Leveraging Google Analytics To Find Product Listing Ad Keywords

By now, you’ve probably gotten your Google Product Listing Ads up and are all set for free shopping D-day – so what else can you do to make sure that your campaign is successful after the dust and ashes settle?  With the ever changing landscape that is e-commerce, I’d say there is always more optimization to be done!

Today’s post is inspired by Melissa, who asked me the other day: “Is there any way to figure out which keywords our PLAs are showing for?”

My thought process then went something like this: “Nope! Not possible.  Product Listing Ads aren’t directly influenced by keywords like AdWords ads.  Merchants select which ads to show by setting targets and Google displays them based on the relevance of the title and description and then the bid… But then again, the relevancy in titles and descriptions are influenced by keywords, so maybe there is a way to figure out what keywords are triggering PLAs.”

So I told her, “Maybe,” and went to Analytics to do some investigating.

If you’ve ever tried searching for keywords bound to your PLA campaign in Analytics, you probably also ran into results such as “brand==Wonka” and “product type==Chocolate.”  Not much help, right?  All this tells you is that someone typed in a query and a product in your “brand” and “product type” target groups showed.

After some exploring in the Analytics tabs, I finally found a “Eureka!” moment.  Follow the steps below to find out how you can find the specific search queries that are triggering your Product Listing Ads.

Finding Product Listing Ad Trigger Keywords

In your Analytics dashboard:

  • Click on the Advertising tab
  • Navigate to the Matched Search Queries menu
  • Click on the Secondary Dimension menu
  • Select Advertising

From here, you have three options:

  • Campaign:  A general overview, this option will show you search queries linked to an entire campaign
  • Ad Group*:  Shows you search queries associated with their respective ad groups
  • Keyword:  Displays queries associated with product targets

Et voilà- You have keywords galore!

An additional tip: if you sort results by Revenue (or Goal Completion if you’ve previously set the parameters), you can figure out which phrases and keywords convert the best- use this to your advantage!

Product Listing Ads & Keywords: How To Make Them Work Together

Even though you can no longer directly influence your ads’ showing with keywords, they still play an important part in Google Shopping.  The search queries that you find in Analytics are what your customers are actually searching for in Google engines.  Use these as keywords to optimize your titles and descriptions and increase your relevancy factor (and potentially ranking).

In doing this, you will be optimizing three facets of your e-commerce business in one swoop: your data feed, product listing ads, and ad extensions.

Additional Product Listing Ad Optimization: Tips & Best Practices

To close, here are a few related PLA optimization tips.  Keep in mind that great campaigns are built on strong foundations, and that only the prepared survive d-day.

  • Product Listing Ad Titles and Descriptions
    • Length
      • Title: Up to 69 characters
      • Description: 500-1,000 characters recommended; 10,000 max
    • Relevancy
      • Write keyword rich titles and descriptions (but don’t stuff!)
  • Campaigns
    • Create a campaign solely for your Product Listing Ads.  This will allow you to set different budgets, bids, promotions, and performance tracking and will allow you better campaign management overall
  • *Ad Groups
    • Don’t give the same name to any ad groups – even if they are in different campaigns.  Doing so will make a regular AdWords ad group indistinguishable from a PLA ad group in Analytics. Try tacking on “PLA” to the beginning of your Product Listing Ad ad groups so that Analytics will display your groups as “Chocolate” and “PLA Chocolate.”

Questions?  Comments?  Chime in below!


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  1. Emma Parker says

    Hi, great advice thanks for sharing it! However i do have one question, i’m only seeing “*” in the keyword column? in relation to tracking my PLA’s in Google analytics.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • says

      Hi, Emma!

      PLAs track using targets rather than keywords, which is why under the keywords column, you’ll see something like “brand==Nestle” rather than just “Nestle”.

      When you find an asterisk in your keywords column in Analytics, it means that an item from your “all” product target was displayed. If you switch between “keyword” and “ad group” as the secondary dimension, you’ll see that the search queries that line up with the “*” match the ones triggering items in your “All” ad group.

      Hope this answers your question!


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