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Newcomer’s Guide to Google Shopping

December 14, 2020

Google offers a number of platforms (or destinations, as they also call them) specifically designed for e-commerce merchants to promote their products on Google. Over the years these have evolved, some changing names or context along the way. If it’s not already somewhat confusing for the newcomer to figure out what does what for whom, they also throw into the mix a number of other platforms that you’ll have to use in conjunction with their core destinations.

Since one or more of these platforms should be an essential piece of your marketing arsenal, let’s have a quick review of each and give you some clarity when you start to consider where to start building your first campaigns.

Google Merchant Center

To run on any of the Google Shopping destinations, your first stop is the Google Merchant Center (GMC). It’s the bridge between your store and your chosen Google destinations, a digital warehouse or repository for your store’s products. It also stores a key setup information required by Google to create your account and to promote your products.

To cross this bridge and move your products from your Shopify store into the Google Merchant Center, you’ll use one of the AdAmplify Google Shopping apps. Our apps seamlessly upload your products into the GMC and keep them current when changes in your Shopify store occur (e.g., new products, revised product descriptions, inventory changes, pricing updates, etc.). All of these are managed for you so the Merchant Center is feeding current information to your chosen Shopping destinations.

Google Shopping

This is Google’s online “marketplace” where your products can be presented to consumers  searching or browsing Shopping. Google Shopping is evolving constantly. One of the newer innovations for Buy on Google merchants is that, in addition to their products being displayed when users search in the Shopping tab, they also have their own branded space where all their products are displayed.

The biggest change is that Google Shopping now has the capability for consumers to purchase your products using the Google universal shopping cart while on the Shopping site. And you can now choose any mix of three destinations once you’ve uploaded your products into the GMC: Free Product Listings, Google Shopping ads, and Buy on Google. These in combination have been shown to out-perform Google text ads, converting at  a 30% higher conversion rate.

So, let’s have a look at these Google shopping destinations:

Free Product Listings

Free Product Listings is a new free destination that displays your products to consumers on Google Shopping, Google Search, and other Google platforms, including Google Images, Google Lens, and YouTube.

Free Product Listings are the easy to manage. Other than uploading your products to the Google Merchant Center using an AdAmplify app’s feed, there is nothing more you need to do to make your products eligible for display in Free Product Listings.

You should take advantage of the full capabilities of Free Product Listings by qualifying for Enhanced Listings (available only in the US currently), which allows users to purchase your products right in Google Shopping. There’s more involved to qualify for Enhanced Listings, as you need to meet Google’s requirements which means a bit more initial set up work on your part.

Again, this is a free program from Google. It’s part of their initiative to have the richest and most extensive shopping experience for consumers by providing the deepest possible selection of products. If you do nothing else on Google Shopping, don’t pass on the opportunity to promote your products through Free Product Listings.

More on Free Product Listings here.

Buy on Google

Buy on Google was released in 2019 (as Google Shopping Actions) and is a close cousin to the more established Google Shopping ads. In fact, aside from the small shopping cart icon in the corner of the ad, they look much the same. But looks is where it ends!

Until recently Actions was based on a cost-per-sale model, not a pay-per-click model – meaning that you only paid Google after a purchase was made in its universal shopping cart by a consumer. But, on July 23, 2020, Google announced major changes to Google Shopping Actions, including moving it to a free model like Free Product Listings, followed a few months later with an announced renaming of Actions to Buy on Google.

Like Free Product Listings, Google manages the campaigns for you, so Buy on Google also means less work for you than managing Shopping Ads where you are responsible for setting up and managing campaigns in Google Ads platform.

More on Buy on Google here.

Google Shopping Ads

Not to be confused with Google Ads, their ad management platform (see below), Google Shopping ads offer much more than their older brethren, the simple text ads – they show users an image of your product, along with such information as its title, price, your brand name, and any applicable promotional discount. Google Shopping ads displays your products at the top of the search results – above the paid and organic text ads. 

With Google Shopping ads you’re promoting your products to qualified prospective purchasers when they’re looking to buy. Properly configured and tuned, this is one of the best advertising channels to reach relevant purchasers. Once on your site, you have the opportunity to engage them, convert them to subscribers and purchasers, up-sell them, and promote your products to them through email and retargeting.

AdAmplify’s experience is that after the run-in period, getting our campaigns up and tuned, we were able through optimizing the program to generate a positive return on our ad spend (ROAS) in excess of $1.50 in revenue for every $1.00 spent). Over the past two years, 9.9% of our total Google Shopping Ads revenue came from subsequent purchases from users first introduced to us through Google Shopping ads.

When a user clicks on one of your Google Shopping ads, they are redirected to the relevant detailed product page on your store’s site. Similar to pay-per-click text ads, Google charges you a fee for the clicks on each of your ads.

More on Google Shopping ads here.

Google Ads

Google Ads was the platform originally developed to manage pay-per-click text ads going back to the early 2000s. Among other types of campaigns, it is now also used to set up and manage Google Shopping ads campaigns. Once your products are uploaded to the Google Merchant Center, you’re ready to have your products shown in Shopping ads.

You start by linking your Merchant Center to your Google Ads account. Once linked, you can set up one or more Shopping Ads campaigns, establishing your daily budget for each, and associating each campaign to keywords, as well as negative keywords you don’t want your ads served up against; audiences; and geographic locations).

You also define whether your campaign’s goal is to maximize clicks or conversions; and once you’ve reached a milestone number of sales (a minimum of 20 conversions in the past 45 days), you may convert your campaign goal to one maximizing return on ad spend (ROAS) and set a goal (e.g., 400% – $4 of revenue for each $1 spent). Google then uses these settings and their algorithms to meet or beat the goal you set.


You’re now ready to decide which of these three platforms – Free Product Listings, Buy on Google, or Google Shopping ads – you should use. Check out What Google Ad Platforms Should You Use?

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