Updates from Google that you might have missed for ecommerce - Sep/Oct ‘22

Keeping up with the latest at Google is no easy task. Between official announcements, rumors, launches, conference appearances, and more, there’s a lot going on. And if you’re an ecommerce merchant, you want to know exactly what the most important news is for your store and SEO strategy.

As we head into the 2022 holiday season, it’s going to be valuable to understand any recent updates that might influence your customers and how they discover your store. So let’s look at some announcements from Google’s Search On event, and some other recent updates you may have missed.

What is Google Search On, and what was announced?

Search On is Google's annual event, where they dish out information on what they’ve been working on, and what they’ll be adding to the search experience. The team at Google is always looking for ways they can reimagine their products and services to come more in line with how people engage with search as part of their daily lives. As they put it: 

“We call this making search more natural and intuitive, and we’re on a long-term path to bring this vision to life for people everywhere.”

Essentially, their goal this year is to bring more multidimensional experiences to search users. The way we use search now compared to ten or even twenty years ago is vastly different, and it’s changing every other month at this rate. With the rise in challenger platforms like TikTok with immersive experiences, Google has to do more to remain competitive. The announcements from Search On ‘22 reflect that, by bringing in more immersion to the results and tools Google gives its users.

The update we want to talk about which is most relevant to ecommerce, are the new features Google is introducing to enhance the online shopping experience.  

More features and tools for shopping

Google didn’t just announce one tweak or update to shopping with Google, but 9 new features. These are all designed to make the shopping experience more engaging and immersive, rather than Google being simply a search tool. 

1 - Search with the word “shop” 

US based search users will be able to input “shop” followed by the product they’re looking for to bring up a visual feed of products, tools, and nearby inventory. For ecommerce merchants, this is going to make your images and structured data even more valuable, so your products really shine in this new, more engaging shopping experience through Google. Google Shop with feature

For more global merchants, Google is also expanding shoppable search beyond just apparel to all categories across every region.

2 - Shop the look

When shopping for apparel on Google, users can opt to “shop the look” and assemble an outfit based on their initial search. Say you’re searching for a new pair of jeans, Google will be able to bring up suggestions and shoppable images to find complementary products.

3 - What’s trending

If anyone understands trends, it’s Google. They’re making full use of their data and understanding around trends, and bringing their insight to the shopping experience. The “what’s trending” tool will pull up products trending within a category including images and information. 

4 - Shop in 3D

According to Google, users engage 50% more with 3D images than static ones. In an effort to therefore make the shopping experience more engaging, they’re expanding their “shop in 3D” feature to apparel starting with footwear, after first introducing it for homeware earlier this year. 

Google shop in 3D feature

Not only that, but they’re making it easier for merchants to create 3D images. Using machine learning and automation, Google will be able to generate 3D imagery from just a few images rather than requiring thousands. This is in an effort to make this kind of technology more accessible to as many brands as possible, given the usual cost associated with generating 3D imagery.

5 - Buying guides
There are some purchases where you may have several different sites and pages you’re researching to make the right decision. The example Google gave was around mountain bikes - you may want to know more about the size you should buy, or suspension, or tyre types. In these cases, Google wants to help users make decisions faster and more efficiently.

Google Buying guide feature

When looking into these purchases, Google will provide users with buying guides pulling resources from trusted sources to populate the guides. This is going to be a big one for those more complex purchasing categories - if you can position your brand as knowledgeable and trusted on a specific topic related to your products, you may be one of those sources included in the buying guide. This will be a US only feature. 

6 - Page insights

Launching in the US soon, page insights will bring together helpful insights about a page or product right on the page itself. It’ll give users useful context about the product they’re looking at, which might include star ratings, pros and cons articles, reviews, price comparisons and more. The idea is to bring more of that peer review information that customers trust when shopping online onto the web page itself so Google will be helpful even when you aren’t directly shopping on their app.    

7 - Personalized shopping results 

Increasingly, people want more personalized experiences online and this extends to shopping. Google knows a lot about each individual user - their demographics, where they’ve shopped before, the kind of products they search for. They’re going to start using that data to personalize the experience. 

