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The arrival of Google Product Listing Ads (PLA) in the UK is a mixed blessing for the advertising world.
While retailers will no longer benefit from the free traffic they were receiving from Google product search, it gives advertisers more granular control over product listings, bids and traffic, allowing them to work out what’s going where and when, and distribute budget as necessary.
Product Listing Ads: the stats
The US had an early start on PLAs, with Google completing the transition back in November 2012. And so far, it’s been a significant and profitable source of traffic, seeing the number of advertisers using PLAs grow by 113% from Spring 2012 to October 2012.
As a result the US advertising space has already grown more competitive so it will be crucial for UK organisations to be ready to hit the ground running.
With the additional cost involved, advertisers will now need to carefully consider spend efficiency at the strategy stage. And this is where learning from the US experience is a real advantage for us; we can see exactly what has and hasn’t worked with their ads.
One of these lessons is the significant role that PLAs played in the last retail season, with the sector seeing a steep increase as sales of clothing rose 400% and sales of technology even higher, by 600%.
These are results which retailers in the UK should consider when gearing up for their campaigns in the coming year.
Control what you can control
Another key takeaway is to ‘control what you can control’. Brands must ensure that they are ahead of the competition with the elements they can influence.
Ads should use sharp images, accurate data as well as structured targeting and competitive bid prices. It’s also important to get the Google ad type and the location right. Google algorithmic changes are crucial and advertisers must keep an eye on other brands to guarantee they stay on top.
We have seen that between 60–90% of queries that matched to PLAs were non-branded, highlighting the obvious benefit PLAs give to advertisers.
In Q4, PLAs drove 28% of Google’s non-branded clicks in the US. Making sure your ads are positioned correctly could mean that UK companies experience a similar surge in search traffic. What's more, PLAs have a 34% higher Click Through Rate than non-PLA ads.
Key tips for advertisers and digital marketers:
- Ensure you are eligible for any and every search that relates to your catalogue.
- Precise matching; tailor your match as finely as possible to specific search terms.
- Remain flexible; marketers can expect to see variance in Cost per Clicks as the marketplace changes. It is important to adjust bids and targeting to make the most of arising opportunities.
- Design PLAs that reflect your wider marketing effort. Use them as a source for promotion, through offerings and discounts.
- Assign budgets correctly between PLAs and other search ads to get the best return for your entire investment.
- Make sure you are submitting your product feed to the Google Merchant Centre.
- Create a strategy and testing process to discover the optimal campaign structure.
I created a short video summarising what you need to know, the steps to take to implement PLAs and the most important trends we've seen from the US.