The Evolution of Google’s Product Listing Ads: Visual Results Drive Big Efficiencies for Advertisers

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The Evolution of Google’s Product Listing Ads: Visual Results Drive Big Efficiencies for Advertisers


Post by Claire Doiron, Media Director & Ashlee Wiltshire, Senior Media Manager The launch of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) has been an uphill battle since Google launched the original idea in beta form in 2009. It’s gone through several unprofitable iterations, and it wasn’t until mid-2012 that marketers’ worst nightmares came true—the previously free Google Product Search would now be on a paid model, and the two historically separate products would be merged. In hindsight, this was arguably one of the best product introductions the search world has seen in several years. This all-encompassing shift, which was completed in late 2013, allowed advertisers to show their products in both the Google Shopping channel and in the right rail of Google Search. Newfound revenue for Google meant more resources for the product itself. The old unruly feed requirements were now organized and made more actionable. This cut out a big portion of spam results, making the user experience friendlier as well. Since launch, our clients have seen huge results from PLA’s:

  • 30-50% lower cost per click
  • 55% higher click-thru rate
  • 40% lower cost per sale

PLA_5 PLA BEST PRACTICES First, create a new shopping campaign in AdWords:

  • Choose “Shopping” from the new campaign dropdown menu
  • Follow onscreen instructions to choose your campaign settings and link your Google Merchant Center account
  • Create an Ad Group and submit promo text for your shopping campaign
  • Subdivide your products into Product Groups and add bids

Product Groups: Best Practices Product Groups allow you to organize inventory into groups of products or individual products that you bid on. AdWords automatically pulls values from your product feed to build product groups. Common groups include categories, best sellers and high ROI products. Attributes from your feed used to build product groups:

  • Product Type (Merchant’s category)
  • Brand
  • Category (Google’s defined category)
  • Condition
  • ID
  • Custom Labels (up to 5)

ID-level product groups are ideal for singling out high priority products like best sellers. However, ID-level groups typically have low traffic due to a limited number of eligible impressions, and low traffic correlates to insufficient data for making optimization decisions. Additionally, you do not need to target specific product IDs to get performance data for them—ID-level data is available for all products in the Dimensions tab in AdWords. Therefore, best practice is to only break out high traffic, high priority and best sellers by ID. PLA_3 Data Quality: Best Practices: PLA rank is determined by a combination of query relevancy, data quality, and bids, so the quality of your product feed is very important. Your full inventory should be submitted daily with fresh and accurate data in the feed. Make sure the data is high quality and all required attributes are being submitted for each product. Lastly, mind your product titles and descriptions as these are the two main fields Google uses to match your products to search queries.  For more help launching and optimizing PLAs, contact your Performics account team today!


Christine Hickey
Christine Hickey
Christine began her professional career at Performics as a bright-eyed intern in the Summer of 2011. Over the last few years, Christine has helped develop Performics' overall Social Media capabilities and overseen the Social Media strategy for one of Performics largest retail clients. When she’s not at work, Christine enjoys listening to music, doing yoga and creeping on other people’s Instagram profiles.

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