The following is an excerpt from the Skai Guide to Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) — you can download a full copy of the guide here. Remember, changes are coming to PLAs with the rollout of Google Shopping Campaigns. Get up to speed on what’s new in this post, Planning Ahead for Google Shopping Campaigns.
PLAs are still fairly new and not every marketer has built-up a deep understanding of the best practices needed to truly win with this format. However, while you are ramping up your PLA program, be sure not to fall into some common traps that you’ll wish you had avoided from the start.
Overusing the All Products group
Google provides the PLA option to group all of your products into a single ad group via simple checkbox during the creation process. However, even though this is a good strategy to make sure you cast the widest net possible, it’s also a common mistake to overuse this feature. Use your All Product ad group carefully as it’s better to create individual ad groups for your best selling products – that way you can build the most relevant and compelling ad copy for that ad.
However, for stores with millions of SKUs, an All Product ad group may be a great option for slowing selling items that don’t justify spending too much time building individual ads and managing bids. Make sure you watch your ad groups closely as you may find your All Products group in a bidding war against your other, more specific ad groups. You almost always want your specific ad groups to win as they should have more relevant creative.
Optimizing images for your store and not your PLA feed
It’s a new world. When picking images for your store, you need to start asking yourself “Is this also going to be the right picture for a small PLA unit?” This is a tough one. Many feeds now allow you to add an extra image to each product that will be its PLA image. However, this will mean a lot of extra work. By making sure your production picture strategy strikes a happy balance between looking great on your site and for PLAs later, you will be able to make the process more efficient and more effective.
Forgetting to see what the consumer sees
One of the best ways to optimize your PLAs is to simply search on your most important product terms and see what a consumer would see. Are your ads coming up at all when you think they should be? Are the right products coming up for your searches? How are your competitors using PLAs? Are their images and offers more compelling than yours? To do this market research yourself, make sure you’re logged out of your Google account and have cleared your cookies. You may even want to use a different computer or device so that you’re not influencing the algorithms to skew to your own products.
Not knowing the PLA rules well enough
Did you know you had 70 characters maximum for the product title? If your feed has product titles too long, they will get truncated. Many search marketers can list off the character limits, campaign settings, and editorial rules verbatim for text ads, but it may take some time for your team to intimately know the details for the PLA format. PLAs generally follow the same guidelines as general AdWords ads with regards to punctuation, capitalization, spelling, verb tenses, etc. As with the advice on images, you should be thinking ahead when you’re listing new products on your site with regards to how Google will interpret your feed. You don’t want to spend all of your time just in getting your ads validated.
Figuring you can do it without automation
As with anything, using the tools around you wisely can mean the difference between success and failure. Is managing your PLAs taking too much time? What if automation could cut that time in half? Make sure to review the technology platforms in the space and see if one of them can help you get to the next level. You might not be spending a lot right now, but if you could increase your return while cutting down the management time, maybe you could devote additional budget to this channel.
Not using what you learned from paid search
The bottom line is that PLAs, although quite different than standard search ads, are still paid listings. Take the experience of what has worked over the last decade in search engine marketing and apply it to your PLA program. Follow the money – make sure your bids and budget support your best performing ads while de-emphasizing your poorest performing ones. Use A/B testing to figure out what new ad creative or bids are working and use those insights to optimize.