Should You Use Google’s PLA Shopping Campaigns?

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Last August, Google started rolling out a new type of Product Listing Ad (PLA) called PLA Shopping Campaigns. The PLA Shopping Campaigns are still AdWords-based but have a completely different look and feel. For example, prior to August 2014, if you had input a search for running shoes, your results would’ve provided the following text-based AdWords ads:

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Now, however, Google is offering a different type of ad format to advertisers. This format has a more Amazon and retail look/feel to it, as shown below:

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The PLA Shopping Campaigns ad has five key advantages over its text-based sibling. The biggest of these advantages is the image, which instantly provides the shopper with an impression of the product. Shoppers are more likely to click on an ad that has an image versus straight text.

Then, there are the product name and product price, which could arguably also be included in a text-based ad. However, with this type of ad, those points clearly stand out and are noticeable.

Merchant/store name is the next bit of information- unlike text ads, which typically bury this information in the URL, here you have it front and center. Also, the merchant/store must be verified.

The last advantage of this ad type is the seller rating, which must be enabled through an extension and input with actual ratings. However, if you have collected positive customer reviews, this is where you can show them off. Showcased seller ratings nurture customer trust in you and your products.

How do you create PLA Shopping Campaigns?

At this point in time, Google should’ve rolled out the PLA Shopping Campaign function all over North America. To get started with creating your own campaign, you first need to create a Google Merchant Center account. If you don’t yet have one, you also need to create a Google AdWords account.

Once this is complete, you will need to generate your product feed. Most commonly, this consists of a spreadsheet containing information about your listed products, including their images, names, conditions, prices, etc. An example product specification sheet is shown below.

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If you have only a few products, however, you could also create your data feed by simply inputting product information as plain text.

Once you’ve input all your product data, you need to link your Merchant Center and AdWords accounts to begin creating and saving ad campaigns and setting bids.

Differences between PLA Shopping Campaigns and regular PLAs

Aside from their outward appearance, PLA Shopping Campaigns and traditional PLAs have some additional unique differences, which are mostly realized when you are trying to generate them on the AdWords platform. Here are some of the biggest differences:

Campaign Priority

Traditional AdWords ads were preferentially displayed based on bid amount. For example, if you had a campaign for Asics running shoes set to a bid of $0.75 and a campaign for Nike running shoes set to a bid of $0.40, the $0.75 bid won out.

With the new Campaign Priority setting on PLA Shopping Campaigns, you can set bid priority from Low to Medium to High for the same product types. This priority setting will determine which actual product is dislayed to a viewer, rather than the bid price.

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Inventory Filters

Merchants can create up to seven custom campaign filters by selecting “Create custom filter,” including Google category, item ID, brand, condition, product type, etc. This enables you to feature a subset of your products rather than all of them. The Inventory Filters feature is very useful if you want to run a promotion or seasonal sale on a select number of products, for example.

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Local inventory advertising

You can also enable local inventory advertising if your products are sold in actual brick-and-mortar stores. Google will require that you verify your local business and in-store inventory, however.

Long tail keywords emphasis

With text-based ads, you had a lot more opportunity to add keywords specific to your products. The new PLA Shopping Campaigns leave precious little room for text. This makes creating accurate and long-tail product descriptors within your inventory area extremely important. You should also invest some time in adding alt tags to your product photos- in many cases, those tags will be the only information that AdWords uses to display your ads.

Advantages of using PLA Shopping Campaigns

With Google’s new Shopping Campaigns advertising format, managing inventory is much easier. To begin with, you can browse through and select your products directly via your AdWords account. In the past, you’d have to input ‘All Products’ as a product target to have all your products become active in your campaigns.

You also get additional analytics information with the new Shopping Campaigns- specifically on your competitors. You can now benchmark your CPC (cost per click) and CTR (click-through rate) scores to those of your competitors. Knowing this information helps you determine if raising your bid price will help increase your impression and conversion rates- or not.

Finally, if you’re just trying to get started with Google AdWords and don’t know how much or how little of a bid price to set, the platform now also features bidding guidance.

PLA Shopping Campaigns: They’re the Future

If you’re still hesitant about using Google’s Amazon-like PLA Shopping Campaigns, keep in mind that the traditional, text-based ads you still see online are due to be phased out entirely. So, you might as well start checking out PLA Shopping Campaigns and becoming comfortable with this new and improved AdWords format.

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