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Driving Sales With Google Shopping: Everything You Need To Know About Google's Product Listing Ads (PLA)


It should come as no surprise that Google is the biggest search engine for online shoppers, but what you may not be aware of is the fact that Google is actually a shopping platform itself, and a pretty big one at that - it is believed to generate around $5 billion annually from over 25 thousand sellers.

The fact is, Google Shopping can be an extremely powerful way for merchants to reach new customers and increase their sales, and with this in mind we have compiled some information and key considerations for those of you looking to get started with Google Shopping.

How does Google Shopping work?

Google Shopping is a service that enables users to browse and compare prices of products that retailers have paid to advertise. While shoppers can browse these products directly in the Shopping section of Google, these shopping ads, known as Product Listing Ads (PLAs), can also appear at the top of the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

As shown in the image below, these ads include detailed product information including a product image, price and merchant name.


On a mobile device, the Google Shopping results will display in a carousel format above both the AdWords and organic search results.


What's great about PLA's is that they work well for the simple reason that they capture the attention of shoppers who have searched for the product, in-turn significantly improving the quality of the leads clicking on the ads. This is because they are already aware of the image, price and retailer, and are therefore showing intent to purchase.

Product Listing Ads now show in image search

Only recently, Google have also launched these shopping ads in image search, and as with the usual search listings, they will appear in a carousel format on mobile devices.

As image search is considered part of the Google Search Network, you will need to ensure your shopping campaign is opted in to Search partners, in order to be eligible to appear in image search results.

This latest update from Google will likely become a popular tool amongst online retailers, due to the increasing prominence of visual imagery in the eCommerce industry. Take Instagram and Pinterest for example, more and more merchants are leveraging these channels to drive website traffic and generate sales, and these new image ads could achieve similar, or even better, results. 

Are you eligible for Google PLA?

While there are great benefits to using Google Product Listing Ads, before anything else you should ensure that your business is actually eligible for Google Shopping. Ultimately, to be successful and rank well, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must sell more than 500 SKUs
  • Ideally, you will have a PLA campaign budget that is higher than $1000
  • You have a high-quality website, in other words your site loads quickly and is user-friendly and mobile-optimised
  • You don't sell products in what is deemed as a highly competitive category (this won't necessarily mean you're not eligible for PLA, but it can significantly impact your ranking and CPC). Apparel, Electronics and Computing items are all examples of highly competitive categories.

SEE ALSO: 7 Ways Fashion Retailers Can Leverage Social Media

Don't confuse Product Listing Ads with AdWords

While the product listing ads are managed within AdWords, you should be aware that they do differ from AdWords ads. Specifically, with AdWords text ads, you are required to select the keywords that you want to target, create your ads and let Google know exactly how much you're prepared to pay per click.

With Product Listing Ads, you aren't targeting specific keywords, instead you are setting a big on your product(s), and Google makes the decision as to which keywords are relevant based on your data feed.

The information in this data feed will include a lot of the product information that is already on your website, but this information will be translated into a format that Google can read and process. Do bear in mind, however, that you can select negative keywords to avoid your listings appearing on searches based on undesirable keywords.

You should also be aware that Product Listing Ads do use a cost-per-click (CPC) model, and similar to AdWords, you only pay when a shopper clicks on one of your ads and is taken to your product page on your website. CPC will vary based on the product category, and for this reason we would suggest that you start with PLA bids that are similar to your bid on AdWords text ads.

How to get started with Google PLA

In order to create Product Listing Ads, you will need both an AdWords account and a merchant centre account. Once you have successfully added your product inventory to the Google Merchant Centre, you will then be able to set up a shopping campaign in AdWords by completing the following steps:

  • Within your AdWords account, select the campaigns tab and then click + Campaign and select Shopping
  • Select Search Network only
  • Choose Product Listing Ads
  • Select Networks, Devices, Location, Language
  • Set Bidding and Budget
  • Choose an extension for your PLA account. You should be aware that if you choose an existing extension, it should match your Google Merchant login.

SEE ALSO: Deadline Announced For Google Shopping Ads GTIN Requirement

Acknowledge landing page requirements

You should be aware that the landing page you are driving clicks through to will need to meet certain requirements. Specifically, the landing page must not include pop-ups, and must list a privacy policy, physical address and a phone number.

While it may seem obvious, it is also integral that the information provided within your item’s data feed reflects the content on the landing page.

Tips for getting more from Google Shopping


As with anything, there are ways you can get more from Google Shopping and increase the conversion rate of your PLAs. These include:

Maintaining a healthy product data feed

While we’ve already touched on it, your product data feed allows Google to determine where your product listing ads should appear in a search result, and for this reason it’s crucial that your product data feed is detailed and accurate. Familiarise yourself with Google’s product feed specifications, as failure to comply with their rules can make it extremely difficult for you to compete on Google Shopping.

It is believed that Google also favour advertisers who send reliable and consistent data signals, so we would suggest sending your feed to Google daily so that they are assured your data is up-to-date and correct. It’s also worth monitoring your Google Merchant Centre account on a regular basis to make sure your data feed is actually processing without error.

Monitor product performance

Take advantage of the negative keywords feature to ensure that your products aren’t appearing in irrelevant searches. In addition, set up an ad group within your PLA campaign which is designed to limit exposure to both poor performing products (i.e. those failing to convert) or products that have an extremely higher cost of sale.

On the other hand, if you identify products that are performing well, you should consider increasing your bids on them. You might also want to alter your ad display frequency and bidding amounts for different days and times of the week.

Tailor your return on ad spend (ROAS) with product groups

How much you bid essentially tells Google how much value you place on a particular product category, and by setting up more specific product segments, you can better organise your Google Shopping campaign.

Product Groups can be based on any attribute in your data feed, including Brand, Item ID, Custom Label, Product Type or Google Product Category. By modifying your bidding for different segments, you can ensure the best performing products and categories achieve better exposure.

To segment your inventory, simply click the + button next to All products under Product Groups, and begin subdividing your product groups. 

Invest in a Google PLA specialist

One of the best ways to improve your Google Shopping campaigns is by using a paid search advertising specialist. eCommerce specialists such as eBusiness Guru, can help to ensure you are getting the most from your product listing ads and are achieving more from your ad spend. 


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Topics: eCommerce Best Practices, Paid Advertising, Google