Ranking in organic products grids is the new hot topic in eCommerce SEO. When eligible to show, they can take up almost half of all organic real estate on page one.
And the trend is clear: organic product grids are here to stay and have increased exponentially across a broad set of high traffic-generating queries for eCommerce sites.
There are various ways for referring to “products grids” as a SERP feature. Google’s preferred terminology is “popular products”, whereas they can also be referred to as “product carousels” or “merchant listings” and “free listings” more broadly.
Within this guide, I’ll be taking a deep-dive into how rankings in organic product grids work (beyond Google’s official documentation), based on my experiences working with large eCommerce stores across various regions.
Which Countries have Product Grids?
As of January 2024, there have been some significant changes to organic product grids by country. Historically, organic products grids would primarily show just in the US, dating back to 2019 when I wrote my first guide.
Throughout 2023, the prominence of the SERP feature has increased greatly. With product grids not ever showing in Australia, to now showing on 3% of all search results on mobile devices.
The US remains the country with the most product grids within search results at 9% on mobile and 8% on desktop. This is followed by the UK, with 5% on mobile and 6% on desktop. Based on various data sources, I can also confirm that product grids are also present in countries at a smaller extent such as Canada, Japan, Germany, and several others.
The reason for the high prominence in the US compared to other countries comes down to product grids being a staple fixture in US search results. Whereas in countries like the UK and Australia, Google is still doing heavy testing, so they won’t trigger all of the time, but I would expect that to change in the near future.
Free Template for Analysis
Before getting stuck into my findings, I’ve made available a free Google Sheet template that is useful for your own product grid analysis.
When completing your analysis, it is important to pay close attention to the trends within your industry and query set to determine the factors that are most influential for your store.
Here are some simple steps to follow to get your Google Sheet setup with a months worth of product grid data from Ahrefs:
- Open the Keywords Explorer tool
- Type in your keyword + location
- Scroll down to the SERP Overview section
- Select your first date for the analysis period
- Expand each section titled ‘Shopping results’ and transfer over to your Google Sheet for all sections on page 1
- Position your data in the Google Sheet in the top section for each date to differentiate among product grids in each position of the page (there is often 3 grids with 8 products in each, but each can vary – as you can see for Dec 10th and Dec 20th above)
Note: ensure that you are not using ‘Shopping results’ that have links and images assigned to them (meaning they are ads). Ahrefs doesn’t distinguish between the two, so you’ll want to avoid using the ad-related data.
Once the shopping results data has been populated in the spreadsheet for a full month, the sections below will automatically outline the most frequent appearing product names and brands within Google’s search results. You will just need to modify each of the formulas to suit the new arrangement.
As an example, for the query “dishwasher”, the product named ‘Samsung DW80R2031’ appears the most out of the entire dataset. But interestingly, it rarely appears in the first grid. It is instead the product ‘Frigidaire FDPC4221A’ that appears in the top grid the most (often in the top position).
There is also a section in the spreadsheet that allows you to see the brands that appear the most across each grid, which you will need to customize based on the results for your query.
For example, for the query “dishwasher” in the US, the brand that appears the most is for Whirlpool. And knowing that Amana is part of the Whirlpool brand, we can also combine those results into the overall count, with Whirlpool occupying 29% of all product grid rankings, followed by Frigidaire with 25% of the coverage.
Already being eligible for placement within product grids for a high volume query, it would be of high importance to the Whirlpool and Frigidaire SEO teams to rank within the grid results. This should form the basis for your analysis and to be used in conjunction with my research on how ranking works.
How Ranking Works
Within this guide, I’ve detailed what I believe to be some of the most influential factors for ranking in product grids, along with factors for maximizing visibility.
When reading through this guide, there is an assumption that you have already read through and have understood two other articles of mine:
- Merchant Listings in Google Search Console: Tracking Popular Products & Product Knowledge Panels
- Beyond conventional SEO: Unraveling the mystery of the organic product carousel
A lot of the information covered in the above articles won’t be covered here. The same goes for Google’s official documentation on the topic. This should be the starting point for those starting out, with my guide being an extension of this and a more opinionated, hands-on experience type of guide that doesn’t necessarily cover some of the basics of ranking within organic product grids.
