This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
Product listing ads, or PLAs, are an incredibly successful strategy for e-commerce companies to promote available product inventory on Google and Bing. Unlike standard search ads, PLAs incorporate a visual image over a text description to show the user the product they’re searching for.
There are plenty of reasons why you should be adding a PLA strategy into your advertising mix. Cost-per-click (CPC) will generally be below what you’ll see across search ads. As a result of showing the user an image of the product they’re searching for, click-through-rate will usually be pretty strong. Once the user clicks the ad, they’re taken directly to the product page, making the user journey simple and leading to a higher conversion rate.
Additionally, it’s quite easy to set up and manage campaigns. Both Google and Bing provide product level reporting, so you can also see how each product is doing individually.
With the holiday season in full swing, let’s take a look at some tips to drive great results from your PLA campaigns.
The first and most important step in improving PLA performance is to have the proper product group segmentation. Product group segmentation is vital to drive traffic efficiently. If all of your products are lumped together in a single product group sharing the same bid, you’re not maximizing your PLA campaign potential. In this case, you’re bidding the same amount for your best performing product group as your worst. This will lead to wasted spend and a poor return on ad spend over time.
A well-managed PLA campaign should have a structure that allows for isolation of product groups. Look to each product’s category, type, or brand to figure out what level of segmentation works best. In some cases, it may be best to separate each product entirely.
After viewing your product category report, you’ll have a good idea of what type of product group segmentation will work best for your campaign. In order to optimize the new structure, look at the average CPC for each product group and the ROAS. If the ROAS is below account target, you should start bidding with a CPC below the average. Likewise, if you have a ROAS that’s well above target, you can start that product group with a bid above the CPC to maximize returns.
Try to make use of your conversion rate, ROAS target, acceptable CPA, and average order value to back your way into a starting bid. Let’s imagine the AOV for an account is $50, conversion rate is 1%, and ROAS target is 200%. For this imaginary product group, a $0.25 bid is suitable.
PLA campaigns are very likely to drive more traffic from mobile devices than desktop or tablet devices. Generally speaking, this increase in traffic comes at a price, meaning lower conversion rates and ROAS. Look at how your campaigns are performing across devices, and be sure to use negative mobile modifiers for mobile devices and tablets if it makes sense.
If you’re already bidding down on mobile devices, be sure to take a look at your desktop CPCs when placing starting bids on your new product group structure. It may be possible that the cheap mobile clicks are driving down your average CPCs. If that’s the case, then base your new bids on the desktop CPC to avoid a loss in traffic.
An often-overlooked aspect of PLA campaign management is mining for negatives. Just like a search campaign, PLA campaigns need to be scrubbed regularly for negative terms to prevent wasted spend.
There’s still time this holiday season to maximize your PLA performance across Google and Bing! See if you can utilize some of these tips to drive great results.
We recently took a look at the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, which consists of advertising data from leading global brands that manage more than $7 billion in annualized ad spend through Marin’s platform. By examining consumer behaviors from last quarter, we were able to forecast how search advertising would impact the second half of 2015.
We also came up with three ways to dominate search in 2H 2015, one of which you could call, “Spend more on shopping ads.”
Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLAs) hit the market in late 2012, and user adoption has grown steadily ever since. Especially during the critical holiday season, this ad format proved to be richer, more engaging, and highly successful.
For this particular ad type, we looked at retail advertisers and their audiences. We found that:
All of this data highlights the importance of the holiday season for many retailers. This isn’t so surprising, since PLAs are highly effective at reaching consumers during this season, which starts in November.
In terms of budget share, PLAs have also been steadily gaining ground against text ads in the retail space. While 2013 saw advertisers spike to 23% in PLAs during Q4, overall growth has been slow and steady, taking up just over 20% of all paid-search budgets. This is projected to hit 27% during the holiday season.
Consumer adoption of shopping ads has also shown consistent growth patterns, as the ads have improved and been refined by publishers and advertisers. Shopping ad click share has shown constant growth and made significant gains over the past year and a half. It’s on track to account for over one-fourth of all paid-search clicks by end of year.
Bottom line: Since shopping ad spend is projected to spike dramatically during Q4, retailers should increase shopping ad spend accordingly.
This is just one of three recommended tactics for leading the search field in 2H 2015. To learn more and access full data charts, download our report, Mid-Year Outlook: 3 Tactics to Dominate Search in 2H 2015.
