Product Listing Ads: An Overview and Effective Utilization

What Are Product Listing Ads?

Product Listing Ads, commonly known as PLAs, are a form of paid advertising designed to promote your products within search engine results. Platforms such as Google and Bing display these ads when users search for specific products you offer.

Google Shopping is a popular price comparison platform where many consumers go to compare products and find the best prices. For retailers, this presents a valuable opportunity to showcase their products to a wide audience.

Product Listing Ads(PLAs)

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) play a crucial role in this by prominently displaying retailer’s products on Google Shopping, helping them attract the attention of potential buyers.

These ads usually appear at the top or on the right-hand side of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

They also appear in the “Shopping” tab.

PLAs even appear alongside image search results for that query.

During ad setup, you also have the option to show your products on Google partner websites. When selected, your ads will appear on YouTube and third-party websites that have partnered with Google to host ads.

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) offer a direct way to capture the attention of customers precisely when they’re searching for a product you sell. However, effectively creating and managing a PLA campaign can be complex. Semco’s PLA Research tool provides valuable insights into your competitors’ Google Shopping ads, which can be used to refine and enhance your own strategy. We’ll delve into this tool in more detail later on.

Product Listing Ads vs. Google Shopping

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and Google Shopping are closely related but have distinct differences:

PLAs are a type of paid online advertisement that appears on search engines like Google and Bing. They require payment each time a user clicks on the ad. Google Shopping, on the other hand, is a comparison shopping engine (CSE) that includes both paid PLAs and organic product listings.

PLAs are created and managed through advertising platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Ads. Google Shopping, however, is a dedicated platform within Google where users can search for and compare products from various sellers.

In a search for “buy shoes online,” you might see PLAs displayed at the top or side of the search results page on Google or Bing. These ads showcase specific products with images, prices, and store names.

Google Shopping, on the other hand, provides a broader comparison shopping experience, showing various sellers offering the searched products.

When developing a marketing strategy, it’s important to consider both organic and paid opportunities on Google Shopping. This ensures that your products are visible in both types of listings. Similarly, for PLA campaigns, it’s essential to also consider advertising on Bing, as it is a significant search engine with its own user base.

How Do Product Listing Ads Work?

When users search for products online, search engines like Google and Bing use the product information provided by brands to find relevant matches. This information helps products appear in the shopping results when they fit the parameters of the user’s search query.

To provide Google and Bing with your product information, you need to create a product feed and upload it to Google Merchant Center and Microsoft Merchant Center, respectively.

Your product feed should include attributes such as product titles, descriptions, stock availability, price, category, link, and more. Common file extensions for product feeds include TXT, XML, and TSV.

An example of a typical CSV product feed is shown below:

CSV product feed example Before uploading, make sure to save this CSV file with a compatible filename extension (e.g., .tsv and .txt).

After uploading your feed to the relevant merchant center(s), the next step is to link your associated advertising account(s):

  • Link your Google Merchant Center account with your Google Ads account.
  • Link your Microsoft Merchant Center account with your Microsoft Ads account.

With your feeds uploaded and accounts linked, you can now create ad campaigns that utilize these feeds to display your product ads in search results.

Unlike traditional text-based search ads, shopping ads do not offer keyword targeting. Instead, product listing ads (PLAs) on Google and Bing utilize data from uploaded feeds to determine the relevance of your product to a user’s search.

The effectiveness of your PLAs depends on several factors:

  1. Product data feed: Ensure it is complete, accurate, and regularly updated to prevent ad disapprovals.
  2. User relevance: The closer your product aligns with user search intent, the higher its potential ranking.
  3. Product attributes: Optimize titles and descriptions to match user queries.
  4. Bid amount: While a higher bid can lead to better positions, consider your campaign goals and budget.
  5. Click-through and conversion rates: Ads with higher click-through rates (CTRs) and more conversions tend to secure better placements.
  6. Merchant center performance: A positive history with consistent activity can positively influence your ad’s ranking.

5 Benefits of Product Listing Ads

Increased Visibility in Search Results:

PLAs appear prominently in search results, often above standard text ads and organic listings. This strategic positioning increases brand visibility and user engagement.

Higher Click-Through Rate:

The visual nature and detailed information in PLAs make them more engaging than text-only ads, leading to a higher click-through rate.

Better Qualified Traffic:

PLAs target users with commercial intent, resulting in traffic more likely to convert. Users clicking on PLAs already have a clear understanding of the product, reducing casual browsing.

Detailed Performance Tracking:

PLAs offer detailed performance metrics, such as clicks and conversions for specific product ads. This data helps in understanding which products are performing well and which need adjustments.

