help achieve this aim is to fill in as much information about the product as possible. When creating product feeds, many sellers end up leaving a variety of fields empty.
Where organic Shopping listings are concerned, this kind of careless approach is sure to harm product visibility. Therefore, it is vital that sellers take the time needed to fill in the mandatory, as well as the optional, fields, including:
- Age group
- MPN (if there is no GTIN number)
Additionally, for fields like description, it is essential that retailers incorporate targeted keywords in the same way that they would when with SERP visibility in mind.
Furthermore, it is essential that sellers ensure that all of the information they have included is up-to-date as far as descriptions, pricing, images and the like are concerned.
Also, be sure to proofread all of the information to verify that it is free from any spelling or grammatical errors.
While these things might seem elementary and straightforward, they will go a long way in optimizing a seller’s feed and maximizing organic Google Shopping listing visibility.
Free Google Shopping listings are undoubtedly an exciting development for retailers as this feature is sure to aid many in increasing their brand awareness, product visibility, website traffic and eCommerce revenue.
However, given that scores of merchants are likely to flock to this feature, sellers should expect a considerable amount of competition. Therefore, product feed optimization should be of prime importance for those who are looking for a decent return on these free listings.
Alternatively, retailers could simply use free organic listings as a means of supplementing their paid Google Shopping Ads campaigns.
If this is the route that your brand is looking to take, ensure that your company gets the best return on Shopping Ads possible by reaching out to Visiture’s Google Shopping Management specialists.
Our dedicated team of certified Google experts can help your company to fully optimize its product feed, bidding strategies, targeting tactics and everything else that goes into a profitable Google Shopping Ads campaign.