No secret that e-commerce is doing well
and that every year it gets better results.

This phenomenon can be noticed not only in the constantly growing number of online stores, but also in the tools that make reaching potential customers via the Internet more effective.

One such solution is Google PLA (Product Listing Ads), or – in simpler terms – a service providing product advertisements in search results. It’s also known as Google Shopping.

All we have to do is enter a phrase, e.g., “watch”, in a search engine, and in addition to a set of links a list of products appears in the upper right corner just above Adwords text ads, accompanied by images, prices, and names of stores that have them on sale. This solution has many advantages, i.a. allowing us to promote our offer directly in the Google search engine, while ensuring a higher conversion rate thanks to the access to specific products directly from the engine’s level.

How to start?

In order to display AdWords PLA ads, you need three things. The first two are Adwords and Google Merchants accounts, which have to be linked together. The procedure is very simple and the detailed steps can be found in the official Google Help Center (https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/6159060?hl=en).

Last but not least, the third and most important element is the proper preparation of the so-called product feed, which is an output file including the data of products we have in our offer. It determines whether our advertising campaign will be accepted by Google, and if so, what result it will yield.

Product feed

Product feed is an extremely vital element; without it, we can’t use the full potential of Google PLA. To put it simply, it is a specially prepared text file, spreadsheet, or XML file containing all the information about the products on sale.

Google’s support pages (https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/188494?hl=en) provide us with a detailed specification of the feed with all the required attributes needed to ensure that our product offer will appear online. These include the product’s unique id, title, description, link, image, availability, and price. Some attributes are obligatory (if missing, they may lead, e.g., to the rejection of our campaign), while others are optional. As a general rule, however, product feed should contain as many additional pieces of information as possible, which will greatly improve the data quality indicator.

If we sell similar products that vary in terms of at least one parameter (e.g., in the apparel industry, where one pattern of a t-shirt may come in several sizes or colors) it is also important to additionally prepare product groups.

Creating product groups

Product groups are a must when we’re selling the same product model varying only in terms of, e.g., color, material, or size. To display the products in the right way, we must create detailed attributes for each of them. This means that if one product group (e.g., shoes) features the same model in black and white, and additionally each color is available in five different sizes, we have to include as many as 10 products in our product feed.

Once we’re done, it’s time for the next stage, which is…

… setting CPC bids

Google PLA is virtually no different from Adwords. With the exception being that we must prepare the data file of the product, the rest works and looks almost the same. This includes setting bids per each click.

As beginner merchants, we usually don’t have a deep understanding of such matters, but luckily Google comes to the rescue by offering the so-called enhanced cost per click or eCPC.

It allows us to continue controlling the bids ourselves by adapting them to our budget. At the same time, the entire campaign is supervised by a special algorithm that calculates the probability of conversion. It’s based on a very simple principle: if there is a good chance of conversion on the user’s part, the algorithm will automatically raise the bid by a maximum of 30% (in order to improve the visibility of the offer). Otherwise, it can reduce it by up to 100% so as not to waste the budget unnecessarily.

Using eCPC is a good option, although it is worth it to remember a few precious pieces of advice when checking its effectiveness and adjusting it:

  • Don’t check the results every day; in the beginning, the eCPC algorithm must adapt to the campaign, which usually takes approx. 15 days;
  • Perform the analysis of bids once per longer period of time; checking the statistics every day is not a good idea – it’s better to do it at least once a week;
  • When analyzing efficiency, take into account any additional factors, e.g., holiday season, weekends, or special events;
  • Include conversion delay; some conversions need as long as a few weeks to appear in the statistics;
  • Increase bids per clicks in places where the conversion rate is the highest.

How to improve campaign optimization in Google PLA?

Finally, a couple of tricks that will help you better optimize your campaign, and thus ensure more satisfying results:

  1. Build keyword-rich product descriptions (remember that according to the guidelines the description should contain a maximum of 70 characters – it’s best to observe this limit);
  2. Add negative keywords (e.g., if you sell books include phrases associated with DVDs, CDs or Blu-rays in negative keywords so as to prevent your ads from appearing in search results of users looking for content on other media);
  3. Update the product feed regularly, especially in terms of prices, correct references (they shouldn’t lead to an Error 404 page), or description (preferably it should be consistent with the description on the landing page);
  4. If you sell your products in different countries, prepare a separate product feed for each of them;
  5. Invest in high-quality photographs; the best-selling product is the one clearly visible on a white background,
  6. Test, test, and test again! Don’t be afraid to test new solutions; check the statistics regularly to find out which changes yield good results.