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02 septembre 2021 • Resources

How Google Shopping works: a handbook for using the platform in 2021

How Google Shopping works: a handbook for using the platform in 2021

In the competitive world of ecommerce, it’s up to you as an entrepreneur to continuously be thinking of new ways to help your business shine and attract new customers.

Online shopping has become increasingly popular over time. What’s more, with COVID-19 forcing hordes of physical stores to close in 2020,

many business owners are relying on online sales like never before.

Today, quite a few entrepreneurs are turning to Google Shopping to complement their already-existing ecommerce websites. This isn’t surprising, as according to eMarketer, after Amazon, Google is the most frequently used platform for product searches.  

Since its release, Google Shopping has been assisting businesses of all sizes to reach more consumers and increase sales. 

Considering using the platform for your own online store? If so, keep reading to learn more about how to sell on Google Shopping and get started today!

What is Google Shopping?

Google Shopping is a service provided by Google that lets consumers search for and view products online, comparing multiple retailers’ offerings at the same time. Online retailers use the platform to advertise their products in a visually appealing way to attract new customers to their websites.

Although businesses used to have to pay to get their Shopping listings to appear to consumers effectively, Google started making free Shopping results available in 2020. 

The allowance of free listings now provides shoppers with a much larger selection of items from which to choose. It has also led to an increase in online retailers using the platform to promote their products and drive more traffic to their ecommerce websites.

If you aren’t already availing of Google Shopping, now’s an excellent time to start! 

In order to understand the platform and the advantages it can bring your online store, it’s important to examine it from both a shopper’s and a business’s perspective.

Comparison search engine

From a consumer’s point of view, Google Shopping is a comparison search engine. Say that you’re in the market for new running shoes, but you aren’t yet sure which ones you want to purchase. 

If you’re especially fond of one brand, you might go directly to that brand’s website. However, if you’re open to different options, you may instead head to Google for some pre-purchase research. 

You type in “running shoes” in the search bar, and a list of websites appears in the search engine results page (SERP). What likely draws your eye first, though, is the group of Google Shopping ads at the top or on the right-hand side of the page. 

You can discover even more Google Shopping listings by clicking on the Shopping tab at the top of the screen. What makes Shopping listings stand out is that they include product photos and only the most pertinent details, such as the product’s title, description, and price.

As you take a look at all the running shoes on the Shopping tab, you can easily compare the various options from different retailers. Furthermore, you can filter the listings if you want to narrow the selection further to find your dream pair of kicks. 

If there’s a listing that’s particularly interesting to you, you can click on it to discover more information about the product. You’re then able to click on a link within the ad that leads you directly to the retailer’s website.  

Advertising platform

As an online retailer, Google Shopping can be a great avenue for expanding your reach and growing your business. You may avail of both free and paid listings when adding your products to the platform. 

Depending on the settings that you establish when you create your campaigns, your Shopping ads can show up a range of places. They’ll appear in Google search results for relevant search queries, but they can also pop up on partner websites and other Google sites such as Gmail and YouTube.

In contrast to text-only ads, for which you bid on keywords, Shopping ads have a cost-per-click format and require that you bid for clicks. 

As you get to determine how much you pay when somebody clicks on your ad, the platform is accessible regardless of your budget. In addition, there are numerous bidding strategies available, so you can tailor your Shopping campaigns to suit your individual needs. 

How does Google Shopping help your business?

There’s a reason why so many online retailers turn to Google Shopping as a way to help their businesses grow. Actually, there are quite a few reasons!

If you’re undecided about whether the platform’s the right fit for your online store, the following benefits of Google Shopping ads might just convince you to sign up ASAP.

Allows for better quality traffic

When launching a new ecommerce website, it’s a wonderful feeling when you notice an increase in the number of people visiting your store. However, even if you have more site visitors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re interested in making a purchase.

With Google Shopping, though, consumers usually have at least some level of interest when clicking on an ad. This is because Shopping listings highlight all the important info up front, and shoppers can immediately compare your product alongside those of other stores. 

