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Revamp your PLA Strategies for Maximizing Revenue Generation

With ongoing advancements and development of new mobile media in the smartphone segment, people have found it convenient to use these devices for gaining access to the internet. Statistical studies have found that the majority of the users on the internet access it from their smartphones due to the feasibility of acquiring information while being on the move.


PLA or Product Listing Ads were introduced in 3rd – 4th quarter of 2012 when Google has converted its Google Shopping platform to a paid service. The capabilities of the smartphone domain were realized during the holiday season where PLA CTR from smartphone devices exhibited greater values than the combined value of tablets and personal computers (desktops). In light of these statistics, businesses and marketing professionals need to ponder upon the question, “Should Mobile Media be Given Consideration When Creating and Displaying Product Listing Ads?”


Before we arrive at the answer to this crucial question, it is important to analyse the performance capabilities of the mobile media in the coming months, especially the expected performance by the end of 2014. This would help in arriving at an accurate conclusion pertaining to laying emphasis on smartphones and other mobile media when creating and displaying product listing ads.


Product List Ads – Richer Information in Limited Space

PLA (Product Listing Ads) have played a major role in providing successful revenue generation for businesses that offer products through physical outlets as well as e-commerce portals. In comparison to conventional online ads, PLA provide richer information about the product inclusive of product image, wherein the information can be enhanced further by using appropriate AdWords extensions (location extension, call extensions and site link extensions).


PLA do not have the requirement of extra ad text or additional keywords for increasing the quality of information contained in the ads. PLAs provide greater user engagement and also allow ads to be features on Google Shopping.


Figure 1: PLA & PLA Extensions in Use 


The benefits of PLA would be reaped as long as users continue to access to Google Shopping services, especially while being on the move. By the end of 2013, the PLA CPC had risen by 141% which is a huge increase considering that text based ads exhibited an increase of only 21%. The exponential growth in the stats for PLA has been the direct impact of the growth of the respective marketplace.

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Figure 2: PLA CPC Stats for 2013, Source: (Lee, 2014)


The reasons that may be attributed to the immense success of product listing ads include:

  •  Direct and informative content.
  • Visual representation of actual product
  • Brief product description along with displaying of related products which aid in making appropriate purchase decisions.
  •  Contact details (displayed with the use of call extensions in 
  • Address of the business (displayed with the use of location extensions in ads)
  •  Links to the internal pages of the website where the product is listed for online sale (displayed with the use of site links extensions in ads)


PLAs Perform Exceptionally Well During the Holiday Season;

The holiday season is one of the most important times in a year when businesses try every possible strategy to ensure that customers are targeted effectively. People search for all sort of products to gift to others or to acquire for personal use. Text based ads, even though pretty successful in reaching out to bulk customers, fails to provide the richness and quality that is delivered by PLAs in less space. Moreover the inclusion of related products is an added benefit for enabling customers to make their purchase decisions without having to spend too much time.


PLAs have been known to perform exceptionally well during the holiday season and it gives significant leverage to businesses for generating greater income, achieving higher sales and ensuring greater conversions from their ads. Smartphones have made major contributions to the overall CTR achieved by PLAs.


According to the findings presented in “The State of Google Shopping” report, PLA CTR from smartphones was more than the combined value of CTR that was generated from tablets and personal computers. This goes on to portray the immense potential of mobile media in increasing the effectiveness of marketing efforts.


Figure 3: PLA CTR Stats for the Final Quarter of 2013, Source:Marvin, 2014


The above figure clearly demonstrates the role of smartphones in contributing to the overall CTR obtained for product listing ads. Moreover, it also indicates the stated increase in user engagement with PLAs during the holiday season which falls in the 4th quarter of the year.


Some may argue that despite the high CTR, the CPA for PLAs also increased which could have an impact on the overall marketing budget. But if we consider the other aspect of the increases CPCs, then it gives a clear indication of greater user engagement with product listing ads. It is due to this crucial benefit that advertisers have been known to invest almost 80% of their marketing budget for PLAs.               


Figure 4: PLA Share of Spend in 2013


The Verdict:

Based on the overall performance of PLAs in 2013 and their comparative stats (when compared to the performance metrics of (2012), it is strongly suggested to make use of PLAs and ensure that are optimized for the mobile platform. The outcomes of recent studies have also stated that smartphones would contribute to an estimated 40% of the entire Google PLA traffic by the 4th quarter of 2014. In addition to such contributions for PLAs, the smartphone would also contribute towards increasing the number of mobile shoppers.


