9 Essential Questions & Answers About New Google PLAs

By Tinuiti Team

Google Shopping’s newest Shopping Campaigns update affects any retailer listing on Product Listing Ads this year. Major changes are coming (and happening) with Google Shopping. 

If you’re unaware of the recent Google changes check out Google Shopping Campaign Resources


New Google Shopping Questions To Consider Today

Below are some of the major questions retailers and advertisers asked our Google experts about the new PLA campaign structure, and how it affects paid ads.

What’s the major difference between Product Listing Ads (PLAs) now and the new Shopping Campaign?

Well the biggest difference is really just in how you structure the campaign. So with the old Google Shopping Campaign type, when you were going through creating a campaign or building out a campaign you had to know what product targets you wanted to create; whether it be a brand product target or product type or what have you. And you had to not only know which ones you wanted to build out but you had to do the research beforehand to figure out which categories are not built out currently that are profitable, which ones are dragging me down, and you had to do all that research on your own.

With the new Google shopping campaign type you can see automatically all the brands, all the product types that you have the option to build out. They give you a lot more flexibility in terms of seeing that data, plus when you actually add the product group, if your Google Shopping Campaign has been running, you’ll see the historical performance data for that group of products.

So it makes it really easy to know right off the bat: will this product group perform for me or has it performed for me in the past, and what do I need to do to adjust my strategy accordingly. In my opinion, the biggest change is just that they’re making it a lot easier to build out an extensive campaign.

Google Shopping campaigns tutorial

Can you use the same Google data feed you have currently for the new PLAs?

Yes, absolutely. Don’t change anything about your data feed. That said, you should continue to make optimizations to your data feed and you should always be working on that. But you don’t need to make any changes specifically for this new campaign type. For the most part, the data that you’re currently sending and the format that you’re currently sending is going to be just fine.

The only exception to that is if you’re using an AdWords labels column currently. You’ll need to adjust that into one or more custom label columns in order to keep using that. But if you’re not using the ad words labels you don’t need to change anything about your data feed. The new shopping campaign type will use the data feed that you’re currently sending.

What is the best promotion to use for Google Ads?

There are two types of promotions for PLAs: Google special offers which has to be a coupon code, and then there’s the actual promotional text which can be pretty much anything you what. What I always tell retailers is that the most compelling offers that I see that tend to lead to an increase in click-through rates, tend to lead to an increase in ROI, are offers where the customer feels like they found the golden nugget. They found this hidden coupon or this hidden deal that maybe other people didn’t have access to.

So when you’re thinking of a coupon or a promotional offer or promotional text, try and offer shoppers something. Give them a reward for coming to your site, for making a purchase from you. Not only are they more likely to do it because they get a little bit of a discount or they get a deal maybe that other people couldn’t get, but there’s also the positive effect of them feeling like they’ve earned it just by coming to your site.

So if you’re able to offer even a modest discount like free shipping on orders over X amount or five percent off or ten percent off if you use a certain code, those are the offers that I see have the most impact. If all that you’re really advertising is, “We have fast shipping” or “Great low prices”  a lot of customers are immune to messages like that and might just ignore them. So really look for promotions that give your customers a reward for coming to your site and give them a reward for picking you over someone else.

What’s the best way to create ad groups for Google?

The best way…well you’re going to want to look at what products are currently selling for you. So you have more insight into your products than anyone else does, so I guess my question back to you would be, what are your top brands. What are your top categories? Even if you only pick five to ten of them, those are going to be the brands and categories that you want to start with. If those are your bread and butter then you want to make sure that you’re competitive with those brands or those categories on Google Shopping. And you want to make sure that you’re maximizing visibility maybe even on those specific brands or categories.

And later on down the line as you continue to build out your campaign maybe you can start to focus on some of the lower volume groups of products that still convert well. But at the very least to start out, pick some of your top brands or some of your top categories, build ad groups for those and you can kind of see how that goes and you can optimize accordingly. Once you’ve hit a good ROI on those then continue to build out and get more grandeur from there.

What’s the benefit of exclusion?

The benefits to exclusions (new Google Shopping Campaigns feature) helps you if you know a particular category does well but maybe customers are really click happy on a certain brand within that category. Let’s say you specialize in cell phones. Customers come to your site looking for deals on cell phones, but you get a lot of window-shoppers on the brand new iPhone. You get a lot of people that are just kind of clicking around that might not convert and maybe the apple brand doesn’t convert well for you within the cell phones category.