Google personalized product recommendations

They’ll offer suggestions based on previous shopping habits, as well as allowing users to tell Google their preferences directly. Users can also switch this feature off. 

8 - New filters

Being able to filter is one of the most valuable tools for customers, especially for broad categories with lots of products. Google is adding more filter options to their shopping tools, so users can refine their search to find exactly what they’re looking for.

9 - Discover in the Google app

Been searching a lot for evening wear, or hiking gear? Soon, Google will be suggesting styles and products within the Discover feature of their app based on users’ previous searches. They’ll also be basing the product suggestions on what other similar users have been searching and shopping for. 

Google app recommendations

All of these updates will have an influence on both users and Google as a platform for ecommerce marketing. Many focus on apparel, however this will most likely just be a starting point to a more immersive experience across all different categories. 

These are just some of the announcements from Search On ‘22, if you want to read all the updates you can check them out here. 

What other updates are important for ecommerce merchants?

It isn’t just the above features that you’ll want to be in the loop about as we head into the holiday season! Many of these are yet to be implemented, or will be region specific, whereas Google has recently released information about two updates that will impact search more widely. Let’s take a look. 

Helpful Content Update

Back in late August, Google announced its Helpful Content Update, with the aim of providing users better, more relevant content in search results. It aims to reward great content, which meets visitor expectations and provides a great experience. 

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is in theory. What it means as a merchant is that you need to go through your content and ask yourself if your content would be considered “people-first”. As Google puts it:

“How can you ensure you're creating content that will be successful with our new update? By following our long-standing advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.”

In a nutshell, create content based on what your customers will actually find useful, rather than just thinking about what will attract attention from search engines. That means asking yourself some vital questions when you put content together, namely:

  • Would your target audience find the content genuinely helpful, interesting, or informative?
  • Is the content being put together with the sole purpose of attracting people from search engines? 
  • Are you writing about a topic purely because you think it will rank well with search engines?

This isn’t to say you can’t create SEO-led content, in fact Google does encourage you to use SEO best practices. However the primary goal should be to offer something of value to a real life person. Start with that, then how you can optimize it for SEO. The more you take this approach, the more Google will reward you!

Expanded eligibility for enhanced structured data for ecommerce

Structured markup is an invaluable tool for merchants to boost their chances of taking up more space on SERPs. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s essentially code added to a page’s HTML that tells search engines more about that page. In ecommerce, this usually means price, availability, reviews, and so on. This can help Google determine if a page fits a search query better, for example if a user wants to know about sneakers under $50, then Google can use structured markup to rank those pages with sneakers that fit the bill higher. It can also help users by seeing different qualities about a page to determine if it’s actually useful to them before they click on it. 

In mid-September, Google announced that they would expand the eligibility for product experiences using structured markup. They’re opening this up to those users beyond their Merchant Center, and making it easy to understand the requirements for these product experiences. This is all part of Google trying to make it easier and more engaging for users to shop through search. The two broad categories of those experiences include:

  • Merchant listing experiences for web pages that allow shoppers to buy a product on the site.
  • Product snippets for a broader set of web pages with product information

  • This can ultimately help you as a merchant add even more valuable information when eligible for snippets and other SERP features. To further the tools merchants have, Google has also added two new reports to Search Console, replacing the “Product” structured data report. These are the Merchant Listings Report, and the Product Snippet Report, which will help with errors, and page validity for markup. 

    Learn more about the reports, and the new approach to product structured markup here.

    Product review algorithm update

    Finally, towards the end of September, Google confirmed they would be rolling out a fifth product review algorithm update. First introduced in April 2021, the product review updates aim to reward long-form, high quality reviews, weeding out thin content or that which is targeted at attracting search traffic. 

    Now, this doesn’t directly influence your SEO as an ecommerce merchant, in fact customer reviews aren’t counted as part of this algorithm change. This is more related to those sites which regularly publish long-form reviews. However it’s still worth being aware of, if you’re thinking of targeting backlinks on these review sites ahead of the holiday season. 

    SEO is hard enough as it is without Google changing the game every other month, but oftentimes there are plenty of ways these updates can be of benefit to your store’s SEO. By knowing about updates and understanding how they can influence your store, you can create content which appeals to Google’s goals of providing better, more useful experiences.