Product Listing Ads: Five tips for your Google Shopping list

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Product listing ads will become the norm in UK Google Shopping searches from February.

Much like in the US, Google is scrapping free listings in Shopping, and introducing a new pay per click model.

Retailers who currently get free traffic from Google Shopping need to prepare for the change now - or risk losing out on sales.

All Google Shopping results will take the form of Product Listing Ads - which require advertisers to set up both an AdWords account, and a product feed via Google Merchant Center.

Unlike traditional Google advertising, product listing ads don't require keyword bids or catchy text.

Retailers can simply upload their entire inventory via a Merchant Center product feed: and Google will ensure the most relevant results are returned to searchers.

There are lots of ways to optimise a product feed for Google Shopping PPC: but it's important for online retailers to understand that 'optimisation' is more straightforward and logical than ever before with product listing ads.

As such, here are five must-know tips for covering the basics with product listing ads:

* Update your Google Merchant Center product feed regularly

Google will look at how regularly product feeds are updated as part of its Shopping algorithm. Sites which update their stock levels, product availability and prices on a daily basis, therefore, could see their rankings boosted purely by virtue of being engaged, active retailers within the network. It won't be enough to dump a load of products into a feed and sit back and wait for traffic to come in: stock levels and seasonal offers will be vital updates to ensure your products get noticed.

* Use product listing ads to extend your shop window in Google

You wouldn't put grainy, pixellated product images in your shop window and hope your customers can join the dots: so don't do it online. Product listing ads require relevant, high-res images of the products you sell. Obviously, manufacturers issue good images of their products: but if you rely on these, you're hardly differentiating yourself from competitors. It may seem expensive - but creating your own unique images will make your product listing ads really stand out on the page, so it's a worthwhile investment.

* Use product listing ads to highlight your USPs

Product listing ads only include space for a large image, price and seller info. But you can use ad extensions across specific ads or ad groups to highlight your USPs, deals and offers. Ad extensions allow you to push free delivery on items, extended warranty offers, discounts (what customer doesn't like money off?!) and other enticing offers (free gifts?) - all of which should help to boost your clickthrough and conversion rates.

* Create unique, high-quality product descriptions for PLAs

Google is rewarding high-quality, unique content in both SEO and PPC. Creating unique, quality product descriptions is an important idea for retailers: not only will they improve your on-page engagement with customers, and help you stand out from sites with sloppy cut-and-pastes from manufacturers, they could help boost your keywords organically, and help set your product listing ads apart from others' in Google Shopping.

* Searchers see prices in product listing ads: so be competitive and smart

Retail competition dictates that competing stores have a range of prices: some items may be cheaper than competitors', but others may be more expensive. Product listing ads will always return the price of a product: so searchers can quickly see how much money they need to spend. This will heavily dictate clickthrough: if your prices are consistently higher than competitors', they will likely get all the clicks. This could lead to a tactical approach: either slashing prices to be universally competitive within your sector, or only using product listing ads for items you know sell well, and are priced competitively.

The switch to PPC in Shopping already took place in the US - where retailers have, on the whole, seen clickthrough rates and conversions rise, and costs per click drop, thanks to product listing ads.

How the format works in the UK remains to be seen: but with Google starting to phase in changes from February 13, there really isn't long left now to find out.

News brought to you by ClickThrough – a provider of SEO Services & Pay Per Click strategies.

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