With the huge increase of mobile searches over the last few years, marketers are finding a number of new ways to drive offline conversions through online advertising. Advertisers can now switch tactics from online acquisition to driving consumers to physical stores depending on their location. In this post I’ll outline how advertisers can drive offline retail conversions by targeting searchers on the go.
Using location extensions advertisers can dynamically attach their business address to their ads. This will allow users on the go to know how far away they are from one of your stores and provide information on how to get there. This can lead to a significant increase in store visits from searchers who are close by. By using location extensions in conjunction with location bid modifiers advertisers can make sure they are appearing in top positions and displaying information on how searchers can easily find their nearest store.
By using location bid modifiers retail advertisers can appear in the top search positions when searches are close by to one of their stores. Positive bid modifiers can be setup to target a radius around their stores using location extension addresses. These bid modifiers can be staggered so the closer a searcher is to one of your stores, the higher the bid modifier will be. Advertisers will gain greater exposure and location extensions will be more likely to be shown when an ad is in a higher position.
Local inventory ads have a similar format to product listing ads (PLAs) but show users which products are available at a nearby physical location.
Mobile devices are limited to show either online PLAs or local inventory ads. If an advertiser wants to drive offline retail conversions through online advertising they can show searchers local inventory ads anytime they perform a relevant search near one of their stores.
If advertisers are worried how this will effect online conversions, another option is to use Multichannel Product Listing Ads. These ads give users the option to buy online or view product availability at a nearby location. Advertisers can also include a “Buy Online” link at their local storefront, giving shoppers the option to purchase a product from their website if it’s also available on their site.
The Store Visits metric in AdWords estimates the uplift paid search has on visits to a retailer’s store. This metric is calculated based on aggregated, anonymised data from a sample set of users that have turned on Location History. The store visits metric allows you to estimate the in-store revenue that paid search drives. This can be done with a simple calculation.
Paid Search Store Revenue
= Paid Search Clicks X Shop Visit Rate X Shop Conv. Rate X Shop Average Conv. Value
If you want a more complete end-to-end revenue tracking system you can use the ability to track unique IDs from online to offline. One way this tracking is currently being implemented for retail is by connecting the online and offline worlds to Unique IDs. This can be done through a website customer login (online) and a customer loyalty card (offline). If advertisers use a platform that allows revenue integrations, offline transactions can be mapped against their keywords.
Digital advertising can have a significant impact on offline retail conversions. Using the aforementioned tactics, digital advertisers can switch from driving online transactions to driving footfall to their physical stores depending on a searchers location. Advertisers can also implement measurement solutions to quantify and optimise offline performance from their online advertising.
Google Shopping campaigns are a great opportunity for retail advertisers to review their current PLA campaigns and optimize them for even better results. However, as many retailers are managing sometimes millions of products across thousands of brands and hundreds of feeds, adapting to and mastering the new Shopping campaigns system can seem like a huge undertaking.
Below we’ve provided seven tips to help you succeed during (and well after) the campaign migration process:
Going beyond basic campaign management strategy, advertisers can obtain additional control and visibility over Shopping campaigns by following more advanced tips:
For more best practices to ensure a seamless transition to Google Shopping campaigns, check out our full-length guide here.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the new changes and functionalities you can expect from Google Shopping campaigns, it’s time to nail down where to start in your transition prior to the August rollout.
The first thing to note is that regardless of how an advertiser’s existing PLA campaigns are set up today, there are several steps that they will need to take to migrate these campaigns over to the new Shopping campaigns in a smooth and seamless manner. Here’s where to start:
Once Google Shopping campaigns are up and running, advertisers should monitor and analyze performance metrics to ensure that they are getting their desired results. These performance metrics should also be used to determine how to best optimize their campaigns going forward.
While the features of Google Shopping campaigns are aimed at providing advertisers with an improved and more streamlined user experience, you should also be aware of the changes that have been made to some existing functionality with the same objectives in mind. Below is a rundown of what’s changed:
Now that you’re armed with the tools to begin making this transition, be sure to stay tuned for tips on how to get the most out of your Google Shopping campaigns once you’ve gotten started.
Google’s Product Listing Ads represent a highly effective channel for online retailers of all sizes, exposing new buyers to your products and driving purchases. Listing products on Google Shopping with rich product information such as price, image, color/size, SKU number and your brand name creates an engaging user experience that is difficult to get on other marketing channels available today.
I’ve managed PLAs in the past for online retailers and marketplaces and gained a lot of insight from my experience in building campaigns from scratch and analyzing performance data to make decisions. Here are five quick ways to optimize your PLA campaigns to ensure your spend yields positive returns and to get ahead of your competition.
