How to Set Up Google Product Listing Ads

03.25.2013:  Attention Vertical Rail readers!  This article has been updated for the new shopping year and is now also available as a downloadable, print-friendly PDF white paper. —————— Back in May, Google announced that it planned to transition its free-to-use Google Product Search engine to a paid model using the Product Listing Ads platform.  You may have seen them in your Google searches; type in an item and on your search engine results page, you’ll see a Product Listing Ad above organic search results, among them, or in the sidebar with other AdWords ads (Google hasn’t quite made up its mind, yet). Product Listing Ads will be the future backbone of Google Shopping and will likely evolve from there because, as we all know, Google’s only constant is change. Google is currently offering incentives to merchants who set up their Product Listing Ads by August 15, 2012.  By October, Google will have completely shifted over to the new paid system. If you haven’t gotten your Product Listing Ads set up yet, don’t get left in the dust!  Here at Vertical Rail, we’ve put together a quick tutorial to help you get the ball rolling.

Setting Up Your Product Listing Ads

Preliminary Steps:
  • Create and validate product data feeds in your Google Merchant Center account
  • Link your AdWords account to your Google Merchant Center account
    • In Google Merchant Center: Settings > AdWords
    • Enter your AdWords customer ID number and click “Link Account”
Link Accounts

Setting Up Your Product Listing Ad Campaign:

It is recommended that you create a separate campaign solely for your Product Listing Ads.   This enables you to set budgets and bids and select specific item groups to display in your campaign.  A separate campaign will also allow you to more easily monitor the success of your Product Listing Ads.
  • Log into your AdWords account
  • Click to your Campaigns tab and create a new campaign
  • Select “Search Network Only” (Product Listing Ads only show on the Search Network)
  • You will be taken to a new page with campaign setting options
  • Under “General”:
    • Name your campaign
    • Under “Type”: make sure that “Search Network Only” is selected and select “Product Listing Ads”
    • Set other base options taking care to select correct location settings
    • Optional: Opt into Ad Extensions
    • Note:  Ad Extensions only accompany standard text ads with standard keyword targeting.  If you have created a separate campaign solely for Product Listing Ads, the extensions will not apply to those ads
  • Click “Save and Continue”
New Campaign PLA Campaign Type

Defining Product Extensions:

To supply your Product Listing Ads with relevant information, you must link your campaign to your Google Merchant Center product data feed.
  • At the campaign level, click the “Ad extensions” tab
  • Click the “+ New extension” button
  • Select the correct Merchant Center account
  • Save
Add Product Extension

At the Ad Group Level:

From here, you can set up your ad groups.  Left alone, your Product Listing Ad campaign will show all of the items in your Google Merchant Center data feed. Creating multiple ad groups will allow you to separate your product offerings into brand, category, or however you choose to divide your items.  Separate ad groups will allow you to better analyze the performance of different product groupings.  Furthermore, it affords you the ability to better manage bids and promote different item groups. Regardless of which option you select, you must set product targets in order for your Product Listing Ads to run.

Setting Product Targets:

Product targets allow you to select the products that show in PRODUCT LISTING ADs.  Further, it allows you to set different bids for different sets of products.  Groups may be defined using the attributes you set in your Google Merchant Center data feed. Under the “Auto Targets” tab:
  • Click “+Add product target”
  • Ensure that you are in the right ad group.  From here, you have two options:
    • “Add all products” will allow any of the items on your Google Merchant Center feed to show in searches
    • “Add a group of products” allows you to define your item groupings.  You may select what you would like or not like to show for each ad group.  You can set up to three product criteria using your product feed attributes
      • Select one of the five attribute options and enter the corresponding value on your product feed.  You may set two more to further refine your targets if desired
      • Click “Validate” to make sure that the value is correct.  Because Product Listing Ads pull data from your Google Merchant Center product data feed, this is a crucial step; if your inputted product target does not match the value in your feed, Google will not be able to pull the information
  • Save your settings
Set Product Targets

Promotions (Optional):

You may set a promotion for each ad group.  At the ad group level, simply go to the ads tab and click on the pencil next to the ad title.  A pop-up should appear, allowing you to change the promotional text that will appear underneath your ad. Each message is limited to 45 characters and will display beneath the item name in your Product Listing Ad.  Google suggests that the text should not be used for advertising purposes, but rather as actionable alerts.  E.g. “Free shipping on orders over $50” as opposed to “Satisfaction guaranteed”. Add Ad Promotion

Wrap Up:

The final step to creating your Product Listing Ads is setting bids.  A default maximum CPC may be set at the ad group level.  Under the “Auto Targets” tab, however, you may set a separate max CPC (higher or lower) for each product target. To see if your campaign is running, check the status column under the campaigns tab.  Unlike normal AdWords campaigns in which an “Approved” status is verification of your ads running, a simple “Eligible” status signifies that your campaign is live. Happy PLA-ing!


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