Google Shopping Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are fundamentally changing, are you ready for the switch?

Watch our latest webinar to learn how to get ready for Google Shopping campaigns, what they’re all about and how to get the best ROI on your PLAs.

  • How does the new PLA structure affect your product data?
  • Can Google Shopping campaigns hurt your ROI?
  • What should you know Google Shopping campaigns?
  • What changes and features should you utilize for the new PLA structure?

 


Google Shopping Campaigns: The New Face of PLAs

We had over 500 registrants sign up to learn more about the new Google Shopping Campaigns, see what the hoopla is about.

 


Google Shopping Campaigns Webinar Transcipt

1: The new Face of PLAs

Mary: Hello everyone, and welcome to the CPC Strategy Google Shopping webinar: The New Face of PLAs.
This webinar is designed to get you updated on the new Google Shopping Product Listing Ads Campaign Type, and help you prepare for the new structure of Google Shopping campaigns.
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2: Webinar Housekeeping

Mary: We’re excited to help you make the most out of the new Google Shopping, but first some quick housecleaning before we begin.

My name is Mary, and I’m the Content Director here at CPC Strategy. My job is to find, create and share useful content for you. So please feel free to reach out to me with any questions during or following the webinar. I am a bit chatty, and have an unhealthy relationship with both coffee and bacon, but I’m mostly harmless

We will be recording this webinar, so stay tuned for an email follow up later this week. Additionally, if you have any questions during the webinar, there will be a brief Q&A following the presentation. To ask questions, you can use the chat box to the right.
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3: About CPC

Mary: Before you settle in to learn about the new Google Shopping- here are some reasons why we’re the knowledge source on Google retail search.

For any of you that follow our blog you know that we’ve been putting out tons of articles & white papers on how to set up, manage, and optimize Google Shopping for years now & we were the first to put out a comprehensive guide on managing & optimizing Google Shopping when it went paid at the end of 2012.

With over $35 milliion a year in managed ad spend, CPC Strategy is dedicated to creating order out of the chaos that is online search. Whether its optimizing PLAs for a higher ROI, or highlighting Google best practices for our readers, we are the knowledge source on Google Shopping, and we’re here to help.
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4. Webinar Speaker: Jeff Coleman

Mary: Our speaker today is Jeff Coleman, CPC Strategy Director of Account Management, and Google Shopping expert. Jeff has worked closely with retail search merchants for over 6 years, with extensive data feed and Google Shopping knowledge.
Jeff also runs the Google Shopping training program here at CPC, in addition to managing over $50,000 in managed ad spend.
As someone who has worked closely with Jeff for over two years, I can attest to both his impressive knowledge, and love of America.

So without further ado, I’ll pass it off to Jeff.
Jeff: Thanks Mary, I’m Jeff and it’s a pleasure to be here with you guys today. A little info about myself, I’m a soon-to-be dad; my wife & I are expecting our first in 4 weeks which I’m really excited about. I’m also from the San Francisco Bay Area & a big 49ers fan so I’ll be spending my Sunday glued to the TV watching the Niners take on the Seahawks for a chance to go to the Super Bowl for the 2nd consecutive year. Getting back to Google, I was fortunate enough to get early access to the new Google Shopping campaign type late last year and I’m excited to help you guys learn about it.
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5. What We’ll Cover

Jeff: During today’s webinar we’ll talk about how to leverage the new Google Shopping campaigns for higher revenue on Product Listing ads.

To understand the new PLA format, we’ll need to touch on what Google Search looks like, and what changes Shopping campaigns make for PLAs. I’ll also talk about what the new PLA structure means for retail search merchants, and how you can make the most out of PLA changes.
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6. Google Search Overview

I’m going to briefly talk about what Google Shopping ads look like & how the program works, and then we’ll get into the fun stuff like how to build a campaign using the new Google Shopping Campaign Type.

For those of you new to Google Shopping we’ll start with a brief introduction to Google Search Pages and where Product Listing Ads show up. Also for you new guys, we often use the terms “PLA” and “Google Shopping” interchangeably. They refer to 2 slightly different parts of the same program, but for all intents & purposes are basically the same thing.

We’ll touch on the dual-purpose of the datafeed as well as one optional adjustment you can make to your datafeed to manage the new Google Shopping campaign.

We’ll then get into the meat & potatoes of the presentation and go over how to create a new campaign as well as the new campaign type’s structure.