Catches the attention of shoppers

If you’re looking to help your business stand out from the crowd when it comes to searches on Google, listing your products on the Shopping platform is a great way to achieve this!

Consider the wall of text in the SERP that accompanies most Google search queries. It’s easy to see how the product photos in Shopping listings can help draw a potential customer’s eye.

Boosts conversion rates

People certainly have their choice of options when it comes to online shopping these days. For this reason, retailers must do everything in their power to offer shoppers an easy, enjoyable experience.

Google Shopping allows users to go directly to the product page on your website after clicking on one of your listings. By saving them some extra time in the purchasing process, you’re more likely to get them to convert into loyal customers.  

What can’t you sell on Google Shopping?

Before you begin selling on Google Shopping, it’s important to consider what kinds of products your online store offers. While Google allows a wide range of items to be sold on the platform, it does have certain regulations in place to protect consumers.

For instance the platform has restrictions for products in several other categories, such as goods oriented toward adults, alcohol, copyrighted content, gambling, and healthcare. 

In addition, products and content in the following categories are strictly prohibited.

Counterfeit products

Google doesn’t want you selling inauthentic goods while trying to pass them off as the real deal. Your products shouldn’t feature logos or trademarks that are identical or very similar to those of genuine brands.

Dangerous items

For fairly obvious reasons, products that may inflict injury or cause damage are banned from being advertised on the platform. While what’s considered “dangerous” may vary for different people, Google provides a list of specific items that it doesn’t allow. 

These goods include ammunition, explosive materials, fireworks, weapons, instructions for making items that are dangerous or explosive, psychoactive and recreational drugs, and tobacco products.

Goods that allow dishonest behavior to occur

You aren’t permitted to sell products that help users to act unscrupulously, as this goes against Google’s policies that strive for honesty and fairness. Items that fall into this category are products for academic cheating, fake documents, and instructions or software for hacking activities.

Inappropriate content or products

This involves basically anything that Google may deem as insulting or as something that could cause offense to others. If you want to sell your goods on the platform, be sure to steer clear of content and products that encourages discrimination, hatred, intolerance, or violence.

Avoid the use of anything featuring bullying, racial discrimination, images involving graphic crime or accident scenes, murder, self-harm, extortion, and blackmail. In addition, stay away from content or products that promote animal cruelty and the sale or trade of endangered species.

Different components of Google Shopping

As you get more involved with Google Shopping and start creating campaigns, you’ll come across numerous programs on the platform. While not all of these programs may be applicable to your business, it’s good to at least have a basic understanding of how they each function.

Google Shopping ads

These are the paid Shopping listings that will show up for relevant search queries. As mentioned above, Shopping ads can appear in a variety of places, depending on the settings that you choose in for your campaign.

When you perform a search on Google, you might find Shopping ads on the SERP, above the organic search results and the text-only ads. They can also sometimes appear on the right-hand side of the page.

Shopping ads can equally be found on the Shopping tab, either at the very top or the bottom of the page, always marked as “Sponsored.”  

Google product ratings

One of the two different types of reviews that Google Shopping provides consumers to better inform their purchasing decisions is for the products themselves. Appearing as star ratings (ranging from 1 to 5), product ratings are available for both paid and free listings. 

These ratings can come from various sources, such as merchants, review sites, Google users, and others.

By participating in the Product Ratings program, you demonstrate faith in your products and assist shoppers with their product research. This in turn can help bring more qualified traffic to your website.  

There are several ways to get product ratings to show up for your Shopping listings. First, if you utilize one of Google’s supported reviews aggregators, you can request that they provide your reviews to Google.

Another method is to fill out a Product Ratings interest form if you would rather submit your reviews on your own. To avail of this option, you’ll need to already have at least 50 product reviews on your website.

You may also sign up for Google Customer Reviews, a free service that obtains information from people who have previously shopped with your business. This may be your preferred option if you haven’t yet started collecting product reviews on your own.