Better Customer Experience:

PLAs provide immediate product information, aiding quick and informed decision-making. This convenience improves customer satisfaction and can lead to repeat business.

How to Set Up Product Listing Ads

Creating product listing ads (PLAs) involves several steps, especially when using platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Ads. Here’s a detailed guide for setting up PLAs on Google Shopping:

Create a Product Feed:

Use tools or plugins provided by shopping platforms (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce) to create your product feed.

Ensure your product feed follows Google’s product data specification.

Set Up Google Merchant Center:

Create a Google Merchant Center account.

Add your products to the Merchant Center.

Connect Google Merchant Center with Google Ads:

Access the “Apps” settings in Google Merchant Center.

Upload Your Data Feed:

Connect your Google Merchant Center account with your Google Ads account.

Upload your product feed file to Google Merchant Center.

Google will review and approve your products (this process may take one to three business days).

Create Your PLA Campaign:

Log in to your Google Ads account.

Click “Create” and select “Campaign.”

Choose “Sales” as your campaign objective and “Shopping” as your campaign type.

Select your Merchant Center account.

Choose between “Standard Shopping” and “Performance Max” subtypes. (For this example, let’s select “Standard Shopping.”)

Name your campaign :

And configure settings like bid strategy:

Daily budget:

Campaign priority:

This is where you’ll also decide:

Ad appearance locations, targeted devices, geographic location, and campaign duration.

Name your ad group and set your cost-per-click (CPC) bid if using manual bidding.

Review your ad and configurations, then click “Create Campaign.”

Following these steps will help you set up your PLAs on Google Shopping effectively

How to Track PLA Performance

Tracking the performance of your Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) is essential for optimizing your campaigns and maximizing their effectiveness. Here’s how you can track PLA performance using Google Merchant Center, Google Ads, and Google Analytics:

Google Merchant Center:

Utilize the performance dashboard in Google Merchant Center to view metrics such as impressions, clicks, click-through rates (CTR), and other conversion metrics.

Regularly monitor your PLA performance to identify trends and areas for improvement.

Google Ads:

Use the insights dashboard in Google Ads to track various metrics like CTR, cost-per-click (CPC), conversion rate, and return on ad spend (ROAS).

Google Ads provides valuable insights into your PLA campaigns, enabling you to make data-driven decisions to optimize performance.

Google Analytics:

Link your Google Ads account to Google Analytics to gain deeper insights into user behavior and the customer journey.

Track post-click interactions, such as which pages users visit, how long they stay, and their path to conversion.

Use UTM parameters in your PLA URLs to track the specific source, medium, campaign, term, and content that directed users to your site.

Analyze this data in Google Analytics to understand which aspects of your advertising are most effective and optimize your campaigns accordingly.

By tracking PLA performance using Google Merchant Center, Google Ads, and Google Analytics, you can gain valuable insights into your campaigns and make informed decisions to improve their effectiveness.

To link your Google Analytics account to Google Ads and enhance your tracking capabilities, follow these steps:

Go to your Google Analytics account and select the property you want to connect by clicking the “All accounts” path at the top.

Select the desired property from the drop-down menu.

Click on “Admin” in the sidebar to open the admin settings.

Scroll down to the “Product links” section and choose “Google Ads links.”

Click on “Link” to proceed.

Select the Google Ads account you wish to link and configure the settings as needed.

Click “Submit” to complete the linking process.

To enhance your tracking capabilities further, consider using UTM parameters in your URLs. UTM parameters are code snippets added to the end of your website URLs to identify specific information about the traffic source, medium, campaign, term, and content. This is particularly useful for tracking the effectiveness of different ads and campaigns.

For example, you can tag your PLA URLs with unique UTM codes to track which ads are driving traffic and conversions.

Analyzing this data in Google Analytics provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of your advertising efforts, helping you optimize your campaigns for better results.

7 Product Listing Ads Best Practices

Running a successful PLA campaign requires thorough planning, efficient execution, and ongoing optimization.

Here are some best practices to make your PLAs more effective:

Optimize Your Product Feed

Optimizing your feed involves refining the quality of your product data to improve its performance in search results.

Use precise, searchable product titles and detailed descriptions. And select the right product categories.

Product feeds often contain errors or issues. Regularly checking your feed’s health involves looking for and fixing common issues like missing information, incorrect categorization, or poor image quality.

Addressing these issues improves the likelihood of your ads being approved.

You can use the Product Feed Health Checker from Semco to optimize your product feed. It analyzes your product titles, descriptions, and other details. And provides optimization ideas for your listings.