1. Use search query and negative keywords to stop wasting spend. Since Google doesn’t allow you to specify keywords to target for PLAs, and because search results appear based on the information you have within your data feed, I recommend using negative keywords to add in some control. Negative keywords essentially tell Google what keywords you do not want products to show up for. This is useful because you don’t want to pay for clicks not relevant to your products.
For example, let’s say you’re online book retailer. Even if you’re trying to sell “The Hunger Games” book, Google will show your product ad to people searching for “Hunger games DVD.” Because you don’t sell the DVD and because the search isn’t relevant to the ad displaying, you will want to add “DVD” as a negative keyword.
To figure out what keywords you may want to exclude, you need to generate a search query report. In AdWords, do this by going to your Keywords tab within your PLA campaign. Then navigate DETAILS> SEARCH TERMS > ALL. This will populate the report you need in order to make your decision.
To kick it up a notch, use performance data with the search query report to evaluate which keywords are truly working or failing. Install the Google Conversion Tracking pixel on your conversion pages to see conversion data tied with the search queries generated from the report. This way, you can see what keywords are performing poorly and optimize for a better experience or pull the ad.
2. Regularly send a high quality data feed. It’s very important that you send Google the most updated feed with all fields populated. If you know the frequency of how fast your inventory will move or when price changes occur, it is best to submit in those feed changes immediately. This can vary, depending on whether you’re a small retailer with fixed pricing and few price specials, or a marketplace where pricing is controlled by individual sellers. It’s best to schedule the feed when your website and/or products get updated. Keep it fresh!
3. Ensure the product landing page matches up to the description in your data feed. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve encountered a bad data feed due to data processing errors, such as incorrect product information scrapped from the database or incorrect prices. It’s crucial to ensure that the product to landing page experience is flawless and what the customer expects to see. Even a slight price difference from the ad to the landing page – or worse, an out of stock item – may be a bad enough user experience to make users bounce away.
4. Test new product images. If you’re one of the online retailers that uses stock images for your products, then keep in mind that you’re not helping yourself stand out from the competition. If you’re looking for a boost in CTR and want to drive clicks away from your competitors, consider using your own product images.
For example, let’s say you’re an online retailer specializing in outdoor apparel with a product line of North Face jackets. Differentiate yourself by using your own models; humanize the products instead of showing the standard stock image that everyone else uses. If you’re a retailer that has hundreds to thousands of products, this may not be feasible so focus on your highest revenue potential products.
5. Identify products with the most clicks. Due to reporting limitations of PLAs, it’s difficult to pull a report that lists out products that have generated the most clicks. Given this, it’s important to make sure your own web analytics tools are set up to properly track and evaluate performance. Using your web analytics or third party tool, generate a report to get an understanding of which products are generating the most clicks. You will then be able to evaluate the performance, good and bad, and make a decision on how to optimize.
The rule of thumb for this exercise is to identify winners to bid higher. Or identify losers wasting spend to kill or improve. If the product ad performance is not as you expect, be sure to test out that experience to see why people are not converting as expected.
These five actionable items will ensure a great start to a healthy PLA campaign that will allow you to rise above your competitors. To learn more about Product Listing As, check out our latest whitepaper:
The State of Google Shopping: Mobile Shoppers & Record PLA Spend Drive Success for Retailers.
In June 2013, Google successfully completed their global transition of shopping results to the “pay-to-play” commercial model built on Product Listing Ads (PLA). In the US, this model is still less than a year old, yet online retailers are faced with the real challenges of effectively optimizing their campaigns ahead of the 2013 holiday season. For many search marketers, managing a Merchant Center product feed, testing ad group promotions, and building granular product targets are relatively new concepts. In order to be successful during the holidays and improve their revenue outcomes, marketers must refine their approach to managing and optimizing their PLA campaigns. The following four strategies will enable retail advertisers to deliver a richer and more engaging shopping experience, while maximizing revenue across product targets.
1. Granular Product Targets
Product targets, created using the product attributes defined within Google’s Merchant Center, enable retailers to deliver PLAs by product ID or SKU. In general, the more granular the product target, the more likely a relevant ad will be delivered for a corresponding product search. Rather than grouping multiple products together into a single product target, search marketers who map product IDs or SKUs to individual product targets are able to tie the performance of each target directly back to the individual product. Optimizing with this level of visibility and control allows retailers to not only align product targets with product-specific business goals, but also calculate optimal bids that maximize revenue across the entire product inventory.