Google seller ratings

The second kind of rating that consumers have access to with Google Shopping is for sellers on the platform. This rating is especially important for your business if there are multiple retailers selling the same product as you. A high seller rating can give your online store a significant advantage over the competition. 

Your seller rating considers different factors regarding your seller performance and appears to consumers as a score.

The score can be based on a variety of sources. These might include Google Customer Reviews, ratings from Google Customer Surveys, Shopping reviews for your website, and other performance metrics from research led by Google.

Shoppers may find your seller rating in two separate locations. It can first appear in your Shopping listings, just underneath your name. If you’re advertising your products in text ads too, the rating can turn up here as well.

It’s important to note that seller ratings can show up automatically, without any action required by the retailers themselves. Although Google doesn’t modify reviews that already exist, it will re-scale ratings and remove reviews that it believes to be questionable or unreliable.

In addition, if you want your ratings to show up for a specific country, your business will need to have a minimum of 100 different seller reviews for that country within the past year. If Google is able to obtain enough data from other sources, though, it might still show ratings for your store if you’ve accumulated less than 100 reviews. 

Google Merchant Promotions

With Merchant Promotions, you can advertise sales or other special offers in your Shopping ads or free listings. If you decide to avail of this program, consumers will see a “special offer” link. Google allows for three different types of promotions, including discounts, free gifts, and shipping. 

Running promotions on Google Shopping has numerous benefits for your online store. First, it allows you to highlight your products on the platform, which can make them stand out from the multitude of other listings. This can then help to increase your store’s clickthrough rate.

Second, it can encourage on-the-fence shoppers to make a purchase. If users had previously been hesitating about an item, a special deal may convince them!

Finally, Merchant Promotions can be shown on both desktop and mobile devices. This means that you’re able to offer your promotions to a greater number of potential customers to aid in growing your business.    

This program is currently only available in a few countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, the UK, and the US. To create a promotion, head to Merchant Center, where you can either use the promotion builder or design a promotions feed. 

Surfaces Across Google

When most people hear “Google Shopping,” they often think of the product listings that appear in search results and on the Shopping tab. However, the Surfaces Across Google program makes it possible for your free listings to turn up on other Google properties as well. 

For example, shoppers might see your listings on Google Images, Google Maps, and Google Lens.

It’s easy to take advantage of Surfaces Across Google by simply clicking on the Growth tab in Merchant Center. From there, you can opt to enroll in the program, using the product feed that you’ve already created when you first signed up for Merchant Center.

Buy on Google

Available in the US and France only for the time being,

Buy on Google allows shoppers to buy items from retailers without having to exit Google. 

This effectively turns Google Shopping from a comparison shopping engine to an actual sales platform. For businesses that have enrolled in this program, their listings will be marked with “Buy on Google.”

Consumers using this option when researching products online will save time by not needing to go to a retailer’s website when they’re ready to buy an item. Because the checkout process is made easier with this program, it can assist in reducing shopping cart abandonment.

In addition, in 2020, Google stopped charging businesses a commission fee when they sell products with Buy on Google, further incentivizing use of the program. 

Note that there’s a list of participation criteria for Buy on Google that you’ll want to review before you apply to use the program to boost your chances of Google accepting your application. 

Keep in mind that because the shopping experience occurs completely with Google rather than your website, there are fewer opportunities to grow brand awareness. Customers miss out on getting to know your brand, which is especially critical if you’ve just recently launched your ecommerce business.

How to get started with Google Shopping

If you’re new to Google Shopping, there are a few steps that you’ll need to take care of before you can start selling on the platform. Keep in mind that although the process for getting started isn’t overly complicated, it does require a bit of time and consideration. 

Sign up to be a Google Merchant

To begin your adventure with Google Shopping, you first must create an account with Google Merchant Center. Merchant Center is the dashboard where you’ll upload and manage the information for all of the products that you want to include in your various Shopping campaigns. 

