In this post, we take a look at a shopping feature from Google that has been around since the early 2000s. However, it has evolved and changed over time and is now known as Google Shopping.
Back on December 12th 2002, which coincidentally is Kenya’s day of independence, Google released Froogle a service invented by Craig Nevill-Manning which allowed users to search for products on online shopping websites and compare prices between different vendors.
In the years from 2002 the shopping product evolved until in 2020 when the world was hit by the COVID Pandemic, Google decided to release the present incarnation of the shopping platform now known simply as Google Shopping.
“In April 2020, Google announced that they were bringing free listings to the Google Shopping tab in the United States. Google’s reps said they’ve been planning to make the Shopping feature free for merchants for some time. The (COVID) pandemic simply pushed them to implement changes earlier. The new development doesn’t mean that merchants can’t pay for advertising their products anymore. Paid campaigns will simply be augmented with free listings.” SOURCE
Google Shopping is a platform that is still being rolled out worldwide and early adopters in Kenya are likely to find great benefit before the eCommerce online retail sector becomes fully immersed in the platform.
In this post we will dive into the platform and explain what it is, its benefits and outline how to set up shopping campaigns on the platform.
So let’s start off by asking the question, what exactly is Google Shopping?
1) What is Google Shopping ?
We have already seen Froogle was essentially a price comparison feature on Goggle back in 2002. By 2007, the price comparison platform had evolved to include a shopping feature which displayed results on the same Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) as the more familiar search results. Its name was also changed to Google Products. By 2010 Google Products was entirely made up of paid advertising.
In 2019 starting in France and the US, Google Shopping as it is currently built started rolling out worldwide. Google Shopping is an platform offered to eCommerce retailers. The platform allows them to showcase and market their products on a vast network of online assets including Google partner sites which include search partners, the Google Display Network, YouTube, Gmail, and many others.
For the eCommerce retailer the exposure on such a wide reaching variety of platforms is only one of the benefits of Google Shopping as we will see when we discuss the benefits.
Google Shopping comes in two flavors in Kenya and these are the free platform and the paid advertising platform. The rest of this post will be taken up by exploring these varieties
2) Google Shopping
You may have heard Google now allows merchants to list products in the Google Shopping tab for free, below the paid Shopping ads. This change went into effect on April 27 in the U.S., and is scheduled to go into effect by the end of 2020 worldwide. Google recently announced that it will soon allow free listings on the main Google Search results page too, which is huge news! The change is expected to apply to the U.S. this summer, first on mobile and later on desktop. SOURCE
Free product listings are available on Google Shopping even where the eCommerce retailer has no Google Ads account which is used for paid advertising.
The Free listings appear below the paid shopping ads on the SERPs pages which gives prominence of position to the paying advertisers but the ads themselves look remarkably similar. Unlike search ads which are Text in format, the shopping ads of both free and paid variety have photos of the products as a prominent part of the listing. Moreover they both show excerpts of the product description including its brand and also importantly its price.
This is because the image, description and price are likely the most important inputs into buying decisions.
Unlike the older and better known search and display ads, Google does not allow the advertiser to select Keywords before displaying products on the shopping listings. Goggle themselves determine the relevance of the product to the user query before showing the product. This means the data provided to Google in the product feeds from the eCommerce store is used to determine if the product is relevant and a good match for the search query.
It is therefore very important if you intend to use the Free Google shopping listing platform that your product data is highly accurate so searcher queries match your products and they are therefore displayed.
Paid google shopping ads are almost exactly the same as the free listings with the added advantage that they have more prominent placements on the display platforms on what are known as Google Surfaces.
3) Setting Up Google Shopping
Digital Marketers Nairobi is able to set up your shopping listings but if you want to do this for yourself here is an outline of the steps required.
a) Create a Google Merchant Center Account
This is the hub wherein you will control and manage your Goggle Shopping products for listing in the Free and Paid platforms. To create an account, navigate to https://merchants.google.com/ and use your Gmail account to setup and configure the account.
There are several critical pieces of data required, without which the account will not be set up and/or verified by Google. You must provide :
i) Time zone and language
ii) Users who have access to the center including their Gmail accounts
iii) Linked accounts such as Google Ads and Google My Business
iv) Shipping policies
v) Returns and refunds policies
vi) Business information including website, physical location and contact details
b) Data Feeds
The data feed is a complex information channel that comes out of your website or eCommerce platform and feed data to Google via the Merchant Center about your product or products. The feed can be manual but this is not an efficient way to provide product details to Google where you have more than one or two products. If your eCommerce store has multiple products you have to configure the semi automatic and fully automatic product feeds to drive data from your store to the merchant center and to update those products when you change their details on your store.
Google checks to see the details you provide them are the same as those on your website and where there is a discrepancy the products are barred from the shopping platforms until you correct the feed and update it.
Google also has the ability to crawl your store and retrieve the data for itself, but this removes much of the control required for relevant data in the feed from yourself. There are times when the Google bot does not for instance classify your products in the right categories and this may hurt your listings.
Once your product feeds are verified by Google they are eligible for display on the Free platform.
In order to show them on the paid platform you still have a few more steps to complete.
i) Ensure you have an active and configured Google Ads account
ii) Link the Google Ads account to your Google Merchant Center Account
iii) Set up a new shopping campaign with the appropriate budget and bids set
iv) The region for sales in the shopping campaign targeting must be the same as that set up for the merchant center
Once the campaign is setup with a start date the paid Google shopping ads will start to list based on search queries by shoppers on the Google surfaces.
4) Benefits of Google Shopping
For Google shopping paid ads your listing when it triggers in response to a search query will show up right at the top of the SERPs page. Do be aware that at times Google may show the shopping ads on the right hand side of the page and even at the bottom.
But the ads are well signposted and due to their visual nature and informative descriptions and prices they stand out to shoppers.
Google is fanatical about high relevance of advertising material to user search queries and intent. This is how they keep the users coming back which in turn guarantees advertisers pay for reaching those users and their searches. This is a big reason why Google Shopping was opened up to eCommerce online retailers to attract a large pool of them to the platforms. This in turn gives searchers more variety in products and grows Google Shopping as an eCommerce platform.
The benefits of this are clear for both retailers and consumers. The retailer has a large and growing audience and the consumer has a variety of competitive retailers offering high quality relevant ads for products they want.
As we saw earlier Google shopping in its current incarnation as a Free and Paid platform is still very new in markets like Kenya. eCommerce retailers in Kenya who take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to put their products in front of consumers will reap the benefits
At Digital Marketers Nairobi we can help you set up your Google Shopping experience for both Free and Paid varieties. Visit https://digitalmarketers.co.ke and see a complete prospectus of all our digital marketing services.
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