Google responds to COVID-19 with free product listings

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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google shopping

Nothing in life is free – except selling on Google.

Starting the week of April 27, U.S. search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free product listings. For retailers who participate in the Google Shopping online marketplace, this change means free exposure to Google users. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. 

Existing users of the Google Merchant Center paid e-commerce service and Shopping ads don't have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings. Google says it will continue working to streamline onboarding for new users of Merchant Center over the coming weeks and months.The company plans to expand free Google Shopping listings globally by the end of the year.

Google is also launching a new partnership with PayPal to allow retailers to link their accounts to Google Shopping, which it expects to speed up the onboarding process and ensure it is surfacing the highest-quality results for users. The company says it is continuing to work closely with existing partners that help retailers manage their products and inventory, including Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, to make digital commerce more accessible for businesses of all sizes.

“The retail sector has faced many threats over the years, which have only intensified during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Bill Ready, president, commerce of Google. “With physical stores shuttered, digital commerce has become a lifeline for retailers. And as consumers increasingly shop online, they're searching not just for essentials but also things like toys, apparel, and home goods. While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Google had been expanding the features of Google Shopping. In March 2020, third-party Google Shopping retailers were allowed to start directly advertising to Gmail subscribers. Google also revamped Google Shopping in May 2019 to more directly compete with Amazon Marketplace via features such as personalized shopper homepages and shoppable YouTube Discovery ads. In October 2019, the online giant expanded Google Shopping further with features such as personalized suggestions and a price tracking tool.