On October 22, Google announced a new enhancement to Product Listing Ads, called Shopping Campaigns. The announcement came via the official Google AdWords blog, and notes a number of key features, including access to new data, insights, and increased integration with the merchant feed.
Google noted that these enhancements will make it easier for advertisers to launch and optimize Product Listing Ads. Based on the many of the initial hurdles that our clients and teams had to deal with when PLAs were first released, I would support that comment.
PLAs have been tremendously successful at increasing paid media exposure and driving incremental revenue. However, advertisers are still dealing with a number of challenges. I believe Google Shopping campaigns effectively address these issues head on.
Challenge 1: Disconnect between the merchant feed and the Product Listing Ads program.
- Logistical issues such as separate client teams or vendors managing the feed and the Product Listing Ads campaigns often create unnecessary barriers to efficiently managing and optimizing PLA campaigns. The inability to see feed data directly in AdWords has further obstructed the process.
Google Shopping Solution: Increased feed integration.
- Advertisers can now browse product inventory and create groups for items they want to bid on directly in the AdWords interface.
Long Term Impact to Advertisers: Do I need a feed management solution?
- Many clients have inquired as to whether this enhancement will make feed optimization and management solutions such as Mercent and Channel Intelligence less effective for PLA campaigns. By providing additional options within AdWords, no longer are advertisers reliant on changes to a feed to get a new product target up and running. Still, good data remains the foundation of a strong PLA campaign, so advertisers without the in-house capacity to optimize a feed with strong titles, effective labels, and accurate attributes should explore partnership opportunities with a feed management vendor. Additionally, advertisers that engage with multiple comparison shopping engines will find many efficiencies in leveraging a "one feed" solution that many of these vendors can offer.
Challenge 2: Limited Reporting.
- Currently, reporting within AdWords is limited to basic KPI stats by product target or ad group, with limited insights into the products or feed attributes that are successful. While some of this data can be extracted via advanced analytics suites and proper tagging, this adds an extra step (or 5) to efficiently managing and optimizing a PLA campaign.
Google Shopping Solution: Advanced reporting.
- Advertisers will be able to filter and segment reports with additional attributes from your feed such as category, type, item ID, brand, and customer labels.
Long Term Impact to Advertisers: API support will provide enterprise level advertisers/agencies with powerful tools.
- While access to this data within AdWords will provide immediate and actionable data to advertisers, enterprise level clients and agencies will want to see this data integrated with a campaign management platform, such as Marin Software. These platforms are already hard at work in identifying the most effective way to leverage these new Google Shopping Campaign data points in their UI to provide advertisers with an efficient and automated way to manage targets and bids to ROI goals (something that most of these platforms can handle today under the current PLA methodology).
Challenge 3: Answering the question "How High Is Up?"
- As clients see strong performance from PLA campaigns, and investments in PLAs increase, a common question is, "how high is up?" With a lack of competitive metrics that are readily available in traditional search campaigns such as Impression Share, advertisers are limited to assumptive models to answer these questions (e.g., leveraging a day-parting report to determine if/when campaigns are capping out to determine max opportunity).
Google Shopping Solution: Competitive insights.
- Discover the average CTR and max CPC for other advertisers with similar products, as well as the Impression Share for your shopping campaigns to determine opportunity lost to rank or budget.
Long Term Impact to Advertisers: Round 2 of the PLA "Wild West".
- As Google removes the guessing game from PLAs, many advertisers will be able to outline tangible action plans and budgets for PLAs that will allow them to meet or exceed business objectives. Expect to see increased PLA investment, and subsequently increased CPCs, as advertisers take advantage of these powerful data points to maximize the opportunity and capture market share from competitors. Much like the initial launch of PLAs, expect to see ebbs and flows in your performance as advertisers "shoot it out" in the PLA frontier.
Product Listing Ads have been a positive source of revenue for brands and you can expect that trend to continue, especially in Q4. The creation of incremental insights and tools to help manage these tools is a great step toward the improvement of this ad format. I'm optimistic about the changes and eager to see what comes next as this evolution continues.
Author's Note: Thanks to Matt Wilkinson, paid media craft lead at Rosetta, for helping with this article.