5 min read

What’s happened to Google Shopping?

Article updated November 2023 - Updates on Google Shopping errors

What happened to Google Shopping 2021?

On August 20th 2021, Google Smart Shopping experienced some major errors in their AI resulting in traffic losses of up to 90%. If your Google shopping was not working, read on to find out what happened.

So, what happened to Shopping on Google?

Google Shopping Smart ads had a technical issue that prevented ads from being displayed to users. The drop in traffic was so significant that websites were losing 80-90% of their usual traffic, resulting in huge losses in revenue.

Google has since shared that the bug was completely resolved on 24th August, however, accounts were still seeing declines in their reach two weeks on.

What impact did this have for businesses? It resulted in a decline in revenue. 

How to Reduce the impact if Google Shopping has an error again?

As it was only Google Shopping Smart ads that were affected, there are a few options to reduce the impact on traffic and sales.

Firstly, it appeared only to be Smart Shopping that was impacted by the bug so a way users could get around the error was to set up a standard shopping campaign ASAP.

Secondly, having a strong search presence is key. This is so that when Shopping doesn’t display what a user is looking for, Search will.

The stores that were least affected by the bug were those with a high-quality search presence, so building this into your marketing strategy is essential. Prepare for the worst by having a full presence across Google to minimise any traffic and revenue drops if/when you Google Shopping not working.

Finally, how can Honchō help?

We offer a multi-method approach to achieving your business and marketing goals with paid media, including Google Shopping.

What happened to Google Shopping June 2021?

Back in April 2021, Google announced that they were completely shutting down the Google Shopping app at the end of June.

This was due to it being redundant based on the functionality already provided on the Google Shopping tab.

A Google spokesperson stated:

“We’ll continue building features within the Shopping tab and other Google surfaces, including the Google app, that make it easy for people to discover and shop for the products they love.”

Both the iOS and Android apps were removed with support ending at the end of June 2021. So if you were wondering what happened to Google Shopping’s app, there you go! It didn’t serve a unique purpose, as users were still using Google Search when looking for products.

What happened to Google Shopping April 2020?

Google Shopping only displayed paid listings until April 2020. Retailers have been able to list all their products for free for over a year now. This is another free and easy way to get in front of customers actively searching for your products.

There were plans for this to happen, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated Google’s plans. They stated it was to help businesses recover from the hard-hitting effects of lockdowns and restrictions

But there’s no doubt it’s another attempt by Google to monopolise the market, going up against eCommerce giants like Amazon and making the most of increased online shopping due to the pandemic.

Now any eligible retailers can have their entire stocklist on Google Shopping. There are certain rules to follow though, like having a white background in all your product shots.

Related reading: Free Google Shopping Listings: What Retailers Need to Know

What happened to Google Shopping in 2017?

Google Shopping will operate as a separate business, competing for the top SERPS, just like everybody else. We ask our PPC expert Andrew Mugridge what it means for search professionals, retailers and shoppers…..


What has Google done to Shopping?

On 27 September 2017, Google opened up its Google Shopping (Product Listing Ads) product to Comparison Shopping Services (CSS’s) allowing them to create and manage Shopping campaigns directly through AdWords and the Google Merchant Centre.

Before this change, Google shopping was only open to retailers who advertised through their own websites using a data feed of their own products.


Why did they do it?

Back In 2010, the European Commission started an investigation into Google after allegations of anti-competitiveness in their search algorithm. Fast forward 7 years, back in June this year Google were handed a hefty fine of 2.4bn euros ($2.7bn; £2.5bn) by the European Commission for abusing its dominance within the search engine market by building the online shopping service which we know today as Google Shopping.

As a result of this, on 27th September this year Google responded with possibly one of the biggest changes to come to Google Shopping for some time. Google’s parent company Alphabet has decided to split off their Shopping operations into a brand new business entity. This will means that from now on they will have to bid to be featured within their own platform with seemingly no preferential treatment, just like everyone else.


What do you make of the timing of this news?

It’s an interesting time to make such a big change, especially with the holiday season fast approaching – typically the busiest time of year for ecommerce businesses. And with this new change, it could bring in a lot more competition to the market, which could drive up overall costs for retailers advertising on the platform.

I’m not saying we should panic and increase budgets etc. but I do suggest monitoring campaigns closely over the coming weeks and months in the lead up to the holidays to see how this change really impacts your campaigns keeping a particular eye on the number of impressions that your products receive.


How does it affect EU retailers?

It’s too early to tell how this will directly affect EU retailers as such at this present time, apart from the potential increase in competition in the market which could lead CPC’s (cost per click) to increase exponentially.

If you don’t currently use Google Shopping but you are selling on the Consumer Shopping Service sites you should soon see the benefit of a brand new marketplace being opened to you.


I have Christmas presents to buy – how does it affect me?

Well if you love to shop around and find a cheap bargain, you could well be in for a treat. As Google introduce the CSS’s this will bring in more retailers to the market, who could well be offering the products you are searching for, even cheaper.


Do my search results look different?

They’re not changing much at all in terms of the look. In fact, you may not even notice a change at first glance. However, they are making a small change to the layout and will now include a badge at the bottom of the ads to help distinguish if the ad was from the classic PLA or an ad from a third-party site.


Does this open up any new opportunities for EU buyers or sellers?

In short, yes – with the introduction of the CSS’s to the Google Shopping realm, it will allow EU buyers to shop from more retailers who may not have been in the marketplace before.


What does this mean for EU search professionals?

Like every year, the busiest time for our ecommerce clients means a busy time for us search professionals as we help them stand out to customers. However, this year is going to be slightly different with a closer eye on the shopping campaigns to ensure that CPC’s and costs don’t rise too much, and that our clients ads are still getting seen on Google Shopping.


Does Google win or Lose from this situation?

After looking at this update in some detail over the last couple of days, personally, I don’t see any clear winners with the Comparison Shopping Services (CSSs) or Google as it’s still early days. However, Google are not stupid and I’m sure they will have the last laugh.


Will this change for UK buyers and sellers on Google Shopping after Brexit?

This is an interesting question and one, if I’m honest, I’m not quite sure of the answer at this present time. As with anything to do with Brexit at the moment, it’s a pressing question – no one really knows what will happen come March 2019.


What’s next?

It’s going to be an interesting time in the lead up to the Holiday season to see how this change actually does affect the industry. We will be sure to update with any more findings we have in the near future as we monitor this closely over the coming months.


Honchō are a Google Premier Partner Agency offering Paid Search and Shopping management. If you'd like to learn more about our services Click Here ->

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