Google has now introduced a new filter in Google Search Console that allows you to track free product listing performance, a feature that I have requested for years now.
This is a big deal, yet many are unaware of the reasoning behind this, and what the new Merchant listing filter in Google Search Console actually represents. In my opinion, this is partly Google’s fault, but also related to the complexities of SERP features.
Within this article, I’ll be running you through the new reporting that has now been introduced to GSC, which features are now being tracked separated, and what this means for SEO and eCommerce SEO strategy in particular. But first, here are some important definitions.
Product snippets vs. Merchant listings
As a starting point, it is important to understand the difference among both product snippets and merchant listings with respect to the filter naming in GSC. Google has their own definitions of each with their documentation, but I prefer my own definitions for each.
Product snippets: this filter represents standard organic web page listings. The product snippet filter is an extension of the URL, title and description that appear for organic results, including elements such as a rating, review count, price or stock availability. Product snippets appear only within the 10-blue-link results.
Merchant listings: this filter goes beyond standard organic web page listings, involving representation of URLs from your website within features such within a popular products grid, product knowledge panels, along with areas such as Google Images and Google Lens.
Previously, the merchant listings data was only accessible through the product results filter. This meant that both product snippets (for standard organic web page listings) and merchant listings were combined under the same filter, making it impossible to distinguish the source of data collection.
Google’s goal is that sometime in 2024 the product results filter will be deprecated, with users relying on just the relying on the segmented data for both product snippets and merchant listings.
What is an example of a merchant listing?
The best example of a merchant listing (with respect to the filter naming), is for Google’s popular products grid. This is a feature that I’ve written about extensively in the past, which you can read more about in this article from 2019.
The popular products grid, which can sometimes also show in a carousel, is a SERP feature that appears mostly in US search results. Within the grid format below, select a product on desktop unveils a scrollable feed which features a collection of stores to shop from.
For the first example shown for the website Grooves.Land, a URL to the product page from the Logitech product is presented, and this is the URL that will surface within the merchant listings report in GSC.
As mentioned, this data was previously recorded in GSC within product results, mixed in with standard web page listing rich results. Now that it is separate, we can gain a better understand of the features that are driving traffic to our clients websites.
Previously, there was a way to preview some of this data within merchant center, but that wasn’t overly accessible to SEO professionals in most cases (being outside of GSC), along with there being reason to shift report to GSC through less reliance from Google on using merchant feeds as the only source.
Another issue with the merchant center reporting was that it wasn’t overly helpful. While it would show both clicks and impressions, it wouldn’t show the URLs themselves (product names instead) and didn’t have any additional information by query or ranking position.
Another new report (aside from the filter)
Along with the new search appearance filter for merchant listings, you’re now able to an overlay of impressions for all pages that are marked as valid. This report was introduced in September of 2022, with the ability to show impressions being the new addition.
Here’s what this looks like for a large-scale eCommerce site:
So for the 307,000 valid pages that are shown within the report, I’m able to select the checkbox and show how many impressions are being triggered, representing a different view to the search appearance filter, with the same impressions data.
The core importance of this specific report is to flag whether there are issues related to your merchant listings and to provide feedback into which issues are leading to invalid items. Issues that can arise in this report include missing feed fields such as “availability”, invalid string lengths for “description”, missing the “gtin” and more.
My biggest gripe with the naming of the merchant listings search appearance filter (being the same as the ‘Shopping’ report) is that the placement across the various surfaces such as popular products and product knowledge panels don’t relate sorely to Merchant Center feeds anymore. This is why I would recommend Google change the search appearance filter name to something like “free product listings”.
Importance for eCommerce website
The ability to track performance within the merchant listings search appearance filter is a big win for large-scale eCommerce sites, especially if the US makes up a big portion of their market focus.
Interestingly, Google has decided to include a merchant listings tab for non-eCommerce sites in GSC in some instances (I see it for online marketplaces sometimes), but without impressions appearing. This doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me currently, but perhaps Google has something in the works.
For large-scale eCommerce sites, they are now able to move away from the limited reporting that was available in Merchant Center for features such as the popular product grids and allow them to assess the keywords that their website URLs are showing in free product listings for.
Overall, the new addition in GSC should be seen as a big win for reporting and measurement, and should be top of mind for any SEO professional that either works in-house for an eCommerce store or for external consultants that manage the SEO for these types of sites.
Now that merchant listings are appearing in Google Search Console, we are able to gain a much more effective understanding of how URLs from eCommerce websites are appearing in search results, and how often users are clicking on those URLs.
Here are some of the key takeaways from my post that are important to keep in mind:
- Google has introduced new search appearance filters in Google Search Console for both merchant listings and product snippets. Each filter was previously tracked together within the product results filter, which will be deprecated down the line.
- It is important to understand which features of Search are measured within each filter. For the merchant listings filter, this is the one that can create confusion, and I would recommend reading the definitions I’ve created above.
- The major benefit to the merchant listings filter is being able to assess performance in features such as popular product grids or carousels, along with product knowledge panels. Both features can be highly visible on both mobile and desktop and can trigger high impressions and clicks.
- Google introduced another report in September of 2022 that relates to the latest search appearance filter addition. This report (named ‘Merchant listings’ under the Shopping drop-down) features all of the valid items on a website, with the new additional overlaying this data with impressions.
- Being able to separately track free product listing data in GSC is a big win for eCommerce websites considering that is was impossible to accurately distinguish this data prior to the update.
It is great to see make this new addition in GSC, but just make sure that you understand the data that you’re viewing in there. This post should help with your understanding, but feel free to reach out to me on twitter if you have any questions.