It’s Back To The Future With Google’s Free Shopping Ads

Last week, Google announced that after 8 years, they will once again start showing free ‘organic’ ads inside Google Shopping.

For retailers, being able to show products for free means that any retailer can have their products showing within the Google Shopping tab as part of the surfaces across Google program.

For advertisers already listing products in Google Shopping, it will mean bonus shopping traffic at no charge.

For shoppers using Google Shopping it will translate into more variety and more merchants and more products from which to shop.

Reasons For Offering Free Listings

Google is giving the reason they are once again making Google free is to help businesses negatively impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is true that by allowing merchants to list products at no charge within the surfaces across Google program, they are allowing millions of merchants and shoppers to connect without taking their Google’s usual cut.

It is also true that Google has vowed to give small and medium sized businesses $340 million in ad credits that advertisers will be able to use between when they are issued sometime in May and the end of the year. For more information go to this link –

The free shopping listings is not an idea that just materialized. This has been in the works from Google to combat Amazon in the fight for market share of online shopping.

By allowing more advertisers to list their products, Google will be able to give their shoppers a better shopping experience by allowing for more selection. And although not originally altruistically motivated, one should applaud Google for speeding up the release of the program as well as the ad credits soon to arrive for eligible small businesses.

What Does It Mean For Existing Advertisers?

It is important to note that free listings are only going to be eligible to appear within the Google Shopping tab. The prime real estate on the main search results page as well as the top of the Shopping tab page will still be reserved for paid ads with no change to how they are currently structured.

Therefore, by making sure you are opted into showing inside surfaces across Google program, paying advertisers should see some additional free traffic. This free traffic will be a nice bonus to existing advertising, but it should not be expected to replace the volume of traffic being generated through paid ads.

Free product ads should start automatically being displayed inside the Google Shopping tab, but to make sure your products are eligible you will want to ensure Google has opted you in.

To confirm opt in, select “Growth” and then “Manage programs” in the left navigation menu and select the “surfaces across Google” program card or make sure it already shows ‘Active’.

Note, that this account has surfaces across Google as active. This confirms that products are eligible to appear for free in the Google Shopping tab.

You can also now view inside your Merchant Center dashboard the number of free traffic visits alongside the paid traffic visits. Although it is early in the program, the image below shows the number of free traffic visits for this account approximately 2% of the daily paid traffic.  

Like I said earlier, don’t expect the amount of free traffic to replace your current paid traffic!

Instead paid advertisers should think of the additional free traffic as a nice supplement.

What Does It Mean For Those Not Previously Advertising With Google Shopping?

For those not currently advertising in Google Shopping, you will now be able have your products list within the surfaces across Google program at no charge.

In order to be eligible, you will need to first open a Google Merchant Center account and then you will need to upload your products into Google Merchant Center.

The most popular way to upload products in through a data feed. Many e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Big Commerce have free downloads you can use.

For complete instructions on opening a Merchant Center Account; best-practices and full tour of the interface, refer to my article There Can Be No Google Shopping Without A Google Merchant Account

It will be important to note that once you have opened an account, uploaded your products and opted into the surfaces across Google program your products will be eligible to appear inside Google Shopping tab.

However, the products opted into the free surfaced across Google will not get priority placement. Priority placement will still be reserved for paid ads.

With that said, there will be opportunity to receive free traffic through Google Shopping that was not available last week and with some work new advertisers can take advantage of this new opportunity from Google at absolutely no charge.

Final Word

This appears to be a win-win situation.

First, for Google, it gives them more products to display to their shoppers providing a better shopping experience.

Second, for paying advertisers, they are not losing any of the priority placements inside Google Shopping. Therefore, they are not losing any optimization work that may have been done optimizing their custom labels for product ads and bidding inside the Google Ads interface. Paid advertisers also are going to pick up some free incremental traffic to help supplement their paid Google Shopping efforts.

Third, for new advertisers not currently using Google Shopping, this is an opportunity to test Google Shopping absolutely free. I consistently find Google Shopping to have one of the best ROIs available for e-commerce retailers and now it is available on a limited basis to all retailers at no charge.

Overall, this is a change from Google where I can’t see anyone who will not benefit and there is plenty of room to be excited whether you are a paid advertisers, want to show your products for free or just want more options when shopping online.

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Happy Marketing!
Andy Splichal


Andy Splichal is the founder of True Online Presence, the founder of The Academy of Internet Marketing, author and certified online marketing strategist with twenty plus years of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues. To find more information on Andy Splichal, visit or read The Full Story on his blog,