Google and other channels continue to push ecommerce forward with features that enhance product discovery and streamline conversions. If you have not set up your Google Shopping merchant account and feed, you might be missing out on an easy and effective way to get more eyes on your products. Merchants who can provide optimized and well-structured product data are in the best position to reach more customers. Google’s “Popular products” section offers merchants one more way to get their products noticed in search results.
In January 2020, Google announced the addition of a “Popular products” section for searches on mobile devices. The new feature allowed certain queries to trigger a selection of popular products to show in the middle of the search results. Now product searches on desktop devices can also trigger the “Popular products” section to appear.
According to Google’s 2020 blog announcement, this feature on mobile applies primarily to searches for apparel, but is not limited to apparel. Keep in mind that this is still a beta feature and won’t show up consistently for many product searches. On desktop, we haven’t had much luck getting the “Popular products” section to appear for different apparel searches, but we’ve had success with searches for “leather basketball,” “flashlight,” “gas grill,” and other items.
Shoppers can click the side arrow to see more product options, and have the ability to filter products by price, brand, department, size, and other criteria.
How can merchants get their products to appear in “Popular products”?
When you click the three-dot icon next to the “Popular products” header, you’ll see a notice from Google that reads, “This is a search result, not an ad. Only ads are paid, and they’ll always be labeled with ‘Sponsored’ or ‘Ad.’”
You can’t pay for a product placement in the “Popular products” section, but you can increase the likelihood of Google displaying your product. As is the case for free, organic listings on Google Shopping, your Google Merchant Center product feed and structured data on your website can provide Google with the information it needs to identify a product match for a search query. You can submit a product feed to the Merchant Center even if you are not running any paid Shopping campaigns.
Here are the steps you must take to have your products appear in the “Popular products” section and other free Google surfaces:
- Ensure that you meet Google’s policy requirements for free listings.
- If you are submitting a product feed to the Google Merchant Center, you need to enable the free listings destination within the Merchant Center.
- If you don’t submit a product feed to the Merchant Center, your listings automatically show in the free listings if you have structured data markup on your website. The structured data allows Google to crawl your site and understand your product detail page.
Product feeds give you the most control over your product data and generally update faster and more reliably than Google web crawls.
How do “Popular product” listings work?
Google hasn’t specified what qualifies a product as “popular,” but we have noticed that many of the items in the “Popular product” section are available from multiple sellers. Most products are accompanied by a one-to-five-star product rating, though not always. Among the products with star ratings, we haven’t seen any rated lower than 3.5 yet. Google aggregates these product ratings from multiple sources across the Internet.
When a shopper clicks on a popular product, Google loads a new search results page using the product’s full title as the search query. On the right side of the page, there is a product overview made up of data compiled from multiple stores’ listings of that same product. The overview displays the product title, aggregated product rating, prices, and links to multiple retailers, as well as buttons for additional “Details,” “Reviews,” and “Stores.”
Clicking on the name of a retailer directs customers to the product page on the company’s site, where they can make a purchase. Retailers are not charged for the cost of a click, since these search results are links to product listings, not ads.
Merchants with Google Merchant Center accounts can still track their performance for these free listings, but Google does not distinguish between clicks from the “Popular products” section and other organic traffic. See Google’s help page on creating a Google Merchant Center performance report for organic traffic, plus our article for tracking these clicks in Google Analytics.
Quality product data allows merchants to maximize their potential and take advantage of the latest innovations in online shopping. As ecommerce continues to evolve, keep an eye on our blog for more updates about Google Shopping and tips for success.