What is Google Shopping?

Google Shopping ads are paid listings that appear predominantly on the 'Shopping' tab of the Google search engine results page (SERP), although they are also displayed in YouTube and some Gmail placements. The ads displayed contain a product image, title, price and description.

Similar to Amazon, shoppers can browse and compare products from a wide range of brands and retailers.

In order to serve ads, advertisers upload a feed containing their product information into the Google Merchant Center. Ads serve based on a products relevance (e.g. description and title) to the users search term, and the bid set in Google Ads. 

The Google Shopping tab has become the ‘go to’ place for users when they are looking to buy and research products. In April 2020 alone, Google Shopping orders grew by 113% YoY. 

The shopping tab is a key area that Google is aiming to grow for customers over the next few years, aiming to make it easier for them to compare products and checkout, without ever needing to leave the Google browser.

Google Shopping ads are an important placement for online retailers and due to Google’s focus on growing the placement will likely become crucial if the future.

What is a Product feed?

If you’re website is built in an eCommerce platform, for example Shopify, you’re in luck! You can sync your product data over from Shopify to Google Merchant Center via an app – making it easier to go live without the need for setting up a feed. If not, you will need to create a product feed, also known as a ‘Primary Feed’ in order to run Google Shopping ads.

A ‘Primary Feed’ is essentially a list of your products in an excel format or Google Sheet that is uploaded into the Google Merchant Center. A schedule needs to be created to refresh the data each day each day (e.g. price & stock levels) keeping it accurate. Once approved, you will be enabled to run Google Shopping ads.

The mandatory details you need to provide for each product can be found below:

  • Product ID or SKU (Stock Keeping Unit)

  • Product Title – use as many relevant keywords as possible

  • Product Description – use as many relevant keywords as possible

  • Link to the product detail page

  • Link to the product image

  • Stock availability

  • Price

  • Brand

  • GTIN (Global Trade Item Number)

  • Condition

  • Google Product Category

More information on setting up a Google Shopping feed, and industry nuances, can be found in this Google support article

What is included in a Google Shopping Ad?

Slightly different to the standard Google text ad, Google Shopping ads include an image of your product, plus a title, price, and shop name. In some instances, you will also serve: promotional information, store proximity/location, seller star rating and further product information, such as material.

Due to the level of detail included, Google Shopping ads drive qualified traffic that is in-market to buy a product – making these ads essential for SME retailers.

Types of Google Shopping Ads

There are a few types of Google Shopping ads:

  • Smart Shopping campaigns are entirely automated by Google. You upload your products into the Google Merchant Center, set your efficiency target, and leave Google to run and optimise your campaigns. These work great for retailers looking to dip their tor in the water with Google Shopping campaigns.

  • Standard Shopping campaigns give you a little more control. Advertisers pick the products they want to promote, set the bids and manage optimisation and targeting. These are best suited to eCommerce businesses who want a little more control (and visibility) into what products from their catalogue they are supporting.

  • Local Inventory Ads allow advertisers to display products and shop information to nearby users searching with Google. This ad format works well if for retailers who drive consumers in-store or promote click & collect as store locations (and proximity) displays as part of your ad.

  • Showcase Shopping Ads allow advertisers to group together related products and present them in one ad. This works best for retailers who have a wide selection of products, and want to drive visibility for users searching more upper funnel keywords (e.g. ‘bikes’ or ‘furniture’).

Why is Google Shopping Advertising Important for SME Retailers?

Google Shopping is increasingly developing its shopping product to compete with Amazon. People shop on Amazon due to the combination of paid and organic listings, ease of checkout, and selection of products, and matching consumers with the best retailers (as opposed to the retailer with the deepest pockets) that Google wants to prioritise over the next few years. 

First of all, Google Shopping placements have traditionally been paid for, however as Google looks to grow this placement, there has become a growing need to display both sponsored and organic listings. You may remember back in 2017, the EU fined Google over £2bn for promoting its own shopping comparison service at the top of search results. Following this, Google made huge strides in its shopping platform to improve experience and product choice from a shoppers point of view. 

As of 2020, Google has started to incorporate ‘free listings’ into the shopping tab in the US. In order to be eligible to serve you will need to have a Google Merchant Center account setup with some/all of your products updated. Advertisers can check you are eligible to serve in free placements by going to 'Growth' in the Google Merchant Center, and confirming that 'Surfaces Across Google' is active. This won't show up until the placements are available in your market. Search Engine Land have got a great video tutorial for setting up tracking for Google Shopping free listings in Google Analytics. 


The Free Listings on Google Shopping is a huge development in levelling the playing field between large advertisers who dominate the paid spaces, and smaller eCommerce businesses who have quality products that shoppers want, but don’t have as deep pockets as their competitors.

Another area Amazon has outshone Google Shopping in recent years is that on Amazon users will be able to purchase products without leaving the marketplace. Google plans to develop their ‘Buy On Google’ service, allowing users to purchase products using payment data from their Google Accounts (Google Pay). In 2020, Google aims to increase the service and also is making it commission free, to encourage more advertisers to get involved. 

As the quality of Google’s Shopping offering increases with the ‘Buy On Google’ and ‘Free Listings’ updates, it’s likely that the number of people using the Shopping tab will also increase – making it more important than ever for small business retailers.

Interested in learning more about Google Shopping. Check out our latest Google Shopping blogs on: ‘Free Google Ads Ops For SME Businesses’, ‘Google Shopping Free Ad Credits For British SMEs’  and ‘3 Google Shopping Updates to Expect in 2020’.