The PLA Campaign Creation Process:

AdWords offers two approaches for managing PLAs, namely Shopping Campaigns and Regular PLA Campaigns. The process for ad campaign creation in both approaches involves linking the AdWords account with the Google Merchant Center account and then creating ads by using specific targets and keywords to ensure maximum visibility and conversation potential for the created ads.

Merchant Center is a useful tool offered by Google that allows advertisers to upload their product listing for being used in PLAs, Google Shopping, and Google Commerce Search. The tool also provides the convenience of linking multiple AdWords accounts to the Merchant Center account which allows greater flexibility in managing multiple campaigns.


You can link your Google Merchant Center account to your AdWords account by using the following steps:


  •  Select “Settings” from the menu in your Merchant Center Account and then click the “AdWords” option.
  •  In the provided field, enter the “AdWords Customer ID” that is allotted to your account. (The Customer ID is mentioned near the email address at the top of the page when the user is signed into the AdWords account.)
  • Click on the “Add” option to complete the linking process.

Once the accounts have been duly linked, you can set up a new regular PLA campaign. Setting up a new campaign requires the following steps to be undertaken:

  • Access your AdWords account by signing in with your user credentials.
  •  Select the “Campaigns” tab and go to “+Campaign” option. In this sub-menu, select the option “Search Networks Only”. In order to ensure the successful performance of your PLA, the campaign needs to be opted into Google’s Search Network as PLAs are only made available for Google’s ecommerce and search engine services.
  • Select the “Product Listing Ads” option in the campaign type section. This selection would require you to click on a dedicated radio button. In case it is not present then the option may only be available for campaigns that support “Search Networks Only”
  • At this stage, a linked Merchant Center account is required. If not account has been linked, then this is the best time to get it done. In case, the accounts are linked, you may select the appropriate account from the “Ad Extensions” section of the page.
  • Select the categories of stores (online / local) that would be targeted by the ad. 
  • Save the settings by clicking on “save and continue”.
  •  Add promotional content in the “Create an Ad” section which would help you to create your first ad group.
  • Add product targets to the campaign. The default value is set to “All Products” with the possibility of adding more targets to the ad group as per requirement.
  • Once the content is prepared, allocate an appropriate default bid value for this ad group in the “Ad Groups Bid” section.
  • Select the “Save Ad Group” option for saving the specifications mentioned for the particular ad group.

For creating product listing ads in a pre-existing ad campaign, the following steps need to be adhered:

  •  Access your AdWords account by signing in with your user credentials.
  • Click on the campaign in which the addition needs to be done.
  • Check whether the account is linked with the Merchant Center account. This can be checked by clicking on the “View: Product Extensions”
  • Select the tab named “Ad Groups” and give a name to your ad group after selecting “+New Ad Group” option.
  • Add promotional content in the “Create an Ad” section which would help you to create your first ad group.
  • Add product targets to the campaign. The default value is set to “All Products” with the possibility of adding more targets to the ad group as per requirement.
  • Once the content is prepared, allocate an appropriate default bid value for this ad group in the “Ad Groups Bid” section.
  • Select the “Save Ad Group” option for saving the specifications mentioned for the particular ad group.

How to Prepare for PLA Campaigns and their Implications in 2014:

In keeping with this expected increase in PLA performance by the end of 2014, the following aspects need to be delved upon for ensuring proper management of the PLA campaign in the coming months.

  • The marketing strategy for PLAs have to be revised and created strictly in line with a pre-defined budget, especially during the peak seasons (holiday season), for achieving the perfect balance between investments and returns.
  • Mobtimization (mobile media optimization) would play a crucial part in determining the success of the PLAs. The overall mobile experience needs to be enhanced by incorporating the following key features.
  • Landing pages that are compatible with the mobile platform.
  • Integrating the local storefront and availability features of Google Merchant Center
  • Optimizing the websites for mobile devices based on their respective screen orientation and display configurations.

Google is expected to introduce Shopping Campaigns for the US in initial stages and then the global market in 2014. These campaigns are expected to provide the means by which retail advertisers would be able to manage as well as report PLA performance. This would additionally provide benefits in terms of greater flexibility and higher visibility.  

about Hema Radhwani

I am currently involved in the management, creation and monitoring of PPC Ad campaigns. My recent achievements include the achievement of Google Certification in PPC Campaign management.

Rakesh Kumar Top Contributor
January 2014 - last edited January 2014 John Paul Google Employee

Nice Article Hema!

Mini-CM Community Manager
January 2014

Thanks for posting this, Hema.