What “Elite SEM Thinks” About Product Listing Ads

By Tinuiti Team

As you may have heard, last month Bing Ads announced that we can expect Product Ads in the U.S. sometime this summer. The format will follow Google AdWords’ Product Listing Ads, providing product details, images, and pricing. Set-up will be similar, as Bing Product Ads will take the product details from the Bing Merchant Center to deliver relevant ads to shoppers.

Product Listing Ads have proven to be successful for many retail/ e-commerce businesses. They provide a richer, more engaging experience for shoppers. With spend increasing on PLA campaigns since Google’s transition from free PLAs to the new “pay-for-play” model, online retailers will continue investing more time and budget towards this ad format.

Compared to traditional paid search, product listing ads are still youngsters. Finding ways to manage product feeds, especially those with a large/complex capacity, is still a relatively new practice to search marketers. We thought our readers might appreciate a comprehensive summary of what the Elite SEM experts think the future holds and the impact product ads will have on our clients’ accounts and paid search strategies.

So here we go…

What “Elite SEM Thinks” About Product Listing Ads

Zach Morrison – Vice President

Google PLA’s have been tremendously successful for many of our clients both prior to the Google Shopping updates and after.

While we would have preferred for PLA’s to stay a free product, we understand Google’s need to make PLA’s a commercial product in order to dedicate the resources to further improve it. I believe the PLA program is currently in its infant stages. We are excited for the updates and enhancements coming, as we think it will provide us with greater control leading to even better results for our clients.

Marc Weisinger – Director of Marketing

Google Product Listing Ads continue to be a bigger and bigger part of the online marketing mix for e-commerce based sites.

Year over year, I’ve seen that non-branded e-commerce search traffic clicks are down.  It’s not that search volume is lower year over year on non-branded terms; it’s that click traffic is consistently and increasingly moving towards Product Listing Ad campaigns.  Because of this trend, it’s more important now than ever before to not only have product listing ad campaigns, but to also have the expertise to manage them effectively to maximize return and overall traffic.  I personally am hoping that they add some search functionality where you can add specific keywords that you want to trigger your PLAs where there is clearly intent to purchase a product, but that non-branded keyword is not necessarily the name of the product you sell.

Emma Fernandez – Sr. Account Executive

PLAs are a valuable tool for e-commerce clients, and necessary when dealing with a brand that has resellers or wholesalers.

PLAs allow clients to dominate the page above the fold when combined with ad text, site links, and an organic listing.  This page domination decreases the opportunity for competitors and wholesalers to take the space, and thus the sale.  There are also cases in which only the PLA shows. If you’re not running ads in the space, then you’re potentially losing a new customer and their lifetime value to a wholesaler/competitor.  Finally, a search campaign can have many keywords, but PLAs have a high rate of conversions on 1,1,1’s, which are queries with 1 impression, 1 click, and 1 conversion; you can’t possibly get that kind of coverage from a search campaign.

I’m a huge advocate of PLAs; however, I do believe Google should make targeting specific products and product categories easier.  In order to target specific products/categories, the client must modify their feed with “labels” or “groups”, then the account manager must access the feed (either by having the client send or by getting access to merchant center), know what to look for, navigate to it, and add the targeting into each individual ad group through the UI.  These labels are difficult to find, manage, and change.  There should be an easier way to access/view feeds, and modify labels/groups through AdWords, since they are absolutely necessary for a successful campaign.

Adrienne Gaines – Account Executive

PLAs have shown to be very successful for many of my e-commerce accounts, driving more efficient traffic than search campaigns.

Typically, I’ve experienced lower cost per clicks, lower cost per leads, and higher click through rates. While volume is much smaller than search campaigns, I do predict that traffic will increase over time. Product listing ads are a vital tool that search managers need to incorporate into their e-commerce accounts to continue to remain competitive in the Google Shopping space.

Kellie York – Sr. Account Manager

PLAs rock – plain and simple. This area is great to expand in for a few reasons:

–   CTRs are higher than search ads

–  CPCs can be cheaper in certain industries than regular search ads

–  You get more real estate on the page

You have the opportunity to show off products before having people click to your site and leave, so it potentially qualifies a searcher more than your text ad, getting you a searcher who is more likely to convert.

