Everything You Need To Know About Product Listing Ads

Google specifically designed its Product Listing Ads for eCommerce. You can’t use them to promote blogs or news content. They’re all about driving up online sales for your store. This is why they’re an essential marketing tactic for every eCommerce brand.

The steps required to set up Google PLA ads are different to that of traditional search and display ads. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.

What are product listing ads?

Product Listing Ads – or PLAs – are ads that show up when someone enters a product-related search into Google.

Product listing ads are distinct because they can include product images, real-time pricing information and reviews. This information is always up-to-date because Google pulls it directly from your product feed.

Example of a product listing ads
Example of a product listing ads for ‘brown leather sofa’

They are prominently positioned too. These eye-catching product listing ads usually appear above Google’s text-based search ads and organic results. So they are often the first thing searchers see.

These ads can appear to the right of search results too. Or, if searchers click on Google’s ‘shopping’ tab, they will be displayed even more prominently.

Results for 'brown leather sofa' under the shopping tab on Google
Results for ‘brown leather sofa’ under the shopping tab on Google

Simply put, these product ads allow brands to reach shoppers at a crucial moment in the sales process. The modern consumer journey is no longer linear and prospects can now discover new brands right at the moment of conversion.

Similar ad types are also available on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. But the term  Product Listing Ads usually refers specifically to Google.

The advantages of using PLA advertising

49% of shoppers say they use Google to find new items and products. So it is the perfect place to display product ads. But some other unique benefits come with PLA advertising too.

1. They put your products front and centre

Product listing ads provide brands with the opportunity to reach a wider, but highly relevant, audience.

Because of the prominent position of Google PLA ads, as well as their attractive format, shoppers are likely to take notice of them.

Even if they don’t end up clicking through, these ads can help gain exposure for your brand. But you won’t have to pay for this perk, because PLA advertising only costs money when someone clicks to view your product.

It is also possible for a brand to have multiple products on display in one set of search results. Brands that manage to do this will develop their reputation as an industry leader.

2. They capture commercial intent

If someone clicks a product ad with a price and an image, they’re probably past the point of gathering information. They’re ready to buy.

Because PLA advertising targets customers as they look for products, brands can expect to attract more sales than they would with traditional display ads.

In fact, looking at average conversion rates across industries, Google search network performs much better than the Google Display Network. They stand at 4.4% and 0.57%, respectively.

Figures comparing text-based search ads and Google PLA ads aren’t available. But because PLAs are eye-catching and more prominently placed, this may benefit click-through rates and brand awareness. 

Because shoppers can see a product image before clicking your ad, this should result in higher conversion rates, qualified leads and ROAS too. All of which are good for your brand’s bottom line – whatever eCommerce KPIs you track.

While capturing buying intent can be a task, we at ChannelSight have helped numerous global brands do this by the consumer buying journey.

3. They provide a seamless user experience

As already mentioned, product ads help brands reach the right consumers at the right time.

While this is good news for brands that want to drive sales, it is also beneficial for shoppers who want to check out quickly.

Providing a great eCommerce customer experience is all about convenience. PLA advertising facilitates this as shoppers can click directly through to a product page. They won’t have to waste time viewing tons of text results. Instead, they can see a product’s photo, price and rating at a glance. 

When shoppers reach your website, try to make their experience even better. Offer live chat for questions and queries. Provide a list of related products so they can browse other options. And, if your products are available from a physical retail space, facilitate in-store shopping options.

According to Merkle’s most recent Digital Marketing Report, local product listing ads have been on an upward trend over the past year. It estimates that physical store visits produced by Google ads are also rising as the pandemic eases.

Consumers are returning to stores to browse, buy, do curbside pickup and collect products in-store. Brands can make this as easy as possible by providing location information, livestock updates and click-and-collect options. Using a ‘Where to Buy’ technology can help with this along with helping in driving potential consumer lower down the funnel 

Google PLA ads: How to get started in 4 simple steps

Setting up PLA advertising is different from other types of search ads. Keywords aren’t used in the same way, but you can launch a campaign in just a few steps. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Set up an account in the Google Merchant Center

To do this, you’ll need to head to Google and provide some basic business information. This will be displayed to people who view your product ads. Google will also ask for details of the other people who need account access. 

You’ll need a gmail account to complete this first step.

2. Verify your store

Before you can run any PLA advertising campaigns, you need to prove to Google that you are the authorised owner of your store.

To do this, you can simply connect your website with Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager. Though this isn’t always possible if your store is run on a third-party platform like Shopify.

Alternatively, you can add a HTML tag or file to your website. You may need help from your developer to do this.

To finish off the process, return to your Google Merchant account and click the ‘Verify URL’ button in the bottom right. Once this is done, you can start creating product ads.

3. Upload your products

Instead of crafting ad copy and carefully choosing keywords by yourself, Google automatically takes your inventory information to create product listing ads.

You can upload your product data to Google through an automated feed or a .txt file. So, if you want to see some relevant keywords in your ads, you’ll need to make sure they’re included in your product titles and descriptions at this early stage.

Automated feeds are easy to set up on eCommerce platforms like Shopify, WordPress and PrestaShop. Though you may have to pay a fee to download the relevant app or extension. Automated feeds are a big time saver and your ads will automatically update any time your product information changes.

The manual .txt file approach takes longer, but you can refine and tweak each product entry to optimise your product ads. However, every time you update the document with a new price or feature, you will need to upload it to Google again. You can download sample files to edit or use as a reference point here.

Tech-savvy brands using their own custom platforms can also integrate their product feeds using Google’s Content API. This will definitely require a developer’s assistance.

4. Set up your PLA advertising in Google Ads

Once your products are uploaded, you can head to Google Ads to set up specific ad groups and targeting rules for your products. Here, you’ll also be able to set ad bids.

Although Google PLA ads don’t use keywords, they are similar to other ads in that placements are based on competitive auction bids. The cost per click will vary depending on your industry and the products you sell.

It’s also worth noting that once you have Google’s PLA advertising set up, you can easily import your product ads to Bing with the Microsoft Google Merchant Import tool.

Final thoughts

It’s important for brands to have a presence wherever people search for products.

PLA advertising offers a prime opportunity to win over customers as they prepare to make a purchase. These ads are great for brand awareness too. But they’re also important in terms of customer experience and convenience.

Whatever you can do to make life easier for shoppers should benefit your brand as well.

Need some help with your eCommerce strategy? ChannelSight has a team of experts that can help implement solutions to enhance your eCommerce strategy. To learn more, contact us today.