Open the tool and click “Check your Google shopping feed.” You can either upload your product feed file in zipped .tsv file format or connect your Google Merchant Account.

“Check your Google shopping feed” button in Product Feed Health Checker After analyzing your feed, the tool will provide a report showing how well your product listings are optimized for Google Shopping.

Product Feed Health Checker report showing product listings optimization You can click on any product for more details about issues that need fixing.

A product with no description issue found in Product Feed Health Checker The goal is to increase your “Healthy score %” for each product. This will collectively improve your product feed.

Well-optimized feeds are more likely to match user search queries accurately, which increases the chances of your ads being displayed and clicked.

Implement Competitive Pricing Strategies

Competitive pricing is key to getting people to click your ad. If your product’s price is higher than those in other ads, your CTR could be low. (Especially in markets where price is a big consideration for buyers.)

Actively monitor your competitors’ prices and adjust yours to remain appealing to customers.

This doesn’t always mean lowering your prices. As an alternative, you could highlight the unique value of your product so that a higher price point is more easily justified.

You can see the pricing of your competitors’ products using the PLA Research tool.

Open the tool, enter your competitor’s domain, select the country in the drop-down, and click “Search.”

PLA Research tool search bar In the default “Positions” tab, scroll to the “PLA Positions” card.

“PLA Positions” section of PLA Research’s Positions report You’ll see the list of products your competitor is selling through Google PLAs, the price of those products, the search queries that trigger those product ads, and more.

Look at the “Price (USD)” column.

“Price (USD)” column highlighted in PLA Positions table Use this information to adjust the pricing of your own products and ad content accordingly.

Use Negative Keywords Wisely

Using negative keywords in your PLAs helps ensure your ads don’t appear for the wrong audience. These keywords filter out searches that are unlikely to lead to a sale.

This targeting refines your audience to those who are more likely to be interested in and can afford your products.

Regularly check the search terms report in your Google Ads account to get ideas for negative keywords. This report shows what people are typing into Google when they see your ads.

For instance, if you notice your luxury watch ads are being triggered by searches for “’inexpensive watches,” you would add “inexpensive” as a negative keyword.

This way, your ads are more likely to reach shoppers looking for high-end products. It improves your chances of attracting customers who are a good fit for what you’re selling.

Regularly updating your product feed

Regularly updating your product feed is crucial for maintaining relevance and accuracy. Customers are more likely to engage with your product listings if they reflect current information such as pricing, availability, and any discounts or promotions.

For instance, if you sell smartphones online, it’s essential to update your feed promptly with new models, price changes, and stock availability. This ensures that when customers search for smartphones, they see up-to-date options, increasing the chances of them clicking on your ads and making a purchase.

Utilize High-Quality Images

Images are often the first element that catches a customer’s eye. A high-quality, appealing image can significantly increase the likelihood of a click.

Ensure your product images are well-lit, in high resolution, and showcase your product from various angles. This approach helps customers visualize the product better.

For instance, if you’re selling furniture, include images that feature the item in a styled room setting, along with close-ups to highlight texture and color details.

This comprehensive view can help potential buyers better understand your product, making them more inclined to engage with your ad.

Optimize Titles and Descriptions

The titles and descriptions in your product feeds should be clear, concise, and packed with relevant information.

Include details such as brand, size, color, and any unique features.

For example, a title could read “30” European Design Lounge Chair – Iconic Accent Chair – Premium Beige.”

Use language that resonates with your target audience and includes keywords they might use in their searches. For instance, if you’re selling sports equipment, use terms like “lightweight,” “durable,” or specific sports names.

This approach makes your PLAs more relevant to user searches.

Create Segmented Campaigns

Segmenting your PLA campaigns allows for more targeted and effective advertising.

Most search engines, including Google and Bing, offer options to group your products within their advertising platforms.

Start by categorizing your products based on characteristics such as category, price range, or customer demographics.

For example, create separate campaigns in Google Ads for “luxury items” and “budget-friendly finds” using the “Product groups” feature.

Categorization lets you customize your messaging and adjust bidding strategies by segment.

You can also review the performance data for each segment and refine your approach based on learnings specific to that group. This helps ensure each group is optimized for the best possible results.

Ready to Create Your First PLA Campaign?

Product listing ads give you direct access to people looking for products like yours.

It is one of the best ways for retailers to drive sales.

However, creating an effective PLA campaign requires thorough planning that undertakes existing market realities.

Start by analyzing your competitors. Look at their ads and learn from them. Based on that, create your own campaign.

Try PLA Research for free.