Google headquartersGoogle headquarters, Dublin, Ireland - 14 Sep 2018

Google is nixing fees for product listings in its shopping tab, the company announced Tuesday.

According to a company spokesperson, the move effectively ends Google’s policy of charging cost-per-click ad fees, which previously factored into how the tech giant ranks shopping search results.

The rep pointed to a Google blog post, which invokes the coronavirus crisis as a rationale behind the decision.

“The retail sector has faced many threats over the years, which have only intensified during the coronavirus pandemic,” wrote Bill Ready, president of commerce at Google. “With physical stores shuttered, digital commerce has become a lifeline for retailers….While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale.”

CPC advertising fees weighed into how Google’s algorithms prioritized shopping search results. Now, the entire search results page will comprise free listings ranked purely on relevance and quality.

While a timely move, the change is more than just a response to the coronavirus’ retail devastation. It’s almost impossible to ignore that, when it comes to product searches, Amazon’s threat to Google has risen sharply, as the e-commerce site has become the de facto product search engine for millions of consumers looking for essentials and other goods.

Little surprise then that Google would want to make the switch for its shopping page.

“Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.

“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs,” Ready added. “For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab.”

He also noted that advertisers will also benefit, with paid campaigns being “augmented with free listings.”

The new policy will be start in the U.S. by the end of the month, with global expansion effective by the end of the year. To help simplify things for retailers, Google also announced a new partnership with PayPal, so merchants can link their accounts.

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