You have an e-commerce site? Are people searching online for the
products you have on your site? If you answered yes to both, there is no
good reason why you are not running Product Listing Ads (PLAs) on search engines (Google now, Bing soon). The fact that PLAs can show images of the exact product a searcher is looking for with an exact
title and competitive price gives them a distinct advantage over other
listings in the search engines. Namely, if the searcher typed in the exact product name, these ads are serving them the exact result they're looking for. This is exactly the purpose of search, isn't it?
As would be expected, all the case studies I've seen about these ads up to this point have shown better overall performance for search queries than paid search text ads.
While they are more complicated to set up and run campaigns for than
traditional keyword campaigns, this can be used to your advantage. This
is because PLAs require that you learn how to set up and optimize a data
feed, as well as learn how to set up campaigns and control ad serving
within Google. The time and energy this requires just means more of your
competitors are likely not implementing these types of ads themselves,
or are doing a less-than-stellar job of it. This can provide you with a
great opportunity in this space if you're willing to do what it takes to
be great there.
What They Can Do
The impact on traffic and conversions has been shown
to be highly incremental. This means that it is mostly results that are
above and beyond what you would attain from text ads and organic search
results alone. This could be in large part because of their highly
relevant nature and the fact that they are graphically more
eye-catching. When you can serve a searcher an ad that is the exact
item they are looking for and include a price, they will be more likely
to convert. Therefore, the better you can control this within your
campaigns, the better you'll do.
As of March 2013, we are seeing upward trends
in CPCs because of advertiser adoption. But, they still perform better
than text ads. Despite increased competition, you can see over 20%
higher ROI from PLAs than non-brand text ads.
How They Work
order to make sure you are taking full advantage of these types of ads,
you must know the details about how they work. Here are some you'll
need to know...
- The Data Feed. PLAs require you to learn how to set up and optimize your product data feed to Google Merchant Center just as much as knowing how to control your product/query matching in AdWords. For a more detailed breakdown, see the Total Guide to Setting Up Your Data Feed.
There are no positive keywords. To me, this is the worst feature about
these campaigns because it takes away a lot of your control over how
your products are targeting to queries. The only way you can control
this is post-ad serving, when you look at historical search terms and
then add what is appropriate as negative keywords. The problem is your
products have already shown on search terms that Google deems to be
relevant, but don't truly match the search query performed. This creates
a lot of time and optimization for you that could be avoided if Google
would allow you to use keyword matching at the start. A little bit of me
dies inside each time I look at the search query reports from the
beginning of new campaigns.
- Messaging. Each ad
includes one promotional message. If you have a USP that is attractive
to searchers wanting the specific product, it would be good to include
that here. Overall, you can test these messages just like you would test
text ads for performance.
- Ad Positions. There
are none. In most formats (these are still being tested and won't always
be the same) five products will show beneath the banner, all in a row.
So you're aiming for increased impression share if you want to improve
volume, not ad position.
- The Auction. When a
user does a search that Google deems product-related, your feed will be
scanned for products that match the search query used. Any matching
products will then enter the auction. Since Google takes historical and
predicted performance into account, the system will adjust over time to
how it matches your products with queries.
- Campaign Organization.
This may be the most critical part to your success. Here's a simplified
version of how you I typically set up campaigns for PLAs.
- All Products Campaign
- Specific Themes Campaign
- Theme 1 Ad Group
- Theme 2 Ad Group
- Specific Products Campaign
- Product 1 Ad Group
- Product 2 Ad Group
- AdWords Labels.
Once you review the details about setting up your feed, you will find
an attribute called adwords_labels that allows you to cluster your
products according to your campaign organization so that your products
show in the right ad groups. Carefully apply this attribute to match
your campaign structure.
- Negative Keywords.
Since there are no positive keywords, this is your only option to make
sure the right queries get matched to the right products. If you have a
product with its own ad group, you don't want it matched to a theme or
the All Products ad group. Therefore, you want to exclude all specific
search queries that apply to that product from being served everywhere
else. What you should be left with is an All Products ad group that
attracts search queries that don't apply to a specific product or
keyword theme you already have an ad group for. The Theme ad groups
should only attract queries that include the keyword theme, but not the
specific products. Lastly, the Specific Products ad groups should only
attract queries that refer to the specific product being served in the
- Tiered bidding. Remember, the more specific
your ad is to the query, the better you'll do. Therefore, it makes
sense that your bids will be different. For most products (it all
depends on your profits for each product), your bid will be higher for its ad group than for its keyword theme or the All Products ad group.
So, you might end up in a situation where a specific product has a
$1.50 bid, the theme of that product might have a $1.00 bid and the All
Products ad group might have a $.50 bid.
- Bid Experiments. Performing bid experiments with the ACE
(AdWords Campaigns Experiments) feature will allow you to get a sense
of the levels at which you can maximize your profits for each ad group.
- Keyword Mining. Use search queries you find from PLA campaigns and build text ad campaigns from them to expand your reach.
you have an idea of what this ad type is and how it can help build an
e-commerce business. If you have a site that sells specific products
online, you would be well-served to make sure you pay special and close
attention to PLAs, as they have become the foundation to any e-commerce
July 22, 2013
Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.
Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.