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Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 3 , 2020

As Google Shopping celebrates its 18th birthday, the founders are giving vendors a nice gift: welcoming unpaid organic listings back to search results.

Here you’ll learn:

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

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects have been felt across the globe. As a result, many brick-and-mortar stores have closed, bringing online shopping to an all-time high.

As merchants migrated over to the e-commerce realm, some were met with unexpected obstacles like the need to pay for their product listings onto the Google platform.

In April 2020, Google announced that they were bringing free listings to the Google Shopping tab in the United States. Google’s reps said they’ve been planning to make the Shopping feature free for merchants for some time. The pandemic simply pushed them to implement changes earlier. The new development doesn’t mean that merchants can’t pay for advertising their products anymore. Paid campaigns will simply be augmented with free listings. 

Bill Ready, president of Google’s commerce division, explained that this change means stores can now get free exposure to the millions of users who use Google for their shopping needs every day. (The unpaid listings won’t show up on the search engine results page directly. Rather, they’ll be available under the “Shopping” tab.)

Online shopping package received from the mail

Google Shopping launched under a completely different name: Froogle. It was founded by Craig Nevill-Manning in 2002. (Image via Unsplash)

Google Shopping’s evolution

Google isn’t constantly evolving its shopping feature simply to please merchants and buyers. The service is fighting hard for its place in the online shopping world. In past years, reports say Google Shopping has been losing clients to its biggest competitor: Amazon.

By forcing merchants to pay for listings, Google inadvertently limited the number of products the service offered. With the new development, the service becomes more appealing to sellers, which should eventually bring more buyers to the platform.

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. The platform 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 search engine results page (SERP) right next to other results of the same search query.

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.

local business e-commerce

The ability to purchase directly from Google simplified the buying process, drove sales, and drove impulse buying. (Image via Unsplash)

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 United States. 

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 from Google Shopping (the Google Express feature was fully integrated into Google Shopping)

With these new features, Google Shopping became a highly convenient selling tool for retailers. The ability to purchase directly from Google simplified the buying process, drove sales, and drove impulse buying.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it 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 to 2020, and it has evolved into a serious e-commerce platform poised to give Amazon a run for its money.

The latest Google Shopping update allows merchants to list their products free of charge. Each new step of this evolution drives marketers to monitor and potentially improve their SEO campaigns, since the latest development emphasizes 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.

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

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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