10 Common Google PLA Mistakes (And How to Fix Them!)

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Retailers of all sizes want to improve the quality of their Product Listing Ads (PLA) feeds and campaigns. The launch of PLAs last year was challenging – there was a steep learning curve to become proficient. As with most things Google, looking at the data was the most useful barometer to determine best practices and potential pitfalls.

Let's look at 10 of the most common PLA campaign mistakes, as well as some advice on how to address them to improve your own PLA campaigns.

1. Using the Same Feed for PLA as for Other CSEs

Problem: Traditional comparison shopping engines (CSEs) are category driven marketplaces and the content of the feeds are less important than categorization. Google, on the other hand, matches products to search queries and if your feed lacks intent signals in key fields, your products are less likely to serve.

Solution: Update key fields to include commonly searched values, as opposed to manufacturer names for product lines, colors, materials, etc.

2. One (or very few) Product Targets in PLA Campaigns

Problem: When using only one product target to represent large groups of products that have different characteristics, buyers, and margins, you will be bidding too high/low for a vast majority of those products. Additionally, you won't be able to use negatives to control traffic to specific products – Google will decide what serves on your behalf for each query.

Solution: At the very least, build product targets that represent natural breaks in your product portfolio. Typically category is a good place to start but if you find that is still too broad, add an attribute such as brand to increase the granularity of your targets.

3. No (or very few) Negatives in PLA Campaigns

Problem: This is akin to putting all of your keywords on broad match without negatives. By not using negatives you're allowing Google to match your products to whatever queries it determines to be relevant, which typically results in overspending in PLA at a low ROI.

Solution: Review SQRs regularly for truly bad matches for campaign negatives. Additionally, decide which products you'd want to serve for particular targets so that you can set ad group level negatives to block those product characteristics that don't match.

4. Frequent Duplication of Product Titles & Descriptions in Feed

Baby A Baby BProblem: By having the same titles and descriptions for different products, you're essentially telling Google that they are the same product. This ultimately limits your reach and ability to drive impressions.

Solution: Use the product attributes in the feed to augment your titles and descriptions, differentiating one from another. Shoot for less than 10 percent of title and description duplication in your feed.

5. Using 'Inside Baseball' Product Naming

Problem: While your brand's product names (e.g. Diesel Jamility) may be familiar to you and your merchandising team, they often aren't familiar to searchers. Remember, you're trying to acquire customers with this program – the customers who know your products so well aren't the ones you need to acquire.

Solution: By adding commonly search characteristics to your product names, you can highlight the product and its features to an audience that is less familiar with your offerings (e.g., Diesel Men's Grey Wool Blazer – Jamility).

6. Single Campaign & Budget For All PLAs

Problem: Having all of your products in a single campaign limits flexibility around budgeting different brands or types of products during promotions and/or co-op programs.

Solution: Break 'em out!

7. Overlapping Product Targets

Problem: By using a strategy where many products could fall into multiple product targets (e.g., setting targets at the brand, category, and SKU levels). When product targets overlap, you are giving Google the flexibility to serve an ad out of whichever target it decides. This limits your ability to do quantitative testing on feed changes because you don't know what will serve from where, potentially confounding your test data. Additionally, some hypothesize that this engenders bid rank competition among your own products since they could serve from multiple groups.

Solution: Develop a targeting strategy at a level that makes sense for your business. Always keep an 'All Products' target at a low bid such that it won't compete for traffic with your targets but will pick up certain queries that may not be covered elsewhere in the campaign.

8. Not Using Merchant Promotions

Merchant Promos

Problem: Merchant Promotions allows you to stand out from the rest of the marketplace when you have an offer on a specific item, boosting both CTR and conversion rate.

Solution: Get yourself into this program. It's currently in beta, but push on your Google team to get you an invite. You won't be sorry!

9. Using Only Stock Images From Manufacturer

SleepingProblem: The image in a PLA occupies the majority of the ad unit and is the most visible element to a consumer. Most marketers simply pass the image that they receive from the OEM through to the feed, which means many marketers are merchandising with the same image. By not testing new images, you're missing out on an opportunity to be different and attract clicks.

Solution: Test multiple images in your feed to find the one that strikes the best balance of uniqueness, storytelling, and accuracy.

10. SKU#s, Codes, Slashes, Etc. in Product Titles

Problem: Second only to the image in visibility, the product title is a hugely critical piece of the ad. Product titles that are rife with encoded information won't resonate with the consumer and will likely be overlooked. Remember, at the end of the day, this is an ad unit, not a listing.

Solution: Clean up your feed! Google has a place in their feed spec for all of that ancillary information – the title isn't one of them.