We’re not far into 2014, but Google has already made several significant changes to the way Product Listing Ads are structured and managed – and it’s likely there are more changes ahead of us. If you’re in online retail, it’s crucial to stay on top of them.
Why? Because Google PLAs are rapidly dominating retail search. PLA spending increased 291% from January to December 2013, according to Marin Software’s State of Google Shopping report. It also predicts that PLAs will account for one-third of paid search budgets by December of this year.
So what do you need to know about the recent changes as a merchant or advertiser?
Google Shopping Campaigns Officially Launched
Google introduced this new way to structure PLAs within AdWords with a goal of streamlining “how you organize, bid, and report on your ads.” You can group your inventory into different product groups, just like you might at a physical storefront. For example, if you sell clothing, you can create a product group for just the shirts. Then you can measure their performance and adjust your bids accordingly. If you want to get even more specific, you could separate out just blue shirts, allowing you to set a different bid for those items.
You no longer need to go back and forth between AdWords and your data feed to get all the information you need to make strategy decisions. The new approach makes it easier to identify and optimize top performing items, whether it’s a particular product type, brand, or another category. It was just announced on April 2nd that the regular PLA campaigns will be retired and completely replaced by Shopping Campaigns.
Benchmark Click-Through Rate
The new campaign structure allows you to compare bids and CTR to other retailers selling similar items. This is a potentially powerful tool that can help you stay competitive, but it’s also important to weigh other metrics to avoid overspending.
Unique Product Identifier Required
Google announced they will be fully enforcing their requirement for identifiers such as GTIN, MPN, UPC, and ISBN. Custom items are exempt from this requirement, but everything else must be included or face being removed.
This will improve the data quality for consumers, since they can more accurately compare apples to apples, and oranges to oranges, as the saying goes. Instead of multiple product listings for the same item, there will be a single product listing with the option to buy from multiple sellers.
You now have more power to avoid having your product show up for irrelevant searches. The Google Shopping PLAs allow you to use negative keywords, downbidding, and remove products from the data feed. The new feature allows you to exclude a sub-group of products as well.