Lastly we’ll touch on some new features and I’ll share some closing thoughts with you.
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7. What’s On A Google Search Page?

To get an idea of how Google Shopping Campaigns work, you need to understand the layout of Google Shopping and how Google shopping results work. On any given Google Shopping SERP there are 2 types of paid ads in addition to organic search results.

Text ads, or PPC ads without images generally appear on search pages at the top above organic results as you can see in the Google search page image on the far left. And or to the left or right of search results under or adjacent to Product listing Ads.
Product Listing ads are PPC display ads which appear on Google Shopping SERPs below text ads as in the bike and glasses picture, as well as to the right of SERP results, as you can see with the camera on the far right.
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8. What’s On A Google Search Page?(cont.)

Lets look at how Google results appear for a search in the wild.

In this particular search there’s 1 traditional Text ad and 4 Shopping ads on the right. That box on the right is typically referred to as the PLA Box, not to be confused with the Google Shopping tab that has every relevant product ad. As I’m sure many of you have seen those nice free organic search results are getting pushed farther & farther down the page. Google will typically display 3 standard text ads which might take up all the space above the fold on the left if all 3 ads are using extensions like Sitelinks for example. On the right, I typically see 8 PLA ads although Google’s been experimenting with different amounts here as well as different formats.

And as PLAs have taken control, they’ve taken more & more orders from traditional text ads, especially on long-tail searches where Google knows exactly what product to display. Google Shopping is increasingly becoming the primary method of customer acquisition on Google for retailers. So please do yourself a favor & pay attention to it.
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9. PLA Structure

On Google Shopping, Product Listing Ads lead to comparison shopping pages or directly to a merchant’s online store as you can see in this image. Once the customer clicks through to your site, you pay for that click.

Taking that back a step, to have products show up as ads with images on Google search, online sellers pay each time someone clicks on an image ad, and submit product information using a data feed.

Google ranks these ads using a relevancy algorithm based on feed attributes like the title, description, Google Product Category, size/color, etc. The algorithm also takes bid into account the historical CTR or Click-Thru Rate of the product for that search. It’s important to make sure you’re consistently sending a high-quality feed to Google AND that you’re monitoring your bids to make sure you stay competitive on the products that are converting for you otherwise you might start to lose visibility.
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10. PLA Benefits

Now that you have a clearer idea of how PLAs work on a Google search page, lets talk more about why you should be using Product Listing Ads.

Google Shopping ads are typically much cheaper than text ads, although increasing competition is going to gradually push those CPCs up over the coming year. A little later in the presentation we’ll touch on a new feature Google’s added to show you what your competitors are bidding, which I think is going to help spur the bidding war.
On average Google Shopping ads have a 22% higher click-through rate than traditional text advertisements. Wouldn’t you click on an ad that has the image & price of the product you’re searching for as opposed to an ad with just a line of text? I would.

Since PLAs went paid last year, click rate has increased, adoption rates have expanded, and key shopping seasons have been dominated by PLAs. Also, Mary wanted me to make sure each of these are under 140 characters so you guys can tweet something cool you learned today about Google Shopping if you want  Hint, hint!
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11. Datafeeds

Now that you’ve tweeted one of the reasons Google PLAs are awesome, lets dive into everyone’s favorite part about managing a Google Shopping campaign – obviously I’m talking about the datafeed!
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12. Datfeeds Purpose

Getting into datafeeds. Your data feed serves 2 purposes.

First, it contains all the relevant product info that Google uses to determine if your product is relevant to the customer’s search. For example, if a customer searches for a “Sony LCD TV”, Google will look through your data feed to see if any products contain keywords relevant to that search. If there are any products in your datafeed that contain any of those terms in the title, description, brand column, etc., then those products will be relevant for this customer’s search & your product will be included in the search results.

Second, the data feed organizes products into groups that you can then bid on in AdWords. You can bid on individual products in AdWords using the Product ID unique to that product. Or you can bid on a group of products like an entire Category or Brand.

A third option is to group your products together in a unique way using a Custom Label. One common use for the Custom Label is to create price buckets. For example you could create a custom label for every product priced under $25, or above $100, and bid on that group of products.
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13. DataFeed: New Fields

For the most part you don’t need to change anything about the data feed you’re currently sending to Google for Google Shopping campaigns, unless you’re currently using an AdWords Labels column.

