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How to make the most of Surfaces across Google
(and solve some of the early problems)

By Chris Dawson November 13, 2020 - 12:00 pm

Thomas J. Vosper - How to make the most of Surfaces across Google (and solve some of the early problems)In mid-October, Google rolled out ‘Surfaces across Google’ in the EU – giving advertisers access to free listings inside the Google Shopping tab. However there were some early problems and if you’re still not sure how to handle Surfaces across Google then today our friend, Thomas J. Vosper of aisle 3, walks through everything you need to know.

aisle 3 was founded in 2020 by Justin Thomas, James Valbuena and Thomas J. Vosper to help Shoppers discover, validate and buy the things they love. They work with several digital marketing agencies, feed solutions and partner services, as well as direct retailers who reach in-market Shoppers on their site and Advertisers keen to access savings and support via Surfaces Across Google and Comparison Shopping Services.

If you’re a retailer looking to get access to new, in-market shoppers, or have any quesions about Surfaces across Google, then reach out to the team today and get set up on aisle-3.co.

Surfaces across Google

Originally launched in the US in Spring 2020, it’s not quite the rumoured re-hash of ‘Froogle’ but is important to marketplace sellers who have their own ecommerce stores and is a potential opportunity to reach new customers for free using Google’s audience.

Any reputable Digital Marketing or PPC agency will be able to help sellers set up Google Ad campaigns and get access to the Google Shopping tab, so independent sellers should be looking at their options ahead of the busiest Q4 shopping period online, ever.

Since the EU Competition Commission’s record fine in 2017, Google has opened the product ads carousel to multiple Comparison Shopping Services (in which Google Shopping is now on equal footing with around 80 platforms across Europe).

This has enabled advertisers to access all of the benefits that Google offers such as Local Inventory Ads and Smart Shopping whilst operating under a CSS with a different commercial model. For example, aisle 3 is one of the many partners able to support CSS discounts and enable access to the Free Surfaces across Google listings.

Unfortunately, many advertisers have been unable to access surfaces or have noticed unexpected disapproved products appearing in their merchant centre since the rollout.

Thankfully, most current CSS providers and Digital marketing agencies should be able to correct this issue reasonably quickly and easily either directly or by following the instructions within this article.

In this post we explain:

  • What is Surfaces across Google?
  • What do the free listings look like on Google Shopping?
  • Problems to be aware of
  • How to verify your URL and ensure your products appear on Surfaces
  • Further Reading and Support

What is Surfaces across Google?

Surfaces across Google is a Merchant Center programme that allows advertisers products to appear in unpaid product listings on Google surfaces including Google Search, the Google Shopping tab and Google Images.

Unpaid standard listings can appear on Google Search and Google Images whilst unpaid enhanced listings appear on the Google Shopping tab.

What is Surfaces across Google

What do the free listings look like on Google Shopping?

On a desktop, the organic listings don’t look all that different from the ads. However, on mobile, Google is using several different treatments for free listings, depending on the product category.

The typical free listings treatment for most product categories looks like with horizontal listings underneath a product carousel, however, it’s quite likely that Google will continue to test and deploy new formats and features across categories and devices.

Problems to be aware of

Some existing advertisers are seeing disruption as Google no-doubt continue to test the user experience. With the influx of free listings has certainly impacted the visibility and conversion of some existing campaigns and it remains to be seen how this pans out over the next, busy quarter.

If you woke up recently to a sea of red in your Google Merchant Centre you were not alone. This was a common occurrence for many advertisers and agencies due to difficulties accessing the CSS Dashboard and/or claiming their site URL.

Surfaces across Google problems to be aware of

In order to access Surfaces, advertisers need to verify their website URL in their Merchant Centre – something that is not easy to identify under the CSS programme.

Make sure you reach out to your agency to understand the process and the actual impact on business. Whilst it can feel alarming to see a sharp rise in Disapprived products the actual impact may be minimal to the business – in many cases due to the influx of free listings this may be affecting no more than a handful of organic clicks.

In any case, the inconsistent issues many agencies and their clients have seen has caused some unnecessary confusion that, whilst a little clunky, is fairly easy to resolve.

How to verify your URL and ensure your products appear on Surfaces

It’s easy to set up surfaces via your merchant centre account and enable them within your CSS Dashboard. Unfortunately, the issue that many retailers have encountered is that they simply do not have access to or cannot find the details to do this.

The fix for Surfaces (here & below) is a little long-winded but has been rubber-stamped by Google.

  • Create a new (Google Shopping CSS) merchant centre
  • Claim and verify the domain
  • No need to upload any products or do any configuration at all
  • The CSS management centre should now show up and you can select how to list for Surfaces from here

This may seem a little odd but the reasoning is contained within this useful guide which explains that this set-up is used to prevent Merchant Centres which sit directly within a CSS MCA claiming Surfaces without merchant control.

This by extension unfortunately means going through the same process for associated accounts, which the vast majority of CSS accounts fall into.

Further Reading and Support

If you have any further questions or concerns about Surfaces or other Google Shopping products and/or betas, just get in touch with the team at aisle 3 how are happy to help or put you in touch with an established agency who can support.

  • SAM
    2 weeks ago

    So it is not just me.
    Like banging your head against a brick wall is Google. I cant afford agencies so have to DIY.

    Non of my products were approved till some boffins from Google did something. Still not up and going, I gave up.
    I use my Google feed for just about everything apart from selling on Google .
    This is where FACEBOOK get it right it is easy and it works 2 paid ADS running most the time.

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