The Product Listing Ads Guide For Agencies

What Do Product Listing Ads Look Like?

Mary Weinstein

Author Profile | Mary

A Look At Product Listing Ads Then And Now

Free Google Shopping VS. Product Listing Ads

Product Listing Ads have revolutionized ecommerce for online retailers. I like to think of Product Listing Ads as free cake. Google-cake-doodleYou know that free cake you get a birthday parties which is ok, but really not that good? But you eat it since its free cake, and cake tastes good. That’s sort of like the Google Shopping of old (Google Product Search). Product Listing Ads is more like cake you’ve paid for. Yeah you had to buy the cake, but we’re talking delicious, gourmet style cake. Mmm Google cake.

Get a FREE Copy of Our Google Shopping Guide

A Look At Product Listing Ads Then And Now

Prior to Product Listing Ads, merchants selling on Google had 2 options for selling on Google: 1) List products using Google AdWords Ads and/or 2) List products on free Google Shopping (also known as Google Product Search). To learn more about the difference between Product Listing Ads and AdWords Ads check out the chart and explanation in the first chapter of this guide. For now lets go over the differences between free Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads. Free Google Shopping (Google Shopping which existed prior to July 2012), was a great deal for online merchants but also extremely limited. To sell on free Google Shopping, merchants followed the same initial steps as are required with Product Listing Ads- sending a data feed to the Google merchant center. However, other than making changes to the data feed, merchants were extremely limited in determining where their ads would show on Google search pages. Prior to Product Listing Ads, online sellers were  limited to a spray and pray method when listing on Google (not including AdWords ads and black hat methods). Basically send your data feed and cross your fingers that Google’s algorithm deems your products relevant and worthy of the top ten spots in search result pages.  One of the top questions we heard about Free Google at this time was: “How can I rank higher on Google?”.  To which

Free Google Shopping VS. Product Listing Ads

Here are some of  the major differences between Product Listing Ads and free Google Shopping:

Google Feature

Free Google Shopping (Then)

Product Listing Ads (Now)

Price Free Variable: Depends on what your daily budget and CPC bids are
Products Ranking In Search Result Pages Spray And Pray Method Merchants can modify which products and ad groups appear in search
Seller Influence Low: Merchants could send and modify data feeds High: Merchants have significant control over what products show up, where and when
Steps to List On Google 1) Send your data feed to the Google Merchant Center.2) Cross your fingers 1) Send your data feed to the Google Merchant Center.2) Create and tailor ad groups, CPC bids and budget to modify where your ads show up*This is an extremely simplified version of the setup process. For more details on how to get started on PLAs, visit this page
Product Listing Location^ Free Google Shopping Comparison Pages On Google Search pages as display ads, and Google Shopping comparison pages

^In addition to seller influence on Google Shopping, its important to note that Product Listing Ads are ads, whereas Google Shopping was more focused on comparison shopping listings. Free Google Shopping listings were largely relegated to Google comparison pages (pages which list a single product from multiple sellers). Product Listing Ads appear on Google comparison pages, but are also visible on Google search. One of the most obvious differences between Product Listing Ads and Free Google Shopping listings are the associated images. Since Product Listing Ads are display ads, they show up on search pages, and are more visually oriented. Generally, PLAs are larger, prettier, and more plentiful than they were before the switch.

What this means for merchants:

More visibility for your PLAs! Make sure you are on top of bidding and your Ad Campaigns so you can get the most out of this traffic. Remember that what PLAs show and the number of PLAs present vary depending on the users search query. For any one search you may have 1 PLA result or 6, so where your PLA ranks can depend on how much competition exists for that particular search (what other merchants are bidding, and what is relevant to the search). Here is an example of a  PLAs from Google Product Search and one from Google Shopping:

product listing ads what do google shopping ads look like before and after

product listing ads what do google shopping ads look like jason“Not only are the PLA’s prettier and larger but to align with that fact, the human eye is drawn to these shiny new images at the top right of their screens. It is typically the first place a customer will look [and eventually click] when landing on the SERP. The fact that a customer’s mind can now receive that instant gratification of seeing the item they are looking to buy only helps further the amount of traffic the PLAs receive. The great part is that the traffic is typically of high quality.” Google Shopping is designed to be very user friendly and is consequentially very visually oriented. Whether users understand what are ads and what aren’t is a bit of a debate. However, Google does label those ads as sponsored and provides an explanation of what that means:

Google PLA sponsored ads

  Here are some additional examples of what PLAs look like and where you might find them in the wild. Product Listing Ads in search:

Product Listing Ads on search

Product Listing Ads on Google Shopping comparison pages:

Product Listing Ads Example on Google Shopping comparison page


Table Of ContentsContinue Reading


Google Shopping Guide 2018

New Google Shopping Guide: 2018 Edition