With the New PLA update, Google has taken the AdWords Labels column & turned it into 5 Custom Label columns. In the old AdWords labels column, you could include as many comma separated values as you wanted. With the new Custom Label columns, you can only include 1 value per column. You can include up to 5 Custom Label columns which means you can have up to 5 Custom Labels per product.

If you weren’t using AdWords Labels before, you probably don’t need to start using Custom Labels now. But if you are using AdWords Labels, you’ll need to convert that column into Custom Label columns in order to continue using labels.
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14. Campaign Creation

Now lets go through how to actually set up the new Google Shopping campaigns. There are some new settings available with the new Shopping Campaign type and I’ll take you through them before we get into how to structure one of these new campaigns.

To start, go to your AdWords account and create a new campaign just like you would for any other AdWords campaign currently. You should see a new “Shopping” campaign which I’ve highlighted at the bottom of the dropdown menu in the screenshot here.
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15. Campaign Creation: New Settings

If you have more than 1 campaign set up and you want to continue using multiple PLA campaigns, make sure you set the priority level of each campaign appropriately. Most likely your general campaign is going to have a low priority, and the rest of your campaigns can have a Medium or High priority.

If you’re not using more than 1 campaign, don’t worry about it. In my experience most retailers don’t need more than 1 campaign and as a rule of thumb I don’t create more than 1 campaign except in special circumstances, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you only have 1 campaign.

Similarly, if you’ve been accepted into the Google Local Availability program you’ll need to check the “Local” box in the Shopping channels section. This program is in a closed beta, but if you’d like more info on how to apply or on how to set it up if you’ve been accepted feel free to email us after the webinar.
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16. Campaign Creation: Final Steps

Now all you have to do is set your bid & your budget and congratulations, you’ve just set up a brand new Google Shopping campaign. Now the fun starts!
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17. Product Groups

In the new Google Shopping campaign you no longer have Ad Groups because you’re not managing ads. This is not a text ad campaign where you create & manage ads, this is a product-based campaign where you manage products. So you have Product Groups. To start, you’ll only have one product group – your all products group.

Don’t worry, you can get more granular from here. Just click on the little plus box there to start adding product groups.
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18. 10 Types of Groups

When you click on the Plus-Box a new window will appear with a drop-down menu at the top. That drop-down menu will contain all the attributes you can use to build your product groups, 10 of them in total. Category corresponds to the Google Product Category column in your data feed, and the rest of the options correspond to matching columns in your feed.

The first product group you choose should correspond to the primary way in which you group your products on your site. If you specialize primarily in a handful of Brands & you know that Brands X, Y, and Z are what your customers come to your site for, then start by grouping your products by brand. If you primarily group your products by category or type of product, not necessarily by brand, then start by using either the Category or Product Type groups.

You will have the option to segment further, so don’t worry too much about which one you start with.
One thing to keep in mind as you build out your product groups is that there will never be any crossover between any of your product groups, ever. A product will never be eligible for more than 1 product group. This will make more sense as we build out our campaign.
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19. Adding Groups

In this example, we’ll start by building out Product Type product groups first, so I selected Product Type from the dropdown menu. Now, this menu has automatically updated with all the product types I’m currently sending in my feed as well as the number of products in each product type. Next to each product type you’ll see a small grey box that turns blue when you hover over it.

If you click this box, Google will create a product group for you using that product type. You can select as many or as few of your product types as you like. You don’t have to add everything now, you can always add more later.
There’s also a search bar at the bottom you can use to search for a specific product type if you don’t want to scroll down the list. Once you’ve added the product types you want to create groups for, click Save at the bottom.
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20. New PLA Structure

Here I added product groups for 3 of my product types. I was able to increase my bid in the Health & Beauty product type simply by clicking on the bid. Notice how our initial bid of $0.10 carried over for all of my new product groups. If you don’t adjust your bid, your new product groups will have the default bid of whatever product group they were created within.
If I ever want to add more product types here, all I have to do is click on the pencil next to All Products and add more product types.

There are 2 important things to note here. First, you’ll see a 4th new group called “Everything else in All Products” at the bottom. The Everything Else product group will contain every product that is NOT included in my 3 product types above. Second, notice that now each of my 4 new product groups now has a Plus-Box next to it. If I click on that plus-box I now have the option to segment that product group even further using a new attribute, like Brand for example.

