Product Listing Ads – Best practices and tips for new users

In Q4 2011, Google's Product Listing Ads (PLAs) - a new type of search ad offering, which enjoyed great success in the US, became available in the UK amid huge excitement.

At Greenlight we encourage our clients to utilise PLAs as we have found them to be very effective in delivering both a strong click through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CR).

PLA's include richer product information, such as product image, price, and merchant name, without requiring additional keywords or ad text.  

PLA's work with the Product Merchant Centre Feed, a tool which helps vendors upload product listings to be used for Google Product Search, Google Product Ads, and Google Commerce Search. Whenever a user enters a search query, Google searches the data in the Product Merchant Centre Feed, and displays the item most relevant to the query along with the associated image, price and product name - a great way to capture the searchers' attention.

Maria Asenova - Product Listing Ads - Fig 1

Best practices and tips for new PLA users

  • If you have a good performing keyword targeted search campaign already, use PLA for these products first


  • If you want to advertise the full range, first run the entire feed until you have enough data to evaluate performance. After separate it into different products using auto targets once you know which products are working best. Auto targets allows you to create product sets and link them to ad groups


  • Create different ad groups for each product/brand. It allows you to choose the field you want Google to use from the merchant centre feed. In this way, you can have a more control of the budget, bidding, promotion ad copy and targeting


  • Run the whole feed to aid in uncovering new good performing products which could also be used for keyword targeted campaigns
  • Run a Search Query Report (SQR) to find out irrelevant/ poor performing keywords and add them as negatives. This tells Google not to show your ad to anyone who is searching for them


  • Use promotional messages in your ad copy to differentiate your ads. Change them at intervals and compare their click through rate(CTR)  and conversion rate (CR) effectiveness 


  • Quality score is still valid so pay attention to CTR and relevancy. Remember a high Quality Score indicates to Google your ad, keyword, and landing page are all relevant and useful to someone looking at your ad


  • Run Search Query Reports (SQRs) to gain insight into strongly performing search queries, and add them to your keyword targeted campaigns


  • Remember PLA works better for more specific search queries than the generic ones


  • The success of PLA heavily depends on the product merchant feed.  So optimise the feed by paying close attention to errors and warnings shown on the Data Quality Tab in the Merchant Centre


  • PLA is known to be more expensive than the text search ads and you can change the bidding as often as you like. However, it is best to wait until you have enough data to analyse correctly


  • Bid high at the start as you have to be in the top/ right 3 positions on the search engine results page to be eligible to show. It can take a full day until your ads are shown when you first set up


  •  Increase your bids if they do not get any impressions after one day


  • If your ad is not shown for a specific brand/ product, create a different ad group for it and bid accordingly


  • Avoid bidding aggressively if your business cannot afford to compete with the big brands. Optimise your campaign first then pause if it still does not perform effectively


Strengths of PLAs

  • PLAs deliver strong click through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CR)
  • They allow advertisers to promote everything within their feed very quickly and effectively requiring less management when compared to Text Search and Display Search
  • Most PLAs appear on long tail search queries that advertisers might not previously bid for
  • PLA and a text ad from the same advertiser appear alongside on the same search results allowing double serving. It is a good way to increase your share of the Google search results
  • PLAs allow you to target either the whole feed or some specific products/brands easily by using auto targets
  • You can see the performance statistic (impressions, clicks, cost etc.) for each product targeted

An image with a price which is related to a search query can be a great way to capture the searcher's attention.  In addition, if a user clicks on an ad after seeing the exact item with its price, the clicks are likely to result in conversions.  So, get involved! It's all a matter of testing and optimizing.  Even if you already have keyword targeted campaigns, PLA is a great way of increasing the number of impressions for the same products/brands.


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