Change is coming. Google has announced that now it will be free to list products in Shopping search results.
Since their launch 8 years ago, Google Shopping listings have been restricted to paid advertisers. Products can only be listed here through PPC (pay-per-click) Shopping campaigns via Google Ads. But not for much longer.
Shopping is generally seen as the most potent ad format for ecommerce websites on Google. But now Shopping ads are only going to be part of the story, as soon it’s going to be opened up to organic, unpaid listings.
How soon? In the US this will be in place before the end of this month. The full global roll-out will be in place before the end of the year.
So, why the sudden shift from Google? Well, according to the Google blog it all boils down to coronavirus.
"With physical stores shuttered, digital commerce has become a lifeline for retailers. And as consumers increasingly shop online, they're searching not just for essentials but also things like toys, apparel, and home goods. While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale," their blog read.
"In light of these challenges, we’re advancing our plans to make it free for merchants to sell on Google. Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online."
All very noble. The elephant in the room, of course, is Amazon. Amazon's online advertising offering is taking bigger and bigger chunks of the market share. Google and Facebook have long dominated the battle for your online advertising spend. Amazon's growth has them spooked.
Amazon's product listing results page is rich with options. By contrast, Google Shopping limits its array of products by only showing products of retailers willing to pay. From the user's view, the Google experience is a poorer experience.
"Opening up to all merchants will enhance Google’s offering and its appeal to both sellers and consumers", Search Engine Land explained.
So is there still a need for paid Google Shopping campaigns? Yes - arguably more so than ever. Shopping is set to become more competitive, so advertisers will want to ensure prominent visibility within the search results.
Furthermore, there is now a need for SEOs to react to this. Shopping is no longer the domain of paid advertising experts. All ecommerce websites should now go about generating product feeds and creating Google Merchant Centre accounts. Not doing so could represent a missed opportunity.
The twin influences of the Coronavirus lockdown and Amazon's continuing growth have already brought about this large change. Our bet is that the change won't end there.
If you're wondering how to best react to this development, please don't hesitate to reach out and we'll provide guidance as best we can.
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