Product Listing Ads 101: Getting Started

December 20, 2018

Product listing ads are a critical component of any successful e-commerce strategy.

PLAs help catapult your products to the top of the SERP – even above text ads – and give advertisers an opportunity to put their best foot forward when users search for your products, as well as a chance to immediately outshine your competition with great prices and special offers. PLAs can take the lead as your main non-brand campaign, providing the most relevant results for each user query while providing a title, price and image — something expanded text ads simply can’t do. Furthermore, more users than ever before are engaging with Google Shopping – a trend that has been increasing steadily since its launch.

Launching product listing ads is fairly simple; doing them well takes some finesse. I’m going to walk through how to launch PLAs, as well as some industry best practices to help ensure you can generate the best results possible with them.

Launching Product Listing Ads

There are four steps required to launch product listing ads:

1. Create a Merchant Center account and verify site ownership.
2. Link your Google AdWords account to your Google Merchant Center account.
3. Import your data feed to Merchant Center.
4. Create your Shopping campaigns.

Let’s look at all of these steps in greater detail.

Creating and Verifying Your Merchant Center

The very first thing you’ll need to do is create a Merchant Center account and verify you own the site that you’re advertising for. You will need to navigate to merchants.google.com and log in or sign up with a Gmail account. After doing so, you’ll be prompted to submit your business information, like the country in which your business is located, the name of your store and your web domain.

After doing so, read and agree to the terms and conditions… or just agree to them. Lastly, you’ll have to verify you own the store for which you’re creating a merchant account. This is very simple and can be done a few different ways. One is by placing a small HTML file Google provides, uploading it to your site and clicking “verify” under the Merchant Account settings. If you use this method, it’s important to not remove the file from your site: Should it go missing, Google will de-certify your Merchant Center and you’ll have to go through this step again. There are a few other ways, like placing an HTML tag on your site’s homepage, configuring permissions through your Google Analytics account or using Google Tag Manager. All of these steps are simple and should only take a few minutes.

Linking Google Ads to Your Merchant Center

After you’ve created your Merchant Center account, you’ll have to link it to your Google Ads account. This is done from within the Merchant Center. Click the three vertical dots in the top right corner of the Merchant Center UI and select “Account Linking.”

Once there, select “Link AdWords Account” and input the ten-digit customer ID for the respective AdWords account, which can be found in the top left corner of your AdWords account. The request will go through to the AdWords account, where you can accept it from the “Settings > Linked Accounts” section in AdWords. Click “View Details” under “Google Merchant Center” and accept the link request. Viola! You’ve now linked your Merchant Center account to your AdWords account and are ready to upload your products and build your shopping campaigns.

Import Your Data Feed into Google Merchant Center

The Merchant Center is the “brain” of your Product Listing Ads campaigns. Not only does it support PLAs, but your feed can also be used to support dynamic remarketing, another powerful tool provided by the likes of Google and Bing. Uploading your feed to the Merchant Center itself is very easy, but a quick word of caution: Ensuring that your data quality matches with Google’s is paramount. If your feed columns are labeled incorrectly, or if you violate character limits, or don’t include key information such as “Google Product Category,” your feed will be disapproved. There are a host of services that can support this process, from manually editing the feed file in Google Sheets (not recommended for sellers with thousands of products) to using a third-party data feed service. For detailed information, we recommend you review Google’s Product Feed Specifications page.

Pushing your feed to the Merchant Center is simple: On the left-hand navigation, select “Products,” then “Feeds.” From there, click the big “plus” sign to create a new feed. Select your target country and language, and make sure you have “Shopping” checked under “Destinations.” Next, name your feed and select how your feed will be connected to the Merchant Center.

This is what I was talking about in the opening paragraph of this section: If you store your data on a Google Sheet, select that option and continue. We suggest using either a scheduled fetch, which allows Google to grab the file from a URL, or “Upload,” which allows you to push your file to the Merchant Center. Follow the few instructions left and you’ll be ready to upload your feed. We also recommend doing a forced upload after you set everything up so that your data is present in the Merchant Center right away, otherwise the data will be pulled in based on the schedule you set. Allow a few business days for Google to review the feed, at which time your products will be viewable in AdWords.

Create Your Shopping Campaigns

Now that the technical steps have been taken, all that’s left to do is to create your shopping campaign, segment your products and set your bids. Anyone familiar with creating campaigns in AdWords will easily be able to set up a Google Shopping campaign. In AdWords, click the big “plus” sign and select “Shopping.” Select “Sales” for some pre-canned settings that are generally optimized for ROI, like automated bidding. These features can be changed at will within your campaign settings while you continue to configure your campaign, so don’t worry about being locked in by any of these default options.

Once there, select “Link AdWords Account” and input the ten-digit customer ID for the respective AdWords account, which can be found in the top left corner of your AdWords account. The request will go through to the AdWords account, where you can accept it from the “Settings > Linked Accounts” section in AdWords. Click “View Details” under “Google Merchant Center” and accept the link request. Viola! You’ve now linked your Merchant Center account to your AdWords account and are ready to upload your products and build your shopping campaigns.

Import Your Data Feed into Google Merchant Center

The Merchant Center is the “brain” of your Product Listing Ads campaigns. Not only does it support PLAs, but your feed can also be used to support dynamic remarketing, another powerful tool provided by the likes of Google and Bing. Uploading your feed to the Merchant Center itself is very easy, but a quick word of caution: Ensuring that your data quality matches with Google’s is paramount. If your feed columns are labeled incorrectly, or if you violate character limits, or don’t include key information such as “Google Product Category,” your feed will be disapproved. There are a host of services that can support this process, from manually editing the feed file in Google Sheets (not recommended for sellers with thousands of products) to using a third-party data feed service. For detailed information, we recommend you review Google’s Product Feed Specifications page.

Pushing your feed to the Merchant Center is simple: On the left-hand navigation, select “Products,” then “Feeds.” From there, click the big “plus” sign to create a new feed. Select your target country and language, and make sure you have “Shopping” checked under “Destinations.” Next, name your feed and select how your feed will be connected to the Merchant Center.

Follow ForwardPMX

Our Newsletter

Sign up to receive our monthly insights.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

You May Find These Interesting

3 Ways to Spark Creativity

What do you do when the creative well runs dry? Any routine, if stuck with long enough, can cause a rut. And for those of us working from home these days, creativity can be especially hard to find. But while difficult, it's not impossible. Use these three tips to...

read more
Our Perspective: #GivingTuesdayNow

Our Perspective: #GivingTuesdayNow

“Hope isn’t canceled” … “We’re in this together”… “Now more than ever” These phrases have been popping up over the last couple of months, signifying a collective desire to do something – anything – in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. And in early April, our friends...

read more