Free advertising: how to leverage Surfaces Across Google

An image of a 3d letter G with the Google colours

by Ryan England

April 27th 2023

Published in Advertising

6 min read


    Something remarkable quietly launched in the eCommerce space in 2020 — free product listings on Google.

    So quietly that a lot of eCommerce brands are still unaware of it. If you thought free Google Product Listing Ads were dead, you’re about to be pleasantly surprised. Say hello to free product listings that will give merchants of all sizes exposure across Google. Essentially it is advertising for free.

    We are all facing inflation. The cost of everything you need to run your business has drastically increased. And yet you still need to advertise to reach potential customers. Several eCommerce brands are struggling to afford the additional cost of advertising required to scale.

    Good news. Google has now enabled merchants to sell on their platform for free, displaying a mix of paid and organic listings. Google product listings on Surfaces Across Google are free. 

    Let’s have a look at how you can utilise Surfaces Across Google to get your products seen.

    What are 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 the entire Google platform.

    The surfaces: Google Search, Google Shopping, Google Images, Google My Business and Google Maps.

    Let’s have a look how Google displays products across the surface:

    Google Search.

    While we expect most of these products to be paid adverts, there has been an increase in organic product listings. Although you may not reach the top of search organically, your products will still be listed for free and available to shoppers.

    A screenshot of Google Search showing products under search term 'plain white tee'

    Google Shopping.

    Like Google Search, Google prioritises the ranking of paid advertising products. However, this setup enables shoppers to view unpaid listings with the same level of detail as paid listings. In the case of organic listings, consumers can still access the comprehensive product details as if they were viewing a paid listing.

    A screenshot of Google Shopping showing products details of a plain white tee

    Google Maps.

    When a consumer searches for a product available in a local store and if the store has listed it in their Merchant Center as an ‘in-store product’, Google will display the store in Google Map searches. The map listing provides the usual details of shop rating, opening hours, address, phone number and distance from the searcher’s location, and a handy addition that states “sold here: surfboards”.

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

    These surf shops appear not to run local paid advertisements, yet they appear in our search results on Google Maps. The presence of the verified button further enhances your credibility in the eyes of your customers.

    A screenshot of Google Maps showing local shops you can purchase surfboards

    Google Images.

    When consumers search for an image of a white t-shirt, they will initially encounter a selection of paid and unpaid product listings before reaching the image results. Again, Google prioritises paid listings, but having your product listed in this section is highly beneficial for visual exposure.

    A screenshot of Google Images showing pictures under search term 'plain white tee'

    Google Business.

    One of our favourite features now available for free is Google’s “See What’s In-Store.” By optimising your store profile on your Google My Business page, you can showcase your products as available and in-stock items (if they are correctly listed on Google Merchant Center).

    A screenshot of Google Business showing location and products of store name the nearest Zara store

    So what does that mean for you?

    For e-commerce businesses: Surfaces Across Google offers free exposure to millions of people who visit Google daily for shopping. It means that your products have the potential to reach a wider audience through the Google Shopping tab.

    For consumers: It means they will have access to a greater variety of products from numerous stores through the Google Shopping tab, making it easier to discover and explore different options.

    For advertisers: You can combine paid advertisements with organic listings, creating a more impactful presence and boosting your sales.

    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. Still, we recommend ensuring your in-stock inventory is up-to-date if relevant to your business. It’s critical to ensure that even if you’re not running Product Listing Ads right now, 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. Contact us for free advice if you have any questions about setting this up, and one of our team members will walk you through it.