Four Strategies for Maximizing PLA Revenue

Kye Mou
August 30, 2013
PLAs online shopping retail advertising

In June 2013, Google successfully completed their global transition of shopping results to the “pay-to-play" commercial model built on Product Listing Ads (PLA). In the US, this model is still less than a year old, yet online retailers are faced with the real challenges of effectively optimizing their campaigns ahead of the 2013 holiday season. For many search marketers, managing a Merchant Center product feed, testing ad group promotions, and building granular product targets are relatively new concepts. In order to be successful during the holidays and improve their revenue outcomes, marketers must refine their approach to managing and optimizing their PLA campaigns. The following four strategies will enable retail advertisers to deliver a richer and more engaging shopping experience, while maximizing revenue across product targets.

1. Granular Product Targets
Product targets, created using the product attributes defined within Google’s Merchant Center, enable retailers to deliver PLAs by product ID or SKU. In general, the more granular the product target, the more likely a relevant ad will be delivered for a corresponding product search. Rather than grouping multiple products together into a single product target, search marketers who map product IDs or SKUs to individual product targets are able to tie the performance of each target directly back to the individual product. Optimizing with this level of visibility and control allows retailers to not only align product targets with product-specific business goals, but also calculate optimal bids that maximize revenue across the entire product inventory.

2. Grouping for Promotional Text
Promotional text, which is optionally set at the ad group level, also benefits from granularity and is best leveraged with a tightly themed set of product targets. By organizing product targets that are consistently promoted together into separate ad groups, or the same ad group—such as by brand or product category—retailers can significantly differentiate their PLAs from their competitors. Keep in mind promotional text applies to all the products targeted in a specific ad group. Thus, the messaging should be applicable to all products under each product target and should be updated regularly to reflect changes to promotional offers.

3. Top Performing Products
Similar to paid search keywords, prioritizing top performing product targets provides retailers with more control over their revenue outcomes. By increasing exposure for these products, whether through an aggressive bidding strategy, separate ad groups and product targets, or through product feed optimization, search marketers can acquire more revenue while investing less time in management and optimization. For example, increasing product target bids or testing new images for popular products are two common strategies for increasing visibility among shoppers. Additionally, leveraging Dimensions or Labels, along with recurring reports, allow search marketers to quickly take action on top performing product targets when they are impacted by sudden shifts in the auction environment.

4. Poorly Performing Products
In contrast, products with low margins or products that perform poorly using standard text ads might also perform poorly with PLAs. By excluding these products from product targets or setting product filters to define which products can appear for PLAs, retailers can avoid bidding on these unprofitable products and exhausting their campaign budgets. Similarly, to limit the product searches for which PLAs will show and further improve relevance and performance, always research and implement appropriate negative keywords.

Final Thoughts
PLAs have become an integrated part of the online shopping experience. With this highly engaging ad format expanding to smartphone devices, retailers will undoubtedly allocate additional budget towards these campaigns moving forward. As more advertisers enter the landscape and competition increases, search marketers will need to continue investing in new technology and establish best practices to effectively execute on their PLA strategies. Retailers who have bought into PLAs and have begun optimizing their feed and product targets will not only be able to engage their customers, but will also be positioned to acquire more revenue this holiday season.
For more information on how Marin Software can help you successfully manage and optimize your PLA campaigns, contact your Client Services representative or email us at

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