It is however important to note that there is a more general “algorithmic” factor at play which can often explain the unexplainable. I often notice that sites that rank well in organic web search listings also have the ability to rank well in product grids. The same goes for sites that don’t rank well, or have been impacted by a Core Update – this could also greatly limit your visibility in product grids.
1. Ensuring valid items and eligibility
This is the most important factor of influence when trying to rank within organic product grids and shouldn’t be glossed over. In terms of “valid items”, this terminology relates directly to products within your feed within Merchant Center and also the structured data used on your product pages. For instance, I experienced on various occasions where if there are issues in Merchant Center (such as your product feed going down or having an account-wide violation), any pre-existing product grid rankings will quickly disappear.
If you’re wanting to understand your current standings with respect to eligibility, Google Search Console provides quite a useful view into this situation within the Merchant listings tab. What I like to do for stores is compare the amount of valid items within the Product snippets tab against the Merchant listings tab. If there are considerably less valid items with the Merchant listings tab, then you’ve got a problem on your hands. This is either because there are invalid items (issues highlighted in the report), or because a page does meet eligibility requirements, such as if AggregateOffer is in use where it can prevent inclusion (you can instead use inProductGroupWithID within your structured data).
For an eCommerce store I have been working with, I have had a lot of success with following this approach to ensuring valid merchant listings. Here is an example of this, where my client was able to increase valid merchant listing items dramatically (along with free listing traffic) with the use of ProductGroup structured data, resulting in the amount of valid items now matching up more closely with product snippets.
This is a thing of beauty in Technical SEO.— Brodie Clark (@brodieseo) February 17, 2024
I’ve been working with this eCommerce store on various aspects, with one of them being related to better visibility in free product listings.
With this change, they’ve now increased their eligibility for these features tenfold.… pic.twitter.com/zFJsFKaHBA
As an extension to ProductGroup approach, Google announced in February of 2024 additional support for structured data for product variants. With the introduction of new properties related to hasVariant and variesBy, with the ability to gain access to additional enhancements within Search. If your product pages contain multiple variants, then it would be worthwhile investigating the use of the recent updates related to product page structured data.
Once all important products have been found to meet the eligibility requirements of merchant listings, then you can at least be assured that the ability to rank is there. This then leads on to the product grids themselves, which are again an important determining factor on whether a page is eligible to rank or not.
2. Identifying the type of product grid
The type of product grid that appears in Google’s search results is a strong determining factor as to whether a product is able to rank or not. Based on my analysis, there are 3 core types of product grids that can appear: the popular products grid or carousel, the deals grid, or the fast pickup or delivery grid. Each tends to appear on page one in that sequence, but it can also vary over time.
2.1 Popular products carousel or grid
This grid type is the most common and relates to products that Google determines to be popular. This could be in terms of searcher behavior, or even of the various metrics that Google records within Merchant Center about the products themselves. More common than the carousel, Google now mostly represents the popular products collection within an untitled grid (hence the preferred terminology), with the first grid on the page often representing what Google considers to be the most popular products for a category.
The carousel format has 4 products visible on desktop, whereas the grid format has 8 products being visible by default. The layout does however vary by device, with the popular products carousel often being the preference from Google on mobile. The carousel also frequently appears at the very top of the page on mobile (can sometimes happen on desktop), which can have a significant influence over CTR.
2.2 Deals product grid
The deals product grid aims to surface products that are standouts with respect to discounts that have been applied to products. Products that appear within this section aren’t necessarily “popular” in nature, but there is often an overlap in items that appear in this section with the popular products grid.
Google even has an entire web search shopping experience for these types of products which recently launched in the US. This is a separate but related opportunity for sites that are competitive on pricing.
2.3 Fast pickup or delivery grid
The fast pickup or delivery grid is another one that frequently appears, being focused around products that have fast shipping times for the most part. The amount of time to ship an item to a customer is an important factor when putting two sellers up against each other, with Google wanting to highlight stores that are a standout in this regard.
