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It’s become common knowledge at this point that Google recently sped up the roll-out of one of the biggest changes to Merchant Center to date – the offering of free product listing ads, which will hopefully give marketers a budget-friendly boost as consumer behavior shifts from COVID-19.

To be clear, in no way is Google sunsetting their traditional paid offerings. Rather, this new feature (as of April 2020) has been integrated as an additional value-add to current, and future, advertisers.

What we know

  1. Our Google account managers are telling us that after lengthy testing, Google has found that paid and unpaid listings actually work better in tandem. Together they drive incremental traffic and revenue for advertisers. Google sees this as a win-win for advertisers and shoppers. Shoppers will have more products to browse through, and advertisers will have more available listings (note that paid and free listings will not be duplicative).
  2. In fact, advertisers should not expect to see a decrease in paid clicks. You can even measure these net-new free clicks under the performance tab in Google Merchant Center:In addition to the reporting available within merchant center, performance-based metrics (like revenue) will automatically flow into Google Analytics if you are using auto-tagging or UTM params. The GA revenue resulting from a free click will automatically be grouped in with organic traffic. However, if you are hard-coding tracking at the feed level for other analytics platforms, that tracking will persist through free listings. Consider making adjustments if you want to track that revenue separately.
  3. Merchant promotions are still available to serve on free listings.
  4. There is no need to change your current feed; products will continue to serve as normal as long as they comply with Google feed best practices. That being said, quality of your products and feed will be critical with regards to ranking on the Shopping tab.
  5. The SERP will remain largely unchanged. Paid listings will be clearly labeled and featured on the primary SERP, with unpaid listings aggregating under the shopping tab.

To ensure that you have opted into the free listing program, under the “Growth” section in Merchant Center, make sure “Surfaces across Google” is active.

Here at 3Q, we are excited to monitor this new feature and the growth it will bring to our clients, especially during these unprecedented times.