Advertising products online for free

What is the current trend of e-commerce?

In this article we will delve into a useful method of advertising your products online for free, but first, let's look at the background of e-commerce developments. The trend towards e-commerce is now unstoppable. This was inevitable as technology moved forward, allowing purchasers to buy what they wanted, from the comfort of their own home, with products delivered to their door in the most convenient way possible. The covid-19 pandemic forced the few consumers who previously shunned e-commerce to adapt to online ordering, as physical retail outlets remained closed. The development is evident when seen in some striking statistics from Statista, The Circular Board and finally Cybercrew below:

  • The UK boasts the most advanced e-commerce market in Europe, with figures from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) putting the United Kingdom's e-commerce revenue in 2019 at £693 billion, a sharply rising figure
  • The UK accounts for 14.5% of global e-commerce retail sales, with 87% of UK households buying online in 2020
  • UK consumers are expected to spend a staggering £141.33 billion on internet shopping in 2021 

Businesses of all shapes and sizes now prioritise e-commerce as their primary revenue stream, focussing on selling their products online first, above all other methods such as physical retail or telephone sales. Your business, however small, may now be looking to get your products online; you are possibly wondering where you can advertise your products and if there is anywhere that you can begin advertising products online for free. There is a vast range of places to advertise your products online, from social media to marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Etsy. You can also promote your products on search engines such as Bing; however, there is one search engine with absolute domination of online space, this is, of course - Google. A recent new development at Google allows online retailers to advertise their products without cost.

What is Google Shopping?

With all of the places to advertise your e-commerce business in mind, Google is a clear favourite. There are many ways to use the Google platform for advertising, but the best way for a company that is e-commerce product based, like an online retailer, is through Google Shopping. 

Google Shopping is undoubtedly one of the most significant shopping comparison engines on the internet. You can see this yourself by viewing the Shopping tab in Google and searching for a product you are interested in. 

Browse Google Shopping

The platform is designed as the product version of the Google search engine. You can think of this as the usual Google text-based search results that you are used to, but instead of loading websites, this will load picture based products from merchants that you can then click on to take you to the website where the product is sold. When searching, the results will show an image of the product, the name of the retailer, the price, and the delivery cost. You can then click on the product to read a product description and see different product variations such as size or colour type.

Why should an e-commerce retailer use Google Shopping?

The platform has been on quite a journey; it started as a free service back in 2012, then went to a cost-per-click model working the same way as Google Ads. During this time, Google heavily developed the platform to improve how it displays shopping adverts, which Google regularly experiments on to evolve the platform. Paid Google Shopping Ads are seen as a carousel of products at the top or right page in Google above the text-based searches. You can also, of course, find the shopping results in the dedicated Google Shopping tab, which opens up the entire marketplace. 

Every e-commerce retailer, even those without any advertising budget, should use Google Shopping as they have recently allowed advertisers to promote their products for free using Google Shopping listings. This development comes after a long period of only allowing retailers who pay to display their products on the platform. This is an exciting development, as it opens up Google Shopping to many more merchants. 

Google stated that their development was a result of covid-19. They wanted to help businesses severely affected by the pandemic; allowing retailers to promote their products for free would give struggling retailers a chance to help their businesses. However, Google was likely contemplating this move for some time, as they seek to compete with other significant online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.

The free listings in Google will only appear as products within the shopping tab; this will work similarly to the current text-based listings in Google, where the top of page prime online real estate listings will be reserved for paid advertisers only. Paid ads will also feature at the bottom of the page; everywhere else is free listings where any retailer can have their products displayed. Only the critical top and bottom of page spaces will be reserved for paid advertisers. You should not expect any free listings to replace traffic volumes from paid advertising on Google Shopping. Understandably, you will not gain more from a free listing than a paid advertiser would. Still, any free traffic received from the free listings is a welcome bonus.

Six Six Marketing helps businesses by advertising products online for free

How do you use Google Shopping when advertising your products online for free?

To get started promoting your products for free in Google Shopping, you will need a Merchant Centre account and a feed. A feed takes data from your website and inputs this into the Google Shopping platform to display your products in the listings. There are several ways to create a feed; you can use a website crawl or a third party integrated feed, such as through Shopify or other e-commerce channels. You can also use product data stored on Google Sheets. You will then also need to make sure that your website products and your pages contain all the data and information necessary to get approved for Google Shopping, which can be tricky and does take time. This includes content such as a refund policy, shipping policy and what you are selling must meet Google's minimum standards on product information. You should try to make sure your products are described in as detailed a way as possible, with accurate measurements and specifications, for example. Sometimes Google will even disapprove your profile or products for advertising on Google Shopping due to a minor error on one of your website's policies, such as shipping or returns, without even telling you what the issue is. You then need to guess what is wrong and amend it before reviewing your account for approval.
Once you have sorted your website feed, ensure that this takes data regularly and feeds this into Google Merchant Centre often so that your products, price, and stock levels show correctly. You are then ready to get policy and product approval. After you have products with the correct data that meet Google's strict policies - you are then good to go and ready to enjoy a new stream of traffic and leads to your website for free. Now you can enjoy the benefits of advertising your e-commerce products online without cost with the internet's most popular search engine.
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