Product Listings Ads – Part 1: Product Identifiers

When Google announced the change in June 2012 of combining Google Product Listing Ads with Google Shopping, there was a good amount of understandable concern among many advertisers, particularly small businesses. The good news is that many of those concerns have not come to pass, and with the right optimization of a PLA program, advertisers of all sizes can benefit from this tool.

In this first part of a three video series Todd Bowman, Comparison Shopping Engine Product Manager, walks us through the necessary elements of optimizing Product Listing Ads. Stay tuned for parts two and three over the coming weeks.


Todd Bowman: Hi, my name is Todd Bowman. I'm a Comparison Shopping Engine Product Manager here at RKG. Today I want to talk about how to manage your Product Listing Ads account on Google and also on Bing, which is upcoming in 2014.

Last year, in June of 2012, Google dropped a bombshell on the Internet marketing world. They announced that they were going to combine the paid entity of Google Product Listing Ads with the free entity of Google Shopping.

A lot of companies and a lot of smaller ones at that bank their success on Google Shopping being a free entity. So there was a lot of fear when this change was announced of big box stores coming through and paying for the higher listings and essentially pushing out the smaller players. Google's goal in this was to provide more accurate and more relevant results in the Product Listing Ads and on Google Shopping.

When Google Shopping was a free entity, there wasn't a lot of oversight. There were a lot of feeds out there that would say free shipping, and they weren't free shipping. They would say that they have a sale price, and it wasn't that sale price. Google wasn't happy with the results that were out there.

Now that Product Listing Ads is a paid entity across the board, there is a lot more oversight going on, on these feeds, and Google is really pushing to have this higher quality.

Now, a second ago I talked about the fear of people paying more to get the higher listing in their Product Listing Ads. So how is Google combating against this fear? Well, as they mentioned before, they want the highest quality data coming through the feeds. That's going to help with the relevancy in the search. That's actually the first step to be eligible for the auction whenever a search occurs.

If you have high quality data in your feed and you have the information that they're looking for, then you are eligible for the auction, which then goes on to your auto targets and the bidding. This is how the big box stores haven't taken over PLAs the way that people were afraid in the beginning. But what we have seen is that Product Listing Ads have grown immensely in the last year.

On average, what we're seeing with RKG clients is that they're seeing 33% of their non-branded traffic coming from Product Listing Ads, and we're even seeing up to 60% for some clients. So this is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and especially as we go into Q4 and the PLAs continue to grow, you want to make sure that you have your Product Listing Ads account in very good shape so that you can take advantage of the full opportunity of Q4 and the holiday season.

When you're preparing your product feed for Google and for Bing, since they do have product ads coming, you want to go by the guiding principle that we follow here at RKG. A guiding principle is provide as much relevant and accurate information as possible. Google really focuses on their unique product identifiers. There are different restrictions in terms of what category you're in as to which GTIN values you have to provide.

For most categories, you have to provide two out of the three values of their unique product identifiers. Unique product identifier columns are Brand, GTIN which is the Global Trade Identification Number, and the MPN which is a Manufacturer Part Number. The Global Trade Identification Number is normally your UPC or an ISBN based on the category. It can also be an EAN, which is a European number, or a JAN, which is the Japanese number. But for most of our clients we utilize UPC or the ISBN.

As I said, in most categories, you have to provide two out of three of those values to be eligible for the auction. Now, if you can provide all three, great. Put it in there because that's going to help you with the quality of your feed.

If you have a product that doesn't have a UPC or an MPN because it's either an antique or it's a custom product, then Google does allow you to put in a column called Identifier Exists, and you put a value of false saying that there's no unique product identifier for that and that allows your product to be served in the auction and still have the higher quality for your feed.