Earlier this spring Google announced that online retailers would no longer receive free visibility on the first page of their search results. Instead, retailers are being forced to set up Google AdWords accounts and pay for clicks via Product Listing Ads (PLAs) – or lose out on major traffic.
As you can imagine, this sent a shock through the ecommerce world. Online retailers that had been receiving free keyword traffic for years were forced to make a serious choice: rely on Google Shopping for low levels of free traffic – or pay for higher levels of targeted first page traffic. Savvy marketers, however, saw the switch as a blessing in disguise.
The truth is free traffic from first page Google Shopping listing was never efficient. While it was free, merchants lacked control over where and how often their listings appeared. With thousands of products to choose from, Google had no incentive to show one merchant over another when serving first page results. Product listing ads changed all that.
With Google’s new PLAs, merchants now have full control over where their products appear in Google’s Shopping section. Because the AdWords platform uses bids to determine first page rankings and placement, merchants can now bid to determine how often and where they appear within the Google Shopping listings. In other words, you can now keep your product image ads on the first page of Google – 24/hours day. This is a major win for savvy marketers who track their ROI and understand the nuances of bid management.
For less experienced business owners that don’t run complex analytics, and have never spent money on AdWords, the switch presents major obstacles. Anyone who’s been in online marketing for long has heard of the ‘AdWords Graveyard’ – a metaphor for the tens of thousands of businesses that have tried AdWords and failed. And to make matters worse, Product Listing Ads are more complex than AdWords itself.
PLAs require integration with the Google Merchant Center, and a continually updated data feed that contains accurate information for the retailer’s entire inventory. Further, Google is now giving preference to merchants who provide high quality images and optimize their data feeds. This means providing 800×800 pixel images and optimizing your titles and descriptions for every product you offer.
If you’re lucky enough to run a small shop that only sells a few dozen products, this may not be a problem. If you run a large shop with anymore than a few hundred products, you could be looking at a serious headache. And if you don’t even know what a data feed is – forget about it.
With that said, merchants who adopted the switch as soon as it came out have seen stellar results. While setting up the campaign within AdWords can be intimidating – some merchants are being forced to place $6 and $7 bids for clicks – that’s just because of the wonky way Google’s system works. The truth is most merchants are paying less than one dollar for clicks, and the traffic is converting very well (most merchants report it’s converting even better than AdWords keyword traffic).
For more information on how your ecommerce website can benefit from a professionally managed PLA campaign, please contact us. We would be more than happy to discuss your needs to see if we’re a good fit.