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Google Shopping is a Google Inc. price comparison portal and with the product listing ads (PLAs), is also part of Google AdWords. Online shop operators show their products on Google shopping lists and with image ads based on submitted data feeds in Google search results. They then pay for the number of clicks. A valid AdWords account and a Merchant Center account are prerequisites for participating in Google Shopping.
Google Shopping was originally called Google Base and was introduced in 2005 by Google. Online shop operators were able to register for free in the Merchant Center and upload product data. These products were listed for free in the Google Base portal. After Google Shopping was an integral part of the Google portfolio for many years, the Group changed this free product search function to a paid version in February 2013. If a seller wants to be listed with their products in the Google shopping catalog today, they have to pay for it. It is charged based on cost per click (CPC).
Product Listing Ads
Product listing ads are part of the new Google Shopping system. They are image ads which are displayed in addition to the organic search results in the SERP and are specifically marked as advertising. A PLA typically consists of the product image, the price and information for shipping and possibly even a few descriptive words about the product.
The display of PLAs is controlled via the Google AdWords account. The product listing ads can be set up as separate campaigns there. AdWords receives the data from a data feed, which has been stored in the Google Merchant Center.
Google PLAs can be limited to different regions such as countries, similar to display ads or text ads. Google also offers different display modes and bidding strategies. The special feature of PLAs is that an entire product catalog must be selected for the display ads, in addition to displaying specific individual products based on their ID or stored keywords. In this way, sellers can fine-tune their PLA campaigns and accurately measure their success.
Requirements for the use of Google Shopping
If you want to list your products on Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads, you will need a Google AdWords account in addition to the Google Merchant Center account. While only the data base is administered in the Merchant Center, the AdWords account is used to place the product ads.
Important to know: the products of your shop will be listed only in the price comparison of Google Shopping if you have separate PLA campaigns for them with sufficient funds. If there is no campaign or the budget is used up, the products will not be listed in the catalog.
You will be billed for the clicks on Google Shopping as per the payment method specified in your AdWords account.
Optimization for Google Shopping
Product lists can be saved in CSV format. You can optimize your product list with informative product titles. A variety of short descriptions of your products may get them better positioning in the Google product search. For PLAs specifically, a high click bid and a technically sound data feed can result in better placement in the image ads alongside the Google search results.
Components of the data feed
Google clearly defines what information must be contained in the product data feed, so that the products can also be used for PLAs and displayed in the product search. The price information and availability are important aspects. Each product must be clearly identifiable with a MPN (Manufacturer Part Number), an EAN or ISBN listed.
If the product list does not fulfill the requirements, the Merchant Center account may be blocked. It is therefore recommended that all data provided to Google is always up to date and as comprehensive as possible.
The regulations that apply to all AdWords ads generally apply to PLAs as well. Neither drugs nor weapons may be sold on Google Shopping. If you want to use Google shopping internationally, attention should be paid to the respective country requirements as published by Google. Strict rules apply, for example, for pharmacies that have to submit their pharmacy authorization to Google, in addition to the usual AdWords account registration.
Criticism of Google Shopping
With Google Shopping, the search engine provider has expanded its paid product portfolio and is thus in direct competition with other price portals and comparison shopping sites. Google has already received much criticism on its prominent display of PLAs because some competitors are of the opinion that Google exploits its position and puts other providers at a disadvantage.
Because Google has already integrated a flight search and offers navigation via Google Maps for free, users turn to other portals less and less and remain with Google’s offerings. With the current Hummingbird update and the improved Knowledge Graph, Google has strengthened its position further.
Google Shopping and SEO
When Google Shopping was still a free price portal, the listing served many SEOs to strengthen web presence as part of a universal search. A shop that presented its products on Google Shopping thus benefited at no additional cost from higher visibility in the SERP.
Today, Google Shopping and Google AdWords likely have no direct influence on the placement in the organic search results. However, an indirect SEO effect is possible, as with any SEA-measure. Because of the massive advertisement with PLAs, e-commerce merchants can ensure that their brand or shop is well-known and get progressively more results with “direct type-ins” and overall increased traffic, which in turn can result in Google’s stronger perception of the shop as a “brand.” Specifically less known or new online shops can quickly gain more prominence with PLAs. One reason for this is that PLAs are very prominently displayed. However, every distributer should first accurately weigh the ratio of costs and benefits.