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The Life and Times of Product Listing Ads4 min read

4 min read

Croud’s PPC Croudie Executive, Victoria takes the claim for Croud’s first blog of 2014 by looking into Product Listing Ad action around the Christmas period last year.

Let’s talk retail product listing ads…… and Christmas

Now for those of you that have been hiding under a rock, let’s just have a quick recap of what PLAs are. Straight from a Googlers mouth:

“Product Listing Ads are search ads that include richer product information, such as product image, price and merchant name, without requiring additional keywords or ad text. Whenever a user enters a search query relevant to an item in your Google Merchant Centre account, Google will automatically show the most relevant products along with the associated image, price and product name.”

Now just so we are clear, here are some things that PLAs can and CANNOT do:

Product Listing ads will not lead you to treasure… or dragons.


They also will NOT float in the night sky and make you think you have a dream.


They WILL however present your products in an easy to understand, information rich format. Like this:


Just wanted to be clear on that.

Now, I loathe to dredge up the dreaded C word since we have finally escaped its money sucking, liver destroying clutches. Yet there is one thing about this festive car crash that makes every search engine advertiser smile. Revenue.

The consumer’s interaction with paid search is no more fickle than during Christmas peak, it’s a click here, click there, bonanza of panic stricken parents scrambling to find the best buy for their wailing tots. Pair this with the paradoxal indecisive folk attempting to buy as many gifts as possible with the least effort, yet unable to decide on anything they click on, and you have a CTR that looks like you’re pitching products to a ghost town.

Your impressions soar as the technically uneducated search for every item under the sun, and seasoned shoppers struggle with the age old questions of suitable delivery times, colour and which brand is best. The only thing you can count on is that ultimately all these people are going to spend a whole lot more money than they normally would. Win for us. If you can catch them!

You as an advertiser find yourself on a warpath, fighting tooth and nail to keep your client’s corner of the search engine world profitable and relevant. You regale in each sale achieved at lower than expected CPA and curse every time some retail adversary kicks you off your favourite top spot. If like me you are of a ragey disposition you find an increasing % of your day dedicated to shaking the laptop screen in the hope all of your competitors will fall right off the landscape. (Note: This does not work)

You live in the delicate balance of keeping sales ripe and cost manageable (whilst joining in the fray to buy your own gifts). Now here at Croud we are pretty awesome (no really), so this is exactly what we achieve, but I appreciate that this feat is not as attainable to others as it is to us.

But don’t weep just yet as there is a silver lining to this torrid tale. If you are looking to whip up your non-brand retail sales %, or need to reign in that pesky CPA then PLAs could be a viable market to frolic in.

There is no better way to intercept the user in the fraught journey that is online Christmas shopping than slapping them in the face with a rich ad format like product listing ads. Consumers are automatically getting a glimpse of whether your offering is to their taste and price range, and as a result you are more likely to experience higher CTR compared to your non brand PPC activity.

Add to this the fact that PLA activity is on average 98% non-brand and you are set to experience that delicious moment when you rub your hands together with glee, always forgetting from which show/ film this iconic and satisfying motion comes from. Ok maybe this was just me.

It has been estimated that overall revenue for product listing ads increased 417% on previous year compared with the much smaller 50% increase in spend. Numbers don’t lie people.

Now I am not saying there is no work involved in the world of PLA activity or that you can expect it to magically work straight off the bat. But I have found it gives a great insight into your buying market and gives you that helping hand in owning the landscape.

It all sounds a bit salesy I know but what can I say…..

I’m a fan.