2. Grouping for Promotional Text
Promotional text, which is optionally set at the ad group level, also benefits from granularity and is best leveraged with a tightly themed set of product targets. By organizing product targets that are consistently promoted together into separate ad groups, or the same ad group—such as by brand or product category—retailers can significantly differentiate their PLAs from their competitors. Keep in mind promotional text applies to all the products targeted in a specific ad group. Thus, the messaging should be applicable to all products under each product target and should be updated regularly to reflect changes to promotional offers.
3. Top Performing Products
Similar to paid search keywords, prioritizing top performing product targets provides retailers with more control over their revenue outcomes. By increasing exposure for these products, whether through an aggressive bidding strategy, separate ad groups and product targets, or through product feed optimization, search marketers can acquire more revenue while investing less time in management and optimization. For example, increasing product target bids or testing new images for popular products are two common strategies for increasing visibility among shoppers. Additionally, leveraging Dimensions or Labels, along with recurring reports, allow search marketers to quickly take action on top performing product targets when they are impacted by sudden shifts in the auction environment.
4. Poorly Performing Products
In contrast, products with low margins or products that perform poorly using standard text ads might also perform poorly with PLAs. By excluding these products from product targets or setting product filters to define which products can appear for PLAs, retailers can avoid bidding on these unprofitable products and exhausting their campaign budgets. Similarly, to limit the product searches for which PLAs will show and further improve relevance and performance, always research and implement appropriate negative keywords.
PLAs have become an integrated part of the online shopping experience. With this highly engaging ad format expanding to smartphone devices, retailers will undoubtedly allocate additional budget towards these campaigns moving forward. As more advertisers enter the landscape and competition increases, search marketers will need to continue investing in new technology and establish best practices to effectively execute on their PLA strategies. Retailers who have bought into PLAs and have begun optimizing their feed and product targets will not only be able to engage their customers, but will also be positioned to acquire more revenue this holiday season.
For more information on how Marin Software can help you successfully manage and optimize your PLA campaigns, contact your Client Services representative or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Product Listing Ads (PLA) provide a richer and more engaging search experience for shoppers. With the share of spend on PLA campaigns increasing 600% in Q4 of 2012, online retailers will undoubtedly continue investing more time and budget towards this ad format in 2013. In fact, in Q4 of 2012, online retailers allocated as much as 30% of their AdWords budget to PLA campaigns. As a result of this recent surge in adoption and spend, Marin Software has published a white paper that examines PLA performance throughout 2012 and presents five best practices for deploying, managing, and optimizing PLA campaigns.
Download the comprehensive 8 page PLA white paper here.
In October of 2012, Google successfully transitioned Google Product Search in the US to a commercial model built on Product Listing Ads (PLA). Though this enhanced shopping experience was faced with both criticism and praise when it was announced in May 2012, advertisers have seen PLA campaigns perform with a great deal of success. In fact, by the end of September 2012, over 100,000 retailers had inventory in Google’s new shopping model just in time for the holiday season.
One month ahead of the transition, the impression share of PLAs to standard text ads was 3.9% to 96% respectively. By the end of December, PLAs were receiving 60% more (6.1%) of the total impressions. This rapid growth in impressions share was not only due to more online retailers deploying PLA campaigns, but also the increase in product related searches during the holiday season.
However, the steady increase in click share from 2.1% in January 2012 to 6.6% (210% growth) in December indicates that shoppers are finding these PLAs, rather than standard text ads, to be more relevant to their search queries regardless of seasonality. The enhanced shopping experience and increase in relevancy is further supported by the gradual increase in click-through rate (CTR) from January 2012 through December. As seasonality became more of a factor in Q4, CTR for PLAs surpassed that of standard text ads in November and December.
This trend has far reaching implications as standard text ads cost more per click than PLAs during Q4 2012. For retailers, this means that PLAs are not only cheaper, but they perform far better than standard text ads during the busiest shopping season of the year. Of course, with the increase in PLA adoption by online marketers and increase in clicks by shoppers during the holiday season, the share of spend by PLA campaigns jumped from 0.36% in October to 2.5% (600% growth) in December. In fact, in Q4 alone many retailers allocated as much as 30% of their total spend on Google towards PLAs. This speaks volume to the incremental growth in spend on Google as a result of the Product Search transition. In 2013, online retailers will undoubtedly allocate additional budget towards PLAs, continuing to build on the momentum gained in 2012.