By Yulia Khansvyarova
For some, the future of selling online has started to look a bit grim.
Markets have already become oversaturated with competition. Trying to rank for top commercial keywords feels almost too hard to endure. And customers have already got used to the plethora of choice at their disposal.
It’s no surprise than that retailers constantly look for and test alternative strategies that could drive buyers to their products. One of these strategies is to use Product Listing Ads (PLAs).
What are Product Listing Ads and why should you use them?
Google initially launched Product Listing Ads into the US market in 2011. However, the advertising format began experiencing a meteoric rise around 2014, when the search engine launched the feature in other countries.
Today, PLAs account for 43% of all retail ad clicks and a staggering 70% of non-branded clicks!
So what exactly are PLAs?
In short, PLAs are type of cost-per-click ads that are purchased through AdWords to promote products. Unlike text and image ads, PLAs enable you to target specific products and product groups. Typically, a PLA contains a product picture and price, along with a store brand.
Why should you use them?
- To drive sales. After all, you’re able to advertise specific products your audience’s looking for.
- To increase highly targeted traffic to the site. Again, this is because you can promote products relevant to a person’s interest.
- To build brand awareness. Because of the high relevance, you can position your brand in front of a very targeted audience.
And if you’re already using AdWords, you don’t even have to learn a new platform. You can manage your PLA campaigns in the same place where you manage your image and text ads.
How much do PLAs cost?
Just like AdWords, PLAs work on a CPC auction-based system. This means that you bid a maximum amount you’re willing to pay per ad and Google then places it on a page according to your bet.
However, you are only charged when a user takes one of the two actions on your ad:
- clicks on ad that leads directly to the landing page on your website; or
- clicks on ad that leads to the Google-hosted landing page for your local inventory.
Which types of businesses benefit most from PLAs?
We wanted to analyse which types of companies consider PLAs (Product Listing Ads) as a profitable advertising channel in Australia. To do this, with the help of SEMrush PLA Copies Report, we collected domains that have the largest number of PLA copies. These domains also use AdWords ads as part of their advertising campaigns.
In this list, it’s interesting to notice that all of the websites are e-commerce companies. Also, it comes as no surprise that Ebay, as one of the world’s largest online marketplaces, appeared to be the undisputed leader in using PLAs, with almost 1,000,000 ads published in May. Most of the other companies within this list are booksellers (Book Depository, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson, Wordery, Mighty Ape, and Fishpond) and online fashion, clothing and beauty stores (ASOS, 1stdibs , Farfetch, David Jones, The Iconic, and Target). The rest of the companies are online marketplaces that offer miscellaneous goods such as electronics, entertainment, vintage, handmade, home decor and groceries.
We’ve also analysed domains that have a large number of PLAs, but are not using Adwords ads. As you can see, these companies that rely solely on PLAs are mostly online retailers with either wide selections of products or ones with specialised products, such as pet and veterinary supplies (vet-n-pet DIRECT and Vet Products Direct), marine supplies (Arnold’s Boat Shop), sports products (SPORTSDIRECT.com and Teamzo), and automotive parts (Automotive Superstore and VPW).
Even though these companies don’t use AdWords ad campaigns, they still find it beneficial to apply PLA campaigns to their overall advertising strategy. The reason for this is that PLAs provide more detailed information for customers further down the sales funnel. Customers who are looking for specific items, such as veterinary products or automotive parts usually already have an intention to buy the product; PLAs give them exactly the information they need (price, image, etc.) and drive them directly to the company’s landing page, making it very simple for users to convert.
We also checked the cost of products that are promoted via PLAs. Shown below, you can see that products with prices that range from $9.99 to $99.99 are listed on Google Shopping more frequently than products with prices from $99.99 – $999.99 and $0.99 – $9.99.
With that being said, it doesn’t mean that PLAs are not used to advertise expensive goods. Take a look at the most costly products that were promoted through PLAs in May 2016:
Tips to make your Product Listing Ads more effective
It’s true: PLAs can drive traffic and revenue.
But with a growing popularity of the platform, achieving results may require some extra effort beyond just placing an ad. Here are some tips to help you attract searchers’ attention to your ads.
Show Google product ratings
Customers often base their product selection on ratings and reviews, and Google allows you to include star ratings in your PLA ads. For your ratings to appear, though, you need to have at least 50 reviews. If your store passes this criterion, then, fill in this form. Google will then assess how they can collect those for aggregating in PLAs.
You can also use Google-approved third party review aggregators to add product ratings. You can see the full list of services you could use here.
Feature better images
Product images impact buyers’ behavior. A study from eBay discovered that image quality corresponds to click-through rate. In other words, featuring better images than your competition might attract more customers to your ads.
Update product information
Unlike search ads (text ads) and display ads (banner ads), PLAs get displayed based on the information you include about a product, not keywords. Therefore, to increase your products’ exposure, update product information to feature the most relevant keywords in the product title and description, and add custom labels to highlight products you’d like to promote the most.
Keep product availability up to date
As Google points out, “product eligibility can improve your impressions”. In other words, if the search engine knows that a product is certainly in stock at your store, they’ll be more likely to display its ad.
Yulia Khansvyarova is head of digital marketing at SEMrush.