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Surfaces Across Google: what you need to know

If you thought free Google Product Listing Ads were dead, you’re about to be pleasantly surprised.

Something great has quietly launched in the eCommerce space.

Free product listings that will give merchants of all sizes exposure across Google. Advertising for free. It doesn’t seem possible, does it? Welcome Surfaces Across Google.

In the midst of the pandemic, Google made a major announcement for retailers and their advertising agencies: it’s now free to sell on Google. With brick-and-mortar stores closing down around the world and as more consumers take to shopping online, statistics and insights have proven that while there is an opportunity for commerce to reconnect with customers, many cannot afford the additional cost of advertising to this scale.

This considered, Google has now made it free for merchants to sell on their platform. When you search on the Google Shopping tab, the products are now a mix of paid and free listings, similar to how organic results are listed on search engine results.

While this is currently only available in the US, as of April, Google are working on rolling this out worldwide over the next few months and are currently trialling in the UK – so it’s worth the preparation now to be ready.

What are the Surfaces Across Google?

Just like on Facebook, when you run an advertising campaign, it can appear across multiple sections of the site – think of an ad popping up in messaging, when watching videos or scrolling on your news feed – Surfaces Across Google allows shoppers to see products as organic product listings across Google Search, Google Shopping, Google Images, Google My Business and Google Maps.

Here are some examples of how your products would look on each Google surface with a search item as simple as a plain white tee:

Google Search

Although most of these products will likely be paid advertisements, as Surfaces for Google are rolled out worldwide more and more organic listings will appear on searches like these. While your products may not appear on the first page – as that will require paid advertisements – your products will still be listed for free and available to be viewed by shoppers.

GOOGLE SHOPPING

Like with Google Search, we predict that Google will prioritise the ranking of paid advertising products first, however, this allows shoppers to view products of the unpaid listings in as much detail as paid listings. With organic listings, consumers will still be able to see all the details of each individual product as if it was a paid listing.

 

Google Maps

When a consumer searches for something which is stocked in a local store and if it is listed in the store’s Merchant Center as an ‘in-store product’, they will appear on local Google Map searches. The map listing will give the normal details of shop rating, opening hours, address, phone number and distance from the searcher’s location – as well as a handy addition that states “sold here: surfboards”.

We had to pick something local for this to get you a real example. What is more local to the South Coast than surfboards?

Neither of these shops are running local paid ads but they are listed under our search results in Google Maps. That handy little verified button also helps show your credibility to your customers.

 

Google Images

If a consumer needs to search for an image of a white t-shirt, before they get the image results, they will first see a selection of paid and unpaid product listings. Again, we can predict that Google will prioritise paid listings but being listed here is great for visual exposure.

 

Google Business

Our favourite and now free feature is Google’s See What’s In-Store. On your Google My Business page, you can now optimise your store profile to show what is in your shop if they are listed in your Merchant Center as in-stock products.

So, what does this mean for us and our CLIENTS?

For e-commerce businesses: “this means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs” [source] 

For consumers: “it means that more products from more stores will be discoverable through the Google Shopping tab” [source]

For advertisers: it means that you can mix paid adverts with organic listings to really enhance your sales.

In summary

Don’t worry, if you are already using Merchant Centre and Google Shopping ads, there is nothing extra for you to do to take advantage of the free listings, but we do recommend making sure your in-stock inventory is up-to-date if relevant to your business. It’s key to make sure that even if you’re not running Product Listing Ads right now, that you are pushing your products through to Google.

If you are a new user of Merchant Centre, Google is continuing to improve their onboarding process over the upcoming weeks and months. Also, feel free to reach out to us for advice if you have any questions about setting this up and one of our team members will walk you through it.

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