Google wasted no time in jumpstarting 2020 with a core algorithm and shopping experience update early in the new year. Although it’s too early to determine the core algorithm update’s full impact on the search industry, the Google Shopping update already provides some direction and insights to Google’s greater plans and goals for 2020. Let’s take a look at what the update changes and how it’ll affect the ecommerce landscape.
Shopping Experience at a Glance
When shoppers enter search queries in shopping experience on mobile like “Women’s jackets,” “Men’s running shoes,” or “slim fit jeans,” Google pulls results from an index containing more than one million online shops. Google then combines popular product results for a query into one detailed, organized layout, displaying a variety of retailers selling the same or related products and their prices. Users can easily filter products by department, type, size and style.
How it Works
To appear in Google’s search index retailers must set up product feeds in Google Merchant Center and provide product information to fulfill fixed criteria. If a retailer fails to meet any of the criteria, such as providing prices or listing product conditions, Google denies them from appearing in the index. Google includes qualifying retailers in the highly structured product feed and product listing ads (PLAs), where they appear in the mobile experience. Consumers searching in shopping experience are then able to:
- Read reviews and easily compare prices across brands and retailers in one efficiently organized browser.
- Quickly filter to related, popular products.
- See brand history and additional information in the SERP.
The improvements to Shopping Experience align with a 2020 prediction Searchmetrics Inc. CEO Jordan Koene issued in the Voices of Search podcast about Google’s plans for the year, including the trending increase of zero-click SEO positioning in SERPs:
“I believe that one of the key transitions in this is going to be due to the fact that Google has over the last decade or so needed to find ways to appease consumers in a faster way. This really started with mobile and like mobile usability and the ability to show an experience that provided enough information on mobile.”
Google Moves to Acquire More Ecommerce Territory
The update indicates Google is aiming to acquire more territory from retail competitors and marks a continued effort to improve the mobile experience. Big name brands like Walmart and Amazon performed exceptionally well last year, successfully weathering Google core algorithm updates and peaking during the holidays. Their successes are attributed to their specialized offerings and user-friendly site layouts, providing robust categories and filter options.
Shopping Experience shares some of the successful features Amazon and Walmart use but Google is differentiating themselves from competitors by broadening the buyer experience. The improvements evolve the traditional shopping experience by providing controlled snippets and experiences while adding options to the SERP. The consolidated features improve the browsing experience, succinctly answering navigational, informational and transactional shopper queries.
The Update’s Potential Impact on Competitors
Google’s efforts to carve its own space in ecommerce may seem like a huge threat to competitors like Amazon and Walmart, but ecommerce juggernauts will likely remain unaffected. Searchmetrics Inc. CEO Jordan Koene analyzed the update, stating that although Google will acquire more informational searches through shopping experience, industry-leading retail companies should remain successful with their current marketing strategies:
“I think everyone wins in this game … Do I think Google’s trying to get more mind searches? Yes, but the reality is ecommerce stores should focus on is availability, shipping and the customer experience. That’s what they should continue focusing on. Not concentrate on trying a search experience.”
Expect to see more updates from Google throughout the year modifying and adding new features to create a better, personalized experience for shoppers. Participating marketers and companies should begin tracking visibility and ensure product descriptions are updated to ensure readability and seamless integration into Google’s shopping feed.