3 Things You Need To Understand When Setting Up Google Shopping (PLAs)

Henry Gill

Head of PPC
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When setting up Google Shopping (PLA’s) we recommend considering and these three components for your product:

  • It is priced right,
  • It is attractive to your researched target audience,
  • It has good margins in terms of what you buy it for from the supplier and what you can sell it for to the consumer.

If you answered yes to the above, it is time to consider Google Shopping, or as it is known in the industry, Product Listing Ads (PLAs). There are three things you need to understand as you embark upon Google Shopping and this article is designed to break down the basics in terms of mechanics.

Once you have understood the mechanics you then need to consider how you optimise those Ads for maximum Return On Investment. This we will look at briefly at the end.

We have been experiencing fantastic campaign results from setting up Google Shopping (PLA) accounts for some of our eCommerce clients. Following this, for a short time, we are offering our pre-recorded webinar on Google Shopping for free. You can watch it here.

google shopping webinar
First, you have to set up your Adwords account or add to an existing account. Google can walk you through this here.

But more importantly, in the setup process, you will use your merchant account primarily, you can follow instructions on how to set this up here.
So what do you need to understand in order to set up and manage those Google Shopping Ads?

The Data Feed

So the first thing you have to set up correctly is your data feed. This is a file made up of your products that are grouped according to a set of attributes.

This defines them to Google according to set characteristics that they can then present to the correct search results. That sounds simple enough doesn’t it? The feed is where many businesses find their first stumbling block. How granular you get at this stage can sculpt the success of your campaign. These are a few things to remember and implement:

  • Google supports two formats for your data feed file – those are text (.txt) and XML (.xml). XML is a little more technical so if you are a smaller business with less expertise in this area text is recommended.
  • The required attributes for your data feed are: id, title, description, product type, link, image link, condition, availability, price, brand, Gtin, Mpn, Gender/age group/colour/size, tax, shipping, shipping weight, item group id, colour, material, pattern, size. These are your bare minimum requirements but there is plenty that you can do to customise your feed. Making it trackable, as informative and competitive as possible is very much in your interest to do. It is a competitive arena out there!
  • Additional attributes you can add to your product file before it is uploaded are Google product category, additional image links (show your product from multiple angles), sale price, sale price start and end date, Adwords grouping, Adwords labels, Adwords redirect, online only, expiration dates, excluded destinations. For more information on attributes go click here.
  • It is now time to upload your data feed. The first step is to register your feed, which you can do here. Then you upload it to your Merchant Centre account. Sign into your Merchant Centre account – go to data feeds and click on new data feed. You then have 4 upload options: Direct Upload, FTP Upload, SFTP Upload and Scheduled Fetches but most will use the first two. Again for more info go here.
  • Now your feed is in Google will process and test your feed which can take a while. To check the status of your feed simply click on the dashboard in the Google Merchant Centre. You will see a link that is named status – follow that to get details about where your feed validation is. It can take up to 3 days to appear in Google Shopping but most PLAs start to appear earlier.
  • Your data feed is live. Do not forget that your feed needs to be refreshed every 30 days. The best way of handling this is to set up a schedule so that it uploads automatically on a certain date. Your feed will expire after 30 days if you forget about it.

Adwords Account

Now it is time to set up your campaigns in Google Adwords. You will take your error free data feed and create your Product Listing Ads campaign. Here are the steps to get started:

  • Link your Merchant Centre to your Adwords. You do this by logging into your Merchant Centre, click on “settings” which is in the left navigation panel. Another menu pops up at which point click on Adwords and enter your Adwords customer ID.
  • Now you are in Adwords and your Merchant Centre is linked so you can start creating a new campaign.
  • Name your campaign and choose Product Listing Ads under the Type of campaign setup field.
  • Choose your location, location options, languages, bidding and budget options, and delivery method.
  • Click the box in the Ad Extension section that allows your add to be extended with relevant product details from Google Merchant Centre. Double check that the Merchant Centre account that appears below is the correct one just in case there is an old or different one linked to your account!
  • Create your Ad Groups. The part you have been looking forward to – maybe. Descriptively name your Ad Group for easy management. Google automatically creates Product Listing Ads based on the data in the feed but you can test different ‘special promotional text’ to help with click through rates.
  • For now, leave the “All Products” checkbox ticked and set a minimum safe bid. What can you afford to lose while the campaign establishes itself? Success does not always happen overnight. The bid you place on all products also needs to be lower than any campaigns you run designed around categories, long or short tail keywords, promotions etc. Otherwise, they will always appear above your other campaigns and you will essentially be bidding against yourself.
  • To add separate groups you follow the same principles. Go to Ad Groups, click new ad group and follow the setup process again. This time uncheck the all products checkbox. When you save that Ad Group you will be directed to the auto targets tab and this is where you will define the product target of the new Ad group.
  • Segment your products according to attributes, this is where what you added into your product feed is of great importance. How granular you can go with your targeting depends on the range of attributes you can use to create unique Ads and segment your products.
  • Some of the targets you can use will be around the brand, product type, custom defined attributes, or SKU/product ID.
  • The sky is the limit with custom defined attributes but this takes an intelligent and analytical approach and far more work than a more generic campaign. If you have the time to put into then that’s great. Running seasonal campaigns, for instance, can be affected by the weather (especially with the ups and downs in the UK), spur of the moment trends, national or regional events and competition. They need monitoring more closely to prevent missing opportunities as well as escalating Ad spend.
  • Product Listing Ads take creativity and time. The more granular the better but there is a stopping point where you go so granular the data becomes meaningless. Only select relevant product attributes in Adwords that match exactly what is in your feed otherwise your PLA will not show.

Merchant Centre

Now that your Ads are up and running there is a lot you can do in your Merchant Centre and this is something that businesses can overlook. Optimising PLA’s is great but optimising your product feed and your PLA’s is even better. Here are a few top tips on getting to grips with your Merchant Centre:

  • Approach your product feed as you would your website. Think about keyword research and image optimisation.
  • Monitor your data feed for errors.
  • Ensure great user experience by updating your feed with accurate descriptions, the status of a product, changes to delivery, promotions etc.
  • Closely match the organisation of your products with how they appear on your website for more a more logically structured feed and associated attributes.
  • Make your titles are as eye catching as they can be and your descriptions consider keywords, seasonal changes, trends and current events. The more relevant they are the more likely that click is.
  • Use unique product images that exactly match the colour, size and pattern of the one you are selling in the Ad. Test different images and see if they enhance click through.
  • When you update your database make sure you update your product feed.
  • Only sell what you have to sell – customer discontent is a certainty when a customer arrives on your page and finds something is out of stock or discontinued.

So now you have the mechanics set up you need to get obsessive about your Ads. You shouldn’t make changes every day but you certainly need to keep a close eye on them. It should take successful campaigns around 5 days to trigger clicks. Leave it a few weeks before you tweak your Ads unless you are quickly losing money.

Review them and consider in your Adwords account (if your feed has been optimised with the above recommendations) and consider:

  • Optimisation for devices – are you considering mobiles where most consumers do their product research? 96% of consumers have searched for product information from their mobile device. (Google)
  • Landing pages and enhancing your quality scores
  • Grouping ads in terms of your navigation and long tail search phrases in your feed – it is clean, logical and easier to monitor
  • Approaching your Ads at a granular level – group your Ads but segment them as much as you can for greater control and ongoing tweaking
  • Look at the times of day your ads trigger impressions and how your clickthrough rate equates to that

These are just some of the common methods that we use in order for optimising and setting up Google Shopping (PLA) accounts. We are noticing exceptional success with PLA accounts for our eCommerce clients at the moment, and this is something that we want to work with more businesses to acquire similar results. So much so that we have created a handy FREE Webinar that you can watch that is filled with ideas on how to get the best ROI out of your Google Shopping account.

Simply click here on the image below to watch it now. 

google shopping webinar

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