The details that you add to your product feed here are what Google uses to display in the Shopping results when consumers perform relevant searches. 

To sign up with Google Merchant Center, you’ll need to have an existing Google account, e.g., Gmail, and a website for which you can verify your ownership. 

The sign-up process starts by asking you to provide a bit of basic information about your business. Here, you can choose if you want customers to complete the checkout process from your website after viewing your listing on Google or be able to purchase the product directly on Google. 

After you read and agree to the terms and conditions of your account, you’ll supply your online store’s URL. You’ll then need to verify and claim that website to prove that you’re indeed the owner of it.

There are a few different ways that you can verify your website. These include adding an HTML tag, uploading an HTML file, and connecting your site to Google Tag Manager or Google Analytics.

Next, claim your website by simply clicking on the “Claim website” button, which you can find in the bottom right-hand section of the screen.

Add your products to Google Merchant Center

The next step involves adding all your product data to Merchant Center, creating what’s known as a “product feed.” Head to “Products” and then the “Feeds” section, where you’ll click the blue button with the plus symbol in the primary feed area.

Google will then ask you to supply a variety of details, including the following: country of sale, language, destination, and primary feed name.

Next, you’ll select the method you prefer to input your product data. Google gives you various choices here, so just go with the one that best suits your needs.

Fill out a Google Sheet

Either upload a Google Sheet that you’ve already completed with the required information or create a new one using the template provided by Merchant Center.

Allow Google to perform a scheduled fetch

If you’ve got a significant number of products, filling out a Google Sheet might not be the most efficient option for you. You may alternatively schedule a time, either immediately or in the future, for Google to “fetch” your data from your server.

Upload your files via FTP or SFTP 

A third option is to submit your feed directly to Merchant Center by way of FTP or SFTP. If you choose this method, be sure that your file size is less than 4 GB in size. You can still use this option if your file is larger, but be sure to split it into different files before you upload it.

Have Google crawl your website

Finally, you may use an automated feed to collect your product data. With this alternative, you can request that Google crawl your website to obtain the information for your products to build your product feed. Note that to avail of this option, your website’s product pages will require schema.org structured data markup.

It’s essential that your product feed includes accurate and up-to-date information. Google pulls this data to determine when your paid ads and free listings should appear on the SERP, Shopping tab, or other locations.

Link to Google Ads

Although you can stick with free listings only, paid ads will help boost the visibility of your products even further on the platform. If you think that you’d like to give paid ads a go and create Shopping campaigns, you must first link your Merchant Center account to your Google Ads account. 

No worries if you don’t have an account with Google Ads yet! Merchant Center gives you the option to connect to an existing account or create a new one. 

To begin the process of linking your two accounts, first make sure that you’re logged in to Merchant Center. Then, click on the three vertical dots that you’ll see at the top right-hand area of the page and select “Account linking.”

Already have an Ads account? If so, this is where you’ll provide the customer ID for the account that you want to use. If not, you can make a new one by clicking “Create Account.”

To finish up, you’ll need to approve the request from the Google Ads side. Hit “Send link request” and go to Google Ads to authorize the link.

You’re now free to create your first Shopping campaign!

Final thoughts 

The flexibility of Google Shopping is one of its most attractive attributes for all kinds of ecommerce businesses, regardless of the products they sell.

It allows you to tailor your experience to accommodate your unique goals for your online store.

However, the multitude of options available can also be somewhat intimidating for retailers just starting out on the platform. Don’t let this aspect overwhelm you and stop you from enjoying the many perks that listing your products with Shopping can bring you!

While it does require some time and effort to set up your product feed and campaigns, they’re relatively easy to manage afterwards. Hopefully this article’s given you a better understanding of how Google Shopping works so that you can determine how to optimize your efforts on the platform to benefit your business.

Are you currently using Google Shopping for your own online store? If so, let us know in the comments below what your own experience has been!

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