Last week Google made a major announcement that listings in the Google Shopping tab will now be free. Paid shopping ads will still be displayed on Google.com and there will be paid carousels at the top and bottom of the organic (free) listings. The free listings are now live.
Requirements to participate in the program
If you have a Merchant Center account with a live data feed you should already be eligible. All you need to do is make sure that you have enabled the “Surfaces across Google” program.
If you don’t have a product feed Google has updated their help file and has promised to streamline the process in the coming months. The process will be the same as if you were going to be running paid Shopping ads in the past.
Create a merchant center account.
Provide a product feed or product data manually.
Make sure your opted into Surfaces Across Google.
How will I track performance?
Google has enabled the performance tab in Merchant Center with a simple dashboard. Currently this is very simplified and you are not going to see much data. You will only see the number of clicks over a selected date range. Over time I am guessing that Google will build out this performance section so you can more detailed data about what products are receiving clicks.
Inside merchant center you can also now add filters for unpaid clicks in the All Products section to view what products are receiving free clicks.
If you are using UTM tracking or another tracking solution in your product feed you should also be able to filter those landing pages in Analytics by source, for example google / organic.
How will this affect my existing shopping ads?
The change is still very new so it is hard to say what it will mean to advertisers already using paid listings. To understand where you currently receive your clicks and conversions for your shopping campaigns you can use the Top vs. Other segment to view performance. Google search: Top is when your ads are displayed above the search results in search or shopping and Google search: Other is when your ad would have been displayed in the shopping tab.
If you have large percentafe of your clicks and conversions are coming from the other segment you should closely be watching your data over the next few months to see if you see a drop in performance.
In the long run your organic listings in the shopping tab may be more than enough to counter any losses but keep in mind that there will be more competition in the free listings moving forward.