Google Shopping: Why PLAs Aren't So Bad for Merchants

Google Shopping’s recent evolution has brought quite a bit of flack on the comparison shopping engine. Some may even say merchants are getting Scroogled with the new Google Shopping setup.

While using Seuss inspired words is extremely fun, and there are definitely some disadvantages to the new Google Shopping set up, it’s also important to note that there are some really great opportunities for merchants on Google Shopping.

At the risk of sounding like a Google fangirl, let’s make some Google Shopping lemonade! Here's why Google Shopping is good for merchants.

Merchants Can do Well With an All Products Campaign

When Google Shopping first came out, Google’s tutorial about setting up Google Shopping campaigns encouraged merchants to set up an All Products campaign (One Ad Group with the entire feed) as their only Ad Group.

At this point, the Product Listing Ads (PLA) accounts I was managing were set up with detailed ad groups for brands, best sellers, price buckets, etc. so I judged Google pretty heavily for this suggestion. Why would Google encourage merchants to limit their ad groups?

Having seen more merchant interactions with PLAs and Google Shopping management, it's much clearer to me now why Google would approach setup this way.

But PLAs can (and do) convert with just an All Products Ad Group. If you don’t have the time, knowledge, or the ability to delve into setting up multiple Ad Groups this is a pretty sweet Google Shopping strategy, albeit limited.

If you aren’t on Google Shopping, and want to list your whole feed using a single ad group, the process is notably simple:

(The following steps for setting up an All Products Ad Group assume you already have an active AdWords account which is linked to your Google merchant login.)

1. Create a new Campaign in AdWords. (If you know how to set up a PLA campaign in AdWords skip to step 6.)

Under the All online campaigns tab, select + New campaign:

adwords-create-new-pla-campaign

2. Choose "Search Network Only" to set up a PLA campaign:

search-network-only-pla-campaign

3. Select a Product listing ads, and name your campaign:

product-listing-ads-campaign-name

For the options in the middle of the page (Networks; Desktops and Laptops, mobile devices and tablets; Locations; Languages), you can use the default settings which AdWords has selected. So you don't need to select anything for these options unless you want to get more granular with your campaign.

4. Set your default bid (CPC for PLA clicks), and daily budget:

pla-set-default-bid

You can set you bids, budget and select an extension for your All Products PLA campaign near the bottom of this page.

Remember your budget is the amount of money Google Shopping will charge up to daily for your PLA clicks. How long your listings will stay live depend on what your daily budget is and how high you make your default bid.

Also keep in mind if you decide to let AdWords set bids (vs. manually selecting them yourself), you will need to adjust your budget accordingly, and keep an eye on your spend.

5. Select an Ad extension for your PLA campaign:

select-ad-extension-pla-campaign

When selecting an ad extension, you can choose to use an existing client ID from the dropdown menu, or create a new extension. Using an existing client ID is the quicker option, but keep in mind existing ID's have been created by someone else.

This means that this ID may have filters associated with it, and or can potentially be changed by someone else in the AdWords login. This can cause issues for you later down the road when you're trying to validate, so be careful here.

If you create a new extension, be sure the ID matches the Google merchant login ID.

6. Create an Ad Group with an all products product target:

pla-create-ad-group

You'll want to name your ad group (see red arrows), and incorporate some sort of a promotion if you can, but the really important thing to remember here is to make sure the All products auto target option is selected (see yellow arrow).

AdWords default selects this option, so unless you uncheck it, you should be good to go.

*Please note that you don't want this selected when you are creating every other ad group (excluding all products), such as category, best seller, price bucket, seasonal ad groups, etc.

All Products Ad Group Caveat for Sellers

Although this is definitely an option if you are a merchant with limited PLA knowledge, who might otherwise not be live on Google Shopping, remember it's also a very limiting approach. You aren't going to get the most out of PLAs if you aren't actively managing them and if they are not built out.

Depending on how high you’re bidding this strategy might kick you in the butt fiscally. Don't set up an All Products Ad Group and proceed to ignore your PLA campaign.

But using only an All Products Ad Group is still a pretty cool option for merchants who might otherwise be unable to list on the PLAs.

Merchants Can Actively Manage

My feelings about AdWords support is only surpassed by my rage at drivers who don’t use their blinker, and I generally dislike how PLA setup can be confusing for merchants. But merchants have a huge advantage with the new Google Shopping in terms of control.

Sellers have a great opportunity to make changes and set up detailed Ad Groups with Google Shopping.

I touch on some best practices, such as how to set up a best seller Ad Group and Seasonal Ad Group, Monitoring your average position to bid competitively, and how to track Day of the Week Dimensions on AdWords here.

If you have access to your feed, and can look at past performance to identify products for best seller ad groups, these are great options for optimizing your PLA campaign.

Merchants Can Distinguish Themselves

Google Product Search was designed to facilitate the online shopping experience, with sorting features and relevancy algorithms. But it was much more limited than Google Shopping for merchant options.

Google is constantly pushing new features to better the user experience on Google Shopping. Google's recent introduction of 360 images, extended catalogs and shortlists speaks exhibits this tendency.

For merchants, this constant optimization means more opportunities to take advantage of Google Shopping special features which highlight seller metrics, such as Google Trusted Stores, Promotions, and Google Wallet.

Google Shopping not only allows, but encourages merchants to make themselves stand out with these various user centered features.

For you, this means more ways to get more (and better quality) exposure on Google Shopping.

PLA Ranking Aren't Based Only on Bids

The ability to bid on Ad Groups and campaigns for PLAs on Google Shopping is definitely a game changer for merchants. It gives you the ability to elevate ad groups based on performance (categories, price buckets, etc.) on a shopping engine where before all you could do was submit listings.

But bidding is not the only element which determines ranking for PLAs.

Google determines where products rank based on an algorithm which includes PLA bids, but also incorporates other merchant metrics. Although Google doesn't publicize exactly how listings are ranked, we do know the algorithm incorporates site speed, site reliability, data feed submission frequency, data feed quality, length of time on Google Shopping, product detail and description matches, as well as other seller metrics.

Comparison pages also have a different algorithm than PLAs, and affiliate listings similarly are ranked differently with Google's algorithm.

What this means for you is that while you have much more control on PLAs with bidding, that isn't the only element which determines where ads show up. So you're not going to be outranked by another merchant simply because they have higher bids than you. And you may very well outrank someone who is bidding higher than you depending on your site, etc.

Point fingers at Google all you want, but there are some amazing opportunities on Google Shopping for merchants who are proactive, like you.