You know the cell phones category does really well for you but within that, Apple products just convert really terribly and you get a really high CPC rate-you don’t get very high conversion rates, so you want to bid lower on those. Using an exclusion, you could exclude the Apple brand from the category product group or the product type product group and then maybe drop the Apple brand down to everything else, give it a low bid so you’re not paying too much but you’re still maintaining your high bid on your cell phones.

Exclusions definitely aren’t  going to be appropriate in all situations but like I said if you have a couple poor performers within an otherwise well performing group you can exclude those poor performers and really let the top ones flourish.

What’s a Product Group?

With the old Google shopping campaign type, when you were setting up an ad group, you had to define what group of products would fall in to that ad group and you did that by using a product target.


With the new product groups, there’s no ad group product target distinction. Those product targets essentially became product groups and now you’re bidding specifically on those product groups. So if you want to think about it like that, you’re basically not really managing ad groups any more, you’re more managing product targets and you’re bidding on each individual target.

Should you run AdWords alongside PLAs?

You absolutely should be running text ads alongside PLAs. I think that PLAs can be

a great supplement to your text ad campaigns and vice-versa. You’re going to manage each separately because at their core they’re different types of ads and they’re different types of programs. PLAs are product ads where Google figures what product to display using their algorithm, whereas your text ads you can target very specifically what search terms or what keywords you want your ads to show up for.

But think of it this way.  Let’s say someone is searching for a Conair product. Imagine an ideal situation in which you have the top ranking text ad, your PLA is showing up number one. You scroll below the fold and you have the first organic ranking. Then you have three ads for that particular search on the Google SERP and you’re now maximizing the traffic for that.

No, I definitely don’t think you should pause your other text ads or anything like that. I think you should run them both concurrently but manage each separately. Manage each with their own ROI because they are separate programs.

What are custom labels?

Price range is probably one of the most common that we use for our clients. So, it tends to be the case that when you’re paying for clicks on a cost per click (CPC) basis, the more expensive the product, the easier it is to get a better ROI just because you’re going to be getting so much more revenue per order. Whereas if you have a product that only costs five bucks, you need to sell a lot of those to make up for the amount that you’re spending per click.

So one custom label we might create would be a label for every product under $50.The way that I would do by putting “zero to fifty” or “zero-fifty” in my custom label column for every product priced under $50 dollars. That way I could use that custom label to exclude those products from my categories ad group or just create a new product group for that price range to down bid.

It really depends on your inventory. For the most part you’re probably going to be able to do a pretty good job or do the majority of the work just using your product type and your brand labels but custom labels can give you a little extra flexibility there, too.

How do I determine if I should structure by brand or by categories?

It basically depends on how products are grouped on your site. And I realize that’s a little bit of a copout because most retailers, when you get to the site, it’s not like all categories or all brands, nothing’s that cut and dry. You’re going to have a mix of categories, you’re going to have a mix of brands that do well. But usually a lot of sites will be leaning one way or the other.

When customers come to your site, are they looking for a specific type of product or are really coming for a certain brand?And to help you answer that question, just look at your sales data. A lot of the time when I’m looking at how to structure a new campaign for a new client, retailers tell me it’s a mix of both. So I’ll go into Google analytics or I’ll go into Omniture and look at their sales data and see that  a category generates a lot of sales but it’s really these three brands make up the bulk of their order volume or the bulk of their revenue. And so that’s how I’ll structure the campaign.

Or on the flip side maybe it’s these three categories regardless of brand that really make up the bulk of their volume and in that case I’ll structure the campaign by product type or by category. So it kind of depends on your site, there’s no best way. It just depends on what customers are looking for when they get to your site. And when you build it out that way, you can get more grandeur from there.

So let’s say customers are coming to your site specifically for three brands. You build up those three brands first, then within each brand you can say, well within each brand it’s really these two product types so let’s add these two product types within the brand and add another subgroup to that brand’s group. And you can get a little more grandeur from there. But like I said, in that example that I just gave, it was customers coming to their site looking for a couple specific brands. So that’s really how you should structure it, it really depends on what does well on your site and what’s the volume driver on your particular site.

Google Shopping Campaigns is still in beta, but this program is going to roll out to all advertisers, so its a good idea to test the ad structure and create campaigns ahead of the curve.


Stay tuned for the Google Shopping Campaigns Guide for more best practices on Google PLAs!

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