An Introduction to Google Product Listing Ads

Another month, another new ad format! This month we bring you “Product Listing Ads”, Google’s latest ad innovation. Product listing ads (PLAs) are a standalone ad format that includes richer product information directly in the ad, such as images, price and merchant name.

You may have noticed PLAs across Google over the past few months. They usually appear on the right hand side of the page, as shown below:

Google started to roll PLAs out to UK advertisers towards the end of last year, and we have been testing them over the past few weeks with one of our clients.

They are great for retailers as they work in addition to standard search text ads, meaning you can take up more real estate on the results page, which should lead to higher click-through rates (CTRs). You are charged on a cost per click (CPC) basis, much like standard text ads. They are also not to be confused with product extensions, which we wrote about last month.

How do they work?

PLAs are created for your products dynamically, without the need for keywords. Without keywords you say!? How? Well, Google uses the product information in your Merchant Centre account to match a product with a user’s search, therefore it is essential your product feed is up to date and well-optimised if the ads are going to be relevant to the user.

How do I set them up?

Once you have set up and optimised your Merchant Centre product feed, you are ready to set up your PLAs. The first step of the process is to link your AdWords and Merchant Centre accounts. Login to Merchant Centre, click Settings then AdWords, and enter your AdWords customer ID.

Create a new campaign

The next step is to create a new campaign in AdWords for your PLAs. When you do this, you’ll need to tick the Product checkbox under ad extensions (as shown below). You should then be able to select your Merchant Centre account, so Google can link the two accounts together.

Create your ad groups

The beauty of PLAs is that you can automatically select which products you would like to target. For our test, our recommended strategy was to target those products which were already performing well in our paid search campaigns, have high margins and/or are competitive on price.

We then organised these products into different ad groups. Doing this will allow you to see performance data for each product and will mean you can set different bids for different products.

Target your products

Once you have organised your ad groups, you are ready to select which products are to be shown in your ads. Under the Auto targets tab in AdWords, you can target products based on five attributes from your Merchant Centre account; condition, brand, product_type, adwords_labels or adwords_grouping.
Warning: this is where it got a bit technical! As we wanted to target specific products, there wasn’t an existing attribute which fitted our needs, so we had to create a new adwords_labels attribute in our Merchant Centre product feed. We effectively tagged our products meaning we could target individual products by their title, like so:

It is important to note that the text you enter above must exactly match the values in your Merchant Centre feed, otherwise your ads will not be served. There is a Validate button where you can see if it matches, as shown above.

You need to repeat this process for all of your ad groups. Although this takes a while, it is well worth it further down the line, as you’ll be able to see performance data from each product much more quickly.

Create your ads

The final part of the process is to create your ads. Ads are created dynamically by Google based on your product feed information, however you can enter promotional text (up to 45 characters) to support your ad. Click on New ad then Product listing ad to do this.

As our client offered free shipping on all orders, we used the same promotion across all products. However, if you have promotions on specific products, this is great to highlight here.

You should now be ready to launch your campaign. Before you do, remember to include any negative keywords to prevent your ads coming up on any irrelevant searches. Your new product listing ads should soon begin running!


Although we are only a few weeks into testing, we have been very impressed with the results thus far. Compared to standard text ads, click-through rates (CTRs) are 21% higher while conversion rates are 2% higher.

Driving more traffic which is better qualified to convert is a win-win in our eyes, so get testing before your competition does! If you have any questions please feel free to enter your comments in the box below…

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