Since forcing Google shopping from free to paid, you can tell there’s been more of an emphasis on running efficient PLA campaigns, which is why I’d suggest spending the time to make a robust merchant center feed. If you have a low quality feed, you’ll be handicapped running your PLA campaigns in the future, meaning you’ll be losing potential sales. These will only get bigger and bigger, so starting off on the right foot is key.

Jenn Naegeli – Sr. Account Manager

Traffic has definitely been growing in PLA campaigns. Showing a visual of a product over a text ad is always going to have the consumer more engaged from the start and closer to buying. In addition to obtaining a nice amount of traffic, they also tend to convert at a good rate. I agree that Google should help make the implementation and targeting more accessible and easily manageable for people who have less experience with them. Maybe make it possible to access the feed as a Google Doc through your own AdWords account, or perhaps show more examples of best practices for better targeting, and how to best take advantage of all the product feed columns you can target.

Michael Strachan – Sr. Account Manager

Product Listing Ads have proven to be a valuable tool for any e-commerce advertiser.  As Google places an increasing amount of emphasis on them, and Bing appears primed to release its own version in the coming months, they have become a necessary staple for a successful SEM strategy.  As PLAs continue to grow in audience engagement and competition, they will warrant an advanced bidding strategy as any other campaign.

Zach Paul – Account Manager

I’ve recently had two clients who have implemented product listing ads to their accounts. Each had a very different experience:

  Client A’s product feed is very straightforward. They have a very specific product offering, so managing the groupings in Adwords has proven to be fairly easy thus far.

  Client B has a very large product feed and many different products.  Optimization for this (and similar) accounts would be much easier if you could bid on specific keywords for PLAs.  The biggest struggle I’ve had is matching up search queries with the most relevant PLA, and I think bidding on specific keywords would help that issue.

Shannon Greene – Account Analyst

Just by looking over our client reporting, it seems like PLAs have much higher conversion rates than display/ search, which would make it a sensible channel to increase spend if a client is looking to increase conversions.

A search engine’s goal is to get information to the consumer in a quick, efficient manner. If a consumer is looking for a specific product, and a PLA can lead to a quicker purchase, I’d consider it to be beneficial from both the business and consumer perspective. In addition to being able to bid on certain keywords, I think it would also be useful to target certain price points. For example, if someone searched “cheap sundress”, you wouldn’t want your $2,500 sundress to show up next to similar products that cost $30.

Rachel Stiles – Account Analyst

I am currently working with my clients to set up their Google Merchant Center and product feed. I wish the process was easier to set up and not as daunting to smaller businesses. I have expressed the value of PLAs and the successes with other Elite clients. I am looking forward to testing PLAs once the set up process is finished.

Caroline Vinar – Account Analyst

I haven’t worked with PLAs yet.  However, as an avid online shopper, I do find PLAs more engaging and visually appealing.  As a consumer, I am more likely to click a product listing ad when searching to buy a product than I am to click a text ad or even the organic search results.

Vishal Korlipara – Account Analyst

PLAs are great for conversions and sales, but not the best for raising brand awareness. I don’t know the stats but it seems like PLAs are more important for customers that know what they want already as opposed to customers who are browsing. I have an idea for Google: make a wish list/save option for the PLA’s. Track people doing this and retarget the hell out of them. This is also what Amazon does. Clicking a save button seems easier for a customer in a rush than going through the entire shopping process so it might give a lot more potential leads.


Well, that’s all folks! Now you have a better understanding of what Elite SEM “Thinks” about Product Listing Ads. To learn more about product listing ads, be sure to visit the Google Product Listing Ads and Bing Managing Product Ads pages. Also, stay tuned for the PLA Best Practices follow-up article, coming soon to Elite SEM blogs near you!

Have a topic, product release, or subject matter that you want to know what “Elite Thinks”?  Be sure to leave a message in the comments, message us on Twitter (@EliteSEM) or Facebook (, or email your idea to [email protected].


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