Recent Google algorithm changes have quickly and dramatically altered SERPs over the last year.

Merkle data shows that organic product listings make up 45% of SERPS as of Q1 2023.

But what exactly are organic product listings? As you might expect these are product-based search results that are not paid ads. These are the results that Google deem most relevant to a user’s search intent when they’re searching for certain products.

In this article, produced by our content team within the content marketing agency POLARIS, we’re going to use the example of men’s winter jackets to keep things seasonal – we hope you’re warm as you read this in the winter cold snap!

As you can see these are often displayed in a grid format in the middle of a SERP sandwiched between other organic search results, which lead directly to a merchant’s website. They include expandable content , so you can click to see the jackets from different angles, rich data is included too from a range of retailers. User ratings and prices are also featured.

Clicking them expands the listing to a side panel where you can navigate to specific retailers, read reviews in detail and review different colour jackets.

Why is Google Introducing These?

In Q1 of 2023 Google made more changes to the make-up of SERPS than ever in its history. This was implemented by algorithm updates which gave more prominence to organic product listings in the SERPs architecture.

These changes are helpful for users at the top or bottom of the funnel. Whether a user knows the item they want, but not where to buy it from, when they are exploring their options and when they want to research to compare available prices and jacket materials, or colours for instance.

Google is constantly refining its approach to serving the most relevant shopping results, therefore further changes and development as they learn more is inevitable.


Competing with the Web’s Biggest Marketplaces

Google has long been trying to compete with the likes of Amazon. The world’s preeminent search engine wants to be far more than that. It wants searchers to come to Google first, rather than going directly to marketplaces when searching for a new product. Google aims to become a one-stop shop for shoppers.

By serving rich organic product listings, users can browse Google in the same way you would window shop on a high street, without having to enter the store (website) to preview the goods they have on offer.

Therefore, you can think of rich search results as a window display to your website, your job is to make your window dressing appealing enough to get consumers off the street (SERPs) and clicking into your website.

Increasingly, social media sites like TikTok are becoming shopping destinations, hence Google’s worries. You only have to look at Elon Musk’s intention to turn X (formerly Twitter) into an ‘everything app’.

This is following the model seen in South East Asia, where everything apps act as a one-stop shop for messaging, shopping, payments, takeaways and rides. Most of these apps begun as one service-based app, e.g. a ride hailing service, and later added new features like the ability to male payments with other providers. WeChat in China is probably the primary example of an everything or super app and is one of the main reasons behind Google’s drive to use product listing ads to make Google the ’shop window’ of the internet.


The Changing Face of SERPs Since 2022

There are now over 17 different SERP features, gone are the days of simple blue links with little context to what appears on the page, save, page titles and meta descriptions. Rich snippets and people also ask were two SERP features to also rise last year.

Google confirmed that grid-style product results are organic in June last year. John Muller leads Google Search Relations efforts as a Search advocate, he’s very active on X (formerly Twitter), he said of organic product listing grids: “They’re organic results too. This is one of the reasons it’s good to dig into our ecommerce site guidance if you sell products.”

The opportunities for retailers are huge and organic product listings, also known as product grids, are one of the best ways to get rich SERP positions.

It appears that Google is attempting to take the pain out of shopping online. Google’s overriding purpose for any algorithm change is to create a better search experience for the user – these changes appear to be no different.

On the other hand, as a result of the rise of organic product listings, organic products only appeared above the fold 18% of the time, this was a 6% decline year-on-year. So, Google may be trying to give more prominence to ads, with this new feature gives some compensatory options to ecommerce marketers without huge budgets.


April 2023 Google Search Console Updates

In March 2023 Google added monitoring updates to Google Search Console performance reporting.

This differentiated between the two main types of organic product results, ‘product snippets’ and ‘merchant listings’.

  • Product snippets: as we’ve described, this SERP feature includes a snippet with an extension of a product’s data: URL, title, description, star rating, reviews
  • Merchant listings: these organic listings have been around far longer than product snippets, usually displayed in a carousel at the top of a SERP these results used to have the tag ‘Popular products’

Both product snippets and merchant listings can appear in the Google Shopping results tab and can be tracked in Google Search Console.

Further down the SERPs when we searched for ‘Men’s winter jackets’ on 27/11/2023 we found a grid of 16 products, showing that there is a huge opportunity for retailers to get their products featured on SERPs with high search intent.

This expanded grid also was placed above sponsored text ads and stands up well against these relatively uninspiring blue links.


How To Get Your Products Appearing in Google SERPs Organically

Eligible stores synched to Google’s Merchant Center using the Google and YouTube apps on Shopify can be featured across Google’s organic product grids for free.

You’ll need to sync your ecommerce site to Google’s Merchant Centerwhen using the Google & YouTube app on your Shopify website you’ll automatically access Google’s organic shopping results, including: the shopping tab, YouTube, Google search results, Google images and Google Lens. You have the choice to decide between any Comparison Shopping Service using Google’s CSS Dashboard in the Merchant Center.

If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need:

  1. An ecommerce website on Shopify
  2. A Google Merchant Center account
  3. A shopping product feed
  4. A Google Search Console profile

For ecommerce websites that create a Merchant Center Account (MCA) outside of Shopify, you need to confirm that your products can appear organically in the Google Shopping tab using your MCA. Moreover, you’ll want to follow usual SEO best practice:

  • Implement product schema – on your website, remembering to keep up to date with scheme updates and don’t forget to update things like your shipping and return policies
  • Out of stock – attracting new eyes to your website can lead to stock shortages. Be sure to add out of stock labels to your schema when your products sell out, this will reduce lost revenue and reduce your website’s bounce rate
  • Helpful content – follow helpful content guidelines, make the most of your product descriptions, this will be utilised in the expandable section of your grid listing when user’s click it
  • Focus on site speed – with more visitors coming to your website, you’ll want to ensure it’s as fast as it can possibly be
  • Optimise titles and descriptions – make sure you include the keywords that users are currently searching for
  • Add relevant product data – this can include size, gender and season (men’s winter jackets)
  • Add product types – you can add up to three levels.


Exclude Your Products From SERPs

We’ve guided you through how to ensure your products are picked up by SERPs in the form of the new product listings, however there are some legitimate reasons why you might want to stop your products showing.

It might be you want to prevent your products from showing in a particular region or country, maybe you have another domain that services international locations.

If you want to restrict the destinations where your products are featured, follow this process:

  1. In the Google & YouTube app on Shopify, select the “Settings” tab.
  2. Select and open your Merchant Center account.
  3. In the left navigation menu, click Products then click Feeds.
  4. Select the name of the feed you wish to update.
  5. On the page that loads, click the “Settings” tab.
  6. Deselect any destinations that you’d like to exclude in the “Destinations” section.
  7. Click Save.



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