For this example I’ll click on health & beauty and I’ll add Brand product groups to it by following the same steps I did to add my initial product groups. I’ll click on the plus-box next to Health & Beauty, then select Brand from the drop-down menu, and click on the brands I want to add. We’ll see what the end result looks like in the next slide.
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21. New PLA Structure (cont.)

Now here’s what my campaign looks like. I added 3 brands within Health & Beauty – Conair, Oster, and Wahl. Remember how I increased my bid on Health & Beauty to $0.25? Now, every product group I build within Health & Beauty will have a $0.25 bid by default, but I can adjust the bid on each brand separately if I want.

If I ever want to add more brands here, all I have to do is click on the pencil next to Health & Beauty and add more brands.
It’s important to remember that these 3 new brand product sub-groups ONLY contain Health & Beauty products. If I carry other Conair products that are not in the Health & Beauty product type, they will NOT be included here. That’s because I built this particular Conair product sub-group within my Health & Beauty product group. So first & foremost this product group contains Health & Beauty products. Then I segmented further from there.

I could also go into my Kitchen product group and add a Conair product sub-group there as well. That particular sub-group would contain Kitchen products that have Conair as the brand.

Let’s say I still want to bid on other Conair products outside of the Health & Beauty product group, I can do that. If I want to bid on other brands, or create new product groups using a feed attribute other than Product Type I need to go to the “Everything Else In All Products” group at the very bottom. So let’s do that.
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22. Using A 2nd Attribute

If I click on the plus-box next to the Everything Else In All Products group I’ll see the same selection window I saw before. However, notice how product type is now missing from the drop down menu. That’s because I already have a section for my product type product groups above. If I want to add more product types I have to do so in the section above by clicking on the pencil next to All Products.

Remember how I said there would never be any crossover? Well you might be thinking, “Hey Jeff, you created a Conair product group in Health & Beauty, and then another Conair product group down here. Where do the Conair products go?”
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23. New PLA Structure

Well the short answer is that any Conair products that are also in the Health & Beauty product type go into the Health & Beauty > Conair product group. Everything Else, goes in the Everything Else > Conair product group. So essentially, my new Everything Else Conair product group contains every Conair product that isn’t in the Health & Beauty product type.

That’s true of any other product group I added under Everything Else. Since I already have a product group for all my Health & Beauty products, all Health & Beauty products will be excluded from additional product groups I create. If I want to bid on Health & Beauty products, I have to do it within my Health & Beauty product group.
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24. Exclusions

Google’s also giving you the option to Exclude a sub-group of products from your product group. I’ll go back to my original Health & Beauty product group from before. This time, instead of bidding on my Conair sub-group, I’m actually going to exclude it. To do that, I still have to add a Conair sub-group to Health & Beauty, but when I click on the bid next to Conair, I select the “Excluded” radio button.

Now, all Conair products are excluded from my Health & Beauty product group. So what happens to those Conair products? Did you guess that they move down into my Everything Else product group? If you did you then you were absolutely correct, and you get a gold star.

Those Conair Health & Beauty products are now excluded from the Health & Beauty product group, so they filter down into my Everything Else product group.
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25. New Features

Google’s added a few new features to this campaign type. First & foremost they’ve added 3 competitive metrics.
The Benchmark CTR & Max. CPC columns will show you the average bid and average CTR of other retailers with the same or similar products. They’ll also show you Impression Share which is the percentage of times your ads were shown for eligible searches.

The other new feature I wanted to touch on briefly is the Products Tab, which is really only cool if you spend a lot of time working with datafeeds like I do. This tab has all the info for every product you’re submitting to the Google Merchant Center. So if you’re ever unsure of what info you’re including for a particular product like what the ID is, what the Brand is, etc. you can look that up in the Products tab. It’s a great way to get some more insight into how the data you’re sending looks to Google.
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26. Best Practices

The Google Shopping campaign type isn’t just a cool new way to bid on your products, this is a completely new way of thinking about how to structure your Google Shopping campaign.

All of those groups & sub-groups, and everything else can get confusing. So here’s my advice.

Start slow: Pick one way of grouping products together and start with that. If you want to create a few of product groups based on Brand start with that. If you want to do it by Product Type or Category or Product ID, start with that individual attribute. As you get more familiar with this new campaign structure you’ll start to understand how your product groups are working together & you can get more granular from there.

Don’t worry if it’s a little overwhelming at first. It’s better to start slow & get it right then to get too complicated too quickly & lose focus.