The fast pickup or delivery grid can come in a variety of forms, with there also being a dedicated filter and new type of grid that appeared in the lead up to Christmas titled ‘Get it by Dec 24’.
3. Ensuring an exact product match
When it comes to ranking in product grids for a set of non-branded queries (the same applies to branded queries where relevant), there needs to be an exact product match to be eligible to rank within a grid. If a product is considered to be popular, then the next challenge presents itself: ensuring that the product details are represented on the site.
A good example of this within the Google Sheets Template is for the product grid titled: ‘GE Appliances 24″ Built-In Digital Control Dishwasher’. While this product appeared 14 times within the dataset (the 5th most popular product), Google is unable to find an exact product match on the store that is eligible for ranking in product grids. On closer inspection, it looks like there is a product match, but the product isn’t eligible for merchant listings according to the Rich Results Test due to 2 critical issues for missing details.
What appears to be a product mismatch on the surface (which is common in my experience) has been shown to actually be a merchant listing eligibility issue for the geappliances.com product page. Most of the time, Google does a reasonable job of finding products on sites if there is a specific model number that is detailed on a product page and within the feed, making it a lot easier for them to find a product match for a pre-existing grid.
4. Extensive set of information provided
This is an area that is detailed heavily within Google’s own documentation, but is important to highlight within this list. There are basics that are important for effective inclusion within grids (such as providing the gtin or mpn), but there is also the ability to go above and beyond by having high quality images for instance on the product page.
Similar attributes can also be managed within Manufacturer Center, which I included in my original guide to ranking within product grids. For the most part, all of the missing fields will be highlighted in Google Search Console and Merchant Center, allowing you to filter through to determine what is and isn’t possible in terms of providing additional information to Google.
5. Maintaining various product titles
When thinking about the titles that can influence performance within product grids, this comes down to the feed title for a product (what shows on the grid), the title on the product page itself, and also the title tag that often represents a product within Google standard organic listings. Generally, my preference is that most of these titles remain the same, without trying to get too technical with how the product page titles are being represented across each surface.
In my experience, if the feed title is not put together effectively (doesn’t have good formatting etc.), it can impact the ranking of a result. This is especially true if keywords are missing from titles, where in the example provided in the Google Sheet for the query “dishwashers”, around half of them have that word mentioned in the feed title itself. It is important to do your own competitor analysis for queries that are most important in order to determine where the gaps are in your approach.
6. Sourced product reviews
If there are multiple retailers who are competing for rankings on the same product, there will likely be a high amount of product-related reviews that are aggregated on the product grid itself. While the amount of product reviews on your page itself may not be a highly weighted factor in this scenario, if your product is sold uniquely through your own site and you have a high amount of reviews, then there’s a higher chance that you will be able to rank for competitive queries.
For the most part, the product grid results that rank for high volume queries often have a lot of reviews on them. This can be a benefit of having your products stocked in various stores online, with the sourced reviews amount going up over time, even when reviews on your product page are going up at a slower rate. If a store doesn’t have reviews enabled for products, doesn’t sell through multiple retailers (same goes for when selling through Amazon), and the product isn’t inherently popular, then it would be much less likely to rank competitively.
7. Having a competitive edge
Once all six areas above are catered for, the next greatest factor of influence is having a competitive edge. In this context, a competitive edge could relate to the pricing, returns policy, or shipping time. Each of these factors can have a heavy influence on whether your product ranks within certain grid types and can often be the difference between a #1 product grid ranking and #4 or lower (hidden within the ‘more stores’ drop-down).
In the example above, there is a good chance that Home Depot took out the top spot due to having a slightly cheaper price, with Google often giving cheaper products preference in product grid rankings. Another factor is in the returns policy. What I’ve noticed in my research is that a lot of the larger stores (like Best Buy) often have “free” returns, whereas a site like Frigidaire doesn’t have free returns, which can be a factor at play when Google ranks stores within a grid.
