Product Listing Ads (PLAs) can be daunting for small advertisers, but you don't need lots of technology to take advantage of the high quality traffic. Since Google launched Product Listing Ads we've seen many success stories, and most ecommerce advertisers have learned how this ad format can help get them additional qualified traffic.
Sound's great, right? It is.
The downside is that the barrier to entry is higher than for the rest of AdWords. Instead of choosing a set of keywords and writing ads, you need to create a feed of all the products in your inventory and send a daily update to Google.
If your CMS or ecommerce database supports it then the process can be easy: check the box, give it the address to upload to... done. You can get more clever by starting to give items specific markup just for your AdWords account to really optimize.
If your system doesn't allow you to do this, then you've got a difficulty. Typical reasons might be that the technology is outdated, or there will be a significant charge to add that feature, or that you sell a very limited range of products and don't use an ecommerce platform.
How Google Spreadsheets Can Help You
Google Spreadsheets is a simple spreadsheet that's well integrated into the Merchant Center. When you create a merchant center account you don't need to provide a feed that you upload daily, you are instead given the option to create a Google Spreadsheet that the system can take the data from. You still need all the same fields, but you can now manually create a system that will get your data into Merchant Center, and from there into Google Shopping via AdWords.
The one big limitation is that this is all done manually. You need to build out all of your items and you need to keep your prices up to date. Consider that an additional part of the cost of doing business with PLAs.
Google Spreadsheets are easy to share, so you can have multiple people work in the same document at the same time. If you need to share the load, go for it.
My recommendation is to choose your best 10-30 products and start with those. Getting them into PLAs when you previously couldn't can make all the difference.
Google Spreadsheets and AdWords Scripts
There's more. Google Spreadsheets is available as a data source for AdWords Scripts.
You may not have come across ad parameters before, they're an API-only feature of AdWords. Every keyword can be associated with up to two ad parameters. These can then be inserted dynamically into ad texts, just like dynamic keyword insertion.
By writing your ads to contain these parameters, and writing a script to pull the values from your PLA-specific Google Spreadsheets document, you can force your regular text ads (i.e. non-PLA) to pull through prices, discounts, previous prices... you name it.
By setting up Google Spreadsheets correctly and keeping them up to date, you can transform your AdWords activity from a static text ads campaign to one that includes dynamic content in your ads and PLAs on the same searches. That's worth it.