Stay competitive: Google’s now giving you insight into how your competitors are bidding, so use that information to make sure your bids are competitive, especially on your top brands & categories. CPCs on Google Shopping have been traditionally been lower than text ads which is ridiculous considering how much better they convert. Google wants to give you visibility into how your competitors are bidding because they want a bidding war. But just because Google might have their own motives doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it as well, so definitely pay attention to those competitive metrics.

Retailers are going to have the ability to get more sophisticated with their campaigns, and they’re going to need to as this market continues to mature.

Pause Your Old Campaign: This might be the most important point on this slide. If you run a new campaign alongside an old one, they’re going to cannibalize each other so when you turn on your new Google Shopping campaign, make sure you pause your old one.
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27. New PLA Structure Benefits & Limitations

The new Shopping campaign structure was designed to make Google PLA management easier for advertisers, to mimic how advertisers sell items in store. However, like most things there are some benefits and drawbacks to the new structure.

Build-out: In my opinion it’s much easier to build out an extensive campaign with the new format. However, it’s harder to change the structure & shift focus if you decide that your campaign setup isn’t optimal. To do that you have to change whether you use Brand or Category or whatever as your first attribute which can change the entire structure of your campaign. If you’ve already spent a lot of time building out your campaign structure, completely switching that up can be a little daunting.

Data: As you build out new product groups the historical performance data will automatically populate which makes it really easy to see how your new group of products has performed. However, for some reason they removed all graphical representations of your performance which can make it very difficult to identify trends. Although, a little birdie told me that feature is on the horizon so stay tuned.

Competition: Google’s giving you visibility into your average competitor’s bids & CTR. You don’t see any direct data from any single competitor, it’s all aggregated, but even getting this data on aggregate can give you a lot of insight into where you need to bid to maximize visibility for your products. On the other hand, the more visibility retailer’s have into how others are bidding, the easier it is to try & outbid them which can lead to a bidding war & higher CPCs for you.

New Features: The products tab shows you product data for every product in your feed, which is awesome. However, they haven’t released all the features yet. For example, Google’s going to be adding a Bid Simulator which will estimate the level of traffic you’ll receive at a new bid level. No word on when this feature will be added, but we’ll keep you updated.
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28. Should you create new PLA ads?

EVERYONE should begin testing out this new campaign type right away, but how quickly you make the full transition can depend on a number of factors.

If you have limited access to your datafeed then switching to the new campaign type will actually let you see product data for every product easily through the AdWords login. If your campaign only consists of a handful of ad groups, it probably won’t take long for you to recreate that in the new Shopping campaign type so you might as well. Additionally, if you’re not using AdWords Labels then you won’t have to make any changes to your datafeed to make the transition.

On the other hand if you have an extensive campaign already built out, make sure you carefully set up your new campaign & maintain current bid levels so you don’t see performance fall off. Along the same lines if you have multiple campaigns set up then make sure you fully copy each campaign & set the appropriate campaign priority. If you’re using AdWords labels you’ll want to make sure that you add new Custom Labels to your datafeed so that you can maintain a similar strategy.

Keep in mind that you can create the campaign, pause it, and then build it out. That way you can get everything set the way you want before you actually turn it on.

This new Shopping campaign type is the future of Google Shopping management. When Google Shopping first became a paid program, advertisers who jumped on board early were rewarded with improved volume at a great ROI just because they were the first ones to learn how to optimize paid Google Shopping ads. The same thing is happening right now. The sooner you learn how to optimize this new campaign type, the early you’ll be able to reap the rewards.

So at the very least I encourage all of you to set up a new Google Shopping campaign. Even if you leave it paused for the time being, familiarize yourself with the look & feel of the new campaign so you can jump on board early and start reaping the benefits of early adoption.
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Mary: Thanks Jeff. We’re going to move into answering some questions now, so if you have something to ask Jeff feel free to add it to the questions section. These questions and answers will also be available on the CPC Strategy blog. If you think of question later please reach out to contact@cpcstrategy.com

 

Questions about Google Shopping PLAs? Ask away!

About the AuthorMary Weinstein is the Director of Content at CPC Strategy, and an expert in Retail Search, Google Shopping and Digital Marketing. A NY native, Mary spends her time educating online merchants, hiking and drinking copious amounts of coffee. You can also find her work on SEW, SEMRush, MOZ and Practical Ecommerce. See all posts by this author here.