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How To Set Up Google Product Listing Ads

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In my last post, I discussed the changes to the new look Google Shopping Service and how it became part of Google’s AdWords PPC system. I would strongly recommend that you read my previous post about this first.

This time, I would like to look more closely at the Product Listing Ads (PLAs) themselves and examine a few bidding strategies. It is worth mentioning again that you will need to have at least one PLA campaign running in an active AdWords account for your products to appear in the Google Shopping Search and Comparison Engine. So if you have been enjoying free referrals using the old Google Base system you now need to get your wallet out…

Google Merchant Center Logo

Arguably the most important link in the chain is your Google product feed. This is an XML feed that contains all of your sites product information. Assuming your site has this functionality, you can use the ‘plain vanilla’ feed but you can do so much more if you optimise this feed for different purposes. In this post, I will concentrate on AdWords PLAs.

1. Submit an XML test feed to Google.

Log into your Google Merchant Centre account using your Google log in and fill in all of the required information. Don’t cut any corners – give your site a compelling description with your USP. Be sure to fill in all of the delivery options that you offer.

Submit your XML feed to Google as a test feed. This will allow you to troubleshoot any errors and warnings. *Important note about feed quality. Errors and warnings mean different things when it comes to your Google Shopping feed.

  • Warnings generally refer to optimisation issues such as missing fields in the product or category information. It is good practice to sort these issues out but the feed should still function. This does require some technical expertise.
  • Errors will stop your feed from functioning full stop. If you submit a feed to Google that has errors they will get in a huff and suspend your feed indefinitely.

Once you have a nice clean feed, submit this and schedule how often you want to submit it. This will depend on how often you update your stock.

Google AdWords Logo

2. Link your AdWords Account to your Merchant Centre Account

This bit is very easy thankfully. Google has included a function to get you started. Just follow the directions on the dashboard inside your Google Merchant Centre account. You can link an existing AdWords account or set a basic PLA campaign up directly from scratch using your Merchant Centre dashboard. You will need to have a valid form of payment at this point. The Google system will suggest an initial bid amount for you which you can of course set manually. This default campaigns will get you started with PLAs and Google Shopping but this will be a ‘catch all’ campaign and may not be what you want in order to achieve your marketing goals.

Please note that you can use PLAs and AdWords Product Extensions together. In fact, this is good practice. What’s the difference? In Google’s own words…

  • Product Listing Ads are a stand-alone shopping ad format that uses product information from an advertiser’s Merchant Center account. These ads appear in a variety of formats and feature relevant product information, such as a product image, price, or name. They can also include an optional promotional message managed in the advertiser’s AdWords account. Product Listing Ads focus on targeting product information to shoppers and aren’t designed to focus solely on merchants.
  • Product extensions are an ad format in which product information accompanies a standard text ad with standard keyword targeting. They also use product details from a merchant’s Merchant Center account and feature multiple products from only that merchant. Product information appears next to the text ad, which allows customers to get a better sense of the advertiser’s product selection prior to clicking through to visit the advertiser’s site.

Please note that you can use PLAs and AdWords Product Extensions together. In fact, this is good practice. What’s the difference? In Google’s own words…

  • Product Listing Ads are a stand-alone shopping ad format that uses product information from an advertiser’s Merchant Center account. These ads appear in a variety of formats and feature relevant product information, such as a product image, price, or name. They can also include an optional promotional message managed in the advertiser’s AdWords account. Product Listing Ads focus on targeting product information to shoppers and aren’t designed to focus solely on merchants.
  • Product extensions are an ad format in which product information accompanies a standard text ad with standard keyword targeting. They also use product details from a merchant’s Merchant Center account and feature multiple products from only that merchant. Product information appears next to the text ad, which allows customers to get a better sense of the advertiser’s product selection prior to clicking through to visit the advertiser’s site.

Google Product Listing Ads

A Google Product listing ad will look something like this..

Google Product Listing Ad Example

If a user clicks on the product title, they will be taken directly to the product on the site. If they click on the “Shop for…” option, they will be taken to the Google Shopping comparison page. Please consider this however; comparison sites may not be for you if you are not keen on price. In fact, they can work against you in this respect.

PLA Bidding Tips

1. Ideally, you should consider creating different ad groups for different product categories. This way you can set different bids for each category depending on your marketing objectives.

2. You can either use the categories that Google uses for it’s Google Shopping Search Engine or create your own if you have a managed feed.

3. PLAs are extremely bid sensitive so you will need to set your bids higher than what you would for your text ads. This is because you need to get your PLAs in the top 2 or 3 to get any click-through.

4. The are no hard and fast rules with PLA bidding. You just have to try different bidding strategies and look at your conversion rate with respect to your goals.

Are PLAs Effective?

It’s early days for PLAs in the UK but most of the campaigns I’ve seen that use them seem to benefit. The conversion rates I’m seeing are definitely higher than text ads which is interesting.

Historically, Google always experiment with layout so we expect these ads to evolve in the same way that other ad formats have.

To Sum Up Then…

Setting up and troubleshooting a decent quality XML product feed can be quite tricky. Setting up the original feed does require some expertise. However, once you have this though, setting up a basic PLA campaign is very easy and this will mean that you can enjoy the benefits of PLAs and Google Shopping. However, just using the basics is a missed opportunity.

Your feed will allow you to do all sorts of fancy multi-channel marketing, comparison shopping, as well as product level advertising on AdWords. In some competitive markets, Google Shopping has become a lifeline for many on-line merchants. Here at Fisheye, we build XML feed functionality into all of our e-commerce websites. We also offer various levels of feed management and AdWords services depending on the budget and requirements of the client.

If you are interested in harnessing the potential of Google Shopping and your product XML feed then we would love to hear from you..

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