Top Placement Benefits
When looking to maximize visibility within product grids, there is nothing better than ranking in the top spot. Aside from having your brand presented in Google’s search results (your site name and favicon will often appear), the CTR is exceptionally high when ranking in the top spot. Here’s an example of this:
The site was able to achieve a CTR of 58% for a query, which is unheard of for basically all features of Search that are non-branded. The reason why it is so high, and why this is not uncommon, is because intent has already been shown. Because URLs within the grid are hidden initially, an impression is only triggered once a grid item has been selected. So if you are ranking in the top spot, then there is a very high chance that the next click will be on your product page.
While not necessarily “ranking factors”, there are various merchant-related features that I have found can be helpful in maximizing your visibility when already ranking within product grids. Here is each of them, in order of its importance to ranking in my experience.
1. Top Quality Store
Gaining a Top Quality Store badge can be a very important for the online presence of stores in general. For product grid rankings, it can be a stand-out feature for listings, and potentially in the ranking of results.
The metrics that go into the eligibility for the badge are a strong marker of the capabilities of a store, with aspects such as fast shipping, transparent returns policies, high quality websites, and positive reviews all being taken into account.
2. Seller Ratings
Having a seller rating is a personal favorite of mine, with it having far-reaching benefits beyond standard product reviews. With similar placement to the TQS badge, the Seller Rating can be stacked on top to offer even more confidence for buyers in shopping with a site.
This rating goes well beyond product grids also, with it showing prominently in areas such as the Shopping tab for free listings in there, alongside a recent US launch in organic web page listings, where it can show when AggregateRating isn’t in use for a category page.
3. Promotions / Coupons
Within Merchant Center, there is the ability to setup promotions that apply to specific product ranges, with my personal favorite being coupon codes. Within the dashboard, this section is accessible in Marketing > Promotions, with there being the ability to apply promotions to ‘free listings’ as the destination, a capability that many in eCommerce SEO don’t use to its full extent.
The above is an example of how this can appear for a result, with the coupon code able to be copied directly from Google’s search results. These coupon codes can again surface in a variety of ways, with recent testing of the codes appearing alongside standard organic listings.
4. Buy Now
‘Buy Now’ is a more recent development that a lot of larger stores like Target have been trialing out. Instead of just going to the product page (the normal experience), there is the ability to provide an additional link directly to the checkout page for convenience.
The impact of this feature is uncharted territory for me currently, but it is one that I believe is worthwhile testing out for larger stores.
5. Paypal / Google Pay Accepted
Offering alternate payment methods is a good way to standout in product grids. A lot of stores offer Paypal, but fewer offer Google Pay, which is a payment method that I’ve noticed Google is pushing more in their search results.
For example, Sony has both the Paypal and Google Pay labels showing within their product grid results.
6. Loyalty Programs
While loyalty programs as a feature in product grids is one that I rarely see appearing, it is a feature that Google is testing more, and could easily start to show more prominently once enabled within Merchant Center.
Within standard web search, Google tends to do a good job at surfacing the correct URLs for product pages when parameters are in the mix. This tends to be before crawling is blocked via robot.txt and the use of canonicals on common parameter types to ensure the correct pages are surfacing.
Within product grid results, Google seems to get confused more than usual on the correct version of product page to index, with parameters often making their way into the rankings of grid results. It is important to keep this in mind when assessing your own strategy, as I see this as a widespread issue across many stores within product grids.
Because most of the data that appears within product grids originates from Merchant Center, a good place to start when assessing how to address unwanted parameter URLs surfacing within grid results is within the feed itself. While the CMS may be enabling the creation of the parameter URLs, this can be a non-issue if the different URLs variants aren’t being fed through to Google through the feed.
What sources does Google use for product grid results?
Google primarily uses data by crawling website content, from product feeds, and from structured data.
Which countries do product grids show the most in?
As of January 2024, product grids show most prominently in US and UK search results. They can also appear in other countries such as Australia.
Do product grids send traffic to websites?
Yes. Once selected, the CTR can be very high. For sites that ranked well for organic web page listings 2+ years ago, but don’t rank in product grids, they will have experienced a significant decline in CTR.