Written by Caroline Cox on Aug 1 , 2022

Let’s look back at the last 20 years of Google Shopping.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The 411 on new Google Shopping developments
  • Ways the platform has evolved since it began
  • How Froogle evolved into Google Shopping
  • How the latest changes can affect your brand

In the past few years, the pandemic ignited a boom of online shopping (aka e-commerce). More brands than ever before moved operations online, and virtual shopping hit an all-time high, surpassing $4.2 trillion worldwide.

As more merchants continue to populate the e-commerce realm, the search engine has been working to keep up and optimize accordingly.

In April 2020, Google announced that they were bringing free listings to Google, giving stores free exposure to the millions of users who use Google for online shopping every day. The unpaid listings show up under the “Shopping” tab, not the actual search engine results page (SERP).

More recently, Google introduced a new “swipeable” shopping feed on search in May 2022. According to Search Engine Land, “organic results will be joined by shopping ads in one larger swipeable visual feed.”

This year marks two decades of Google Shopping. Let’s look back at how far the platform has come.

Online shopping package received from the mail

Even though it was free to list products on Froogle, merchants had to pay to display sponsored links. (Image: Unsplash)

How Google Shopping began

Google Shopping first launched under a completely different name: Froogle. Craig Nevill-Manning founded the platform in 2002.

Froogle started out as a service that helped people search for products online and compare their features and prices. Back then, listing products was free of charge. 

Google Shopping was highly convenient for buyers and monetized through Google Ads (Google AdWords at the time) by sellers.

The platform’s initial goal was to help buyers compare products. The idea quickly gained popularity since it allowed customers to explore different brands without switching to other websites. Even though it was free to list products on Froogle, merchants had to pay to display sponsored links.

From Froogle to Google Products

In 2007, Froogle evolved from a comparison service to a place where customers could also make purchases. That’s when higher ups changed the name to Google Product Searches.

The reasoning was simple: A witty pun that tied Google and “frugal” together was lost on many international users. Eventually, Google Product Searches was shortened to the more concise Google Products.

The same year, the service went through a major change. The site formerly known as Froogle was integrated with Google Search. This meant products could appear on the SERP right next to other results of the same search query.

Want to learn more about optimizing your product listings for SEO? Let us know.

Google Products becomes Google Shopping

Another major change came about in 2012, when Google Products stopped being a free service and turned into Google Shopping. Now, merchants had to pay to get their products listed.

Google explained that the move was sparked by the brand’s desire to improve user experience and help connect searchers with the right sellers. At that time, Google also launched a Google Express feature. This allowed shoppers to put products from different merchants into the same cart on the platform and make an instant purchase.

Pro tip: The Google Merchant Center dashboard is where retailers can manage Shopping campaigns and listings. Search Engine Land highlighted some new changes to this dashboard: a ‘pause’ attribute to temporarily halt ads, availability dates for backorder and preorder products, and an updated “unsupported Shopping content policy” regarding motor-powered bicycles.

Person adding clothes psd to cart closeup for virtual shopping campaign

The ability to purchase directly from Google simplified the buying process and drove sales as a result. (Image: Rawpixel)

Google Shopping grows into a major e-commerce platform

In 2019, the platform took a huge step toward becoming a serious e-commerce platform. The new update rolled out in France, then became available in the U.S.

This update focused on customer personalization and made the checkout process easier with a few new features:

  • Recommendations – Google started offering product recommendations based on the user’s browser history and the products they viewed or purchased — the users also got a personalized homepage
  • Price tracking – users could track the price on their favorite products so Google could notify them whenever prices dropped
  • Local searches – allowed users to search for certain products and retailers in their local area
  • Instant purchase – the ability to purchase products directly (the Google Express feature was fully integrated into Google Shopping)

With these added features, Google Shopping became an even more convenient selling tool for retailers. The ability to purchase directly from Google simplified the buying process and drove sales as a result.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Google Shopping was becoming more and more like Amazon. The new update stirred even more competition between the two platforms.

Pro tip: The ability to list products for free on Google Shopping may require adjustments to your search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns. The quality and optimization of the product feed is crucial to the likelihood of it appearing as a response to the search query.

The takeaway

In 2002, Google Shopping started as a user-friendly product comparison service. Fast-forward 20 years to today, and it has evolved into a serious e-commerce platform continuing to give Amazon a run for its money.

Google continues to update its Shopping platform to benefit both sellers and buyers. Each new step of this evolution drives marketers to monitor and potentially improve their SEO campaigns as it continues to emphasize the importance of title, image, and product description optimization.

This evolution is a great example of a brand working steadfast to please users while remaining competitive and current with ever-changing technology.

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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