What Are Product Listing Ads (PLA Ads) and How Do They Work?

Every day users encounter innumerable different as types. Varying by size, intrusiveness, the presence or absence of visual media, and more, the ways you can modify ads to target consumers can seem endless. Product listing ads, or PLA ads, are one of many ad types, but have recently fallen into favor for businesses marketing products online. What are PLA ads? How do they work? Most importantly, should you use them?

What Are PLA Ads?

The distinguishing factor of PLA ads is the presence of a product image, along with a clickable link to the landing page housing the pictured product. Below the link, PLAs include site owner information and pricing. Essentially, PLAs give the user the most pertinent information they seek from each merchant when searching for a particular product.

PLA ads appear when a user uses a search engine to search for a product. In addition to text-based ads, PLA ads appear either along the top of or at the upper right or left of the search engine results page (SERP). Although the same sort of ad appears when users click the “Shopping” link on the SERP, PLA ads most commonly refer to the shopping ads appearing on the SERP itself and not the shopping comparison page.

How Do PLA Ads Work?

PLA ads are cost-per-click ads, meaning that your business only pays for PLA ads when users click through to your landing page. However, users must click on the ad itself, via either the product photo or the page link. Clicking on the shopping link provides a comparison between several products and does not result in navigation to your product page.

Marketers set up PLA ads through a search engine’s ads area, such as Google Ads or Bing Ads, similar to other CPC and PPC ads. Instead of keywords, however, shopping ads like PLAs draw from the product data you provide when you set up the shopping campaign. When a user searches for a particular product, the search engine uses the details you provided to match your product to the search parameters. If it’s a good fit, the search engine features your product in the shopping results, showing the most relevant products first.

Like text-only ads, search engines gauge relevance to the user’s query, landing page quality, and the amount of your bid to determine which ads to show. If your product is a shaky match to the search terms, it may show up on the fringes of the PSA, or not at all. If your landing page is slow, full of clickbait, or otherwise of poor quality, the search engine will downgrade your ranking within the results. Finally, if your bid fails to outbid any of the top five bids, your product will not appear.

Should You Use PLA Ads?

Since PLA ads target users actively shopping for your product, click-through counts and can show immense improvement over traditional CPC ads. In addition, PLA ads display your pricing information and other descriptors within the ad itself, resulting in more qualified leads from users very likely to make a purchase. Both click-through and conversion counts stand to take a drastic jump if you consider the fact that you could show multiple product listings within the same category for a particular search.

When determining whether to use PLA ads as part of your marketing budget, consider the following:

  • Sales volume. If your company sells less than 500 products, you may have trouble getting visibility from your PLA ads.
  • Competitiveness. If you are competitive within your sales category, your product stands a good chance of getting visibility via a PLA ad. However, if your category has a great deal of competition, such as shoes, you may not receive the visibility you desire.
  • Budget. If your ad spend budget is already slim, you may not be able to outbid your competitors for shopping spots.
  • Site quality. If your site – particularly your mobile site – is in need of work, your page quality rating may preclude your PLA ads from appearing in the featured areas. In 2016, 29% of all Google shopping queries came from mobile devices, highlighting the importance of attention to your site’s mobile quality.

How to Get Started

If your business meets the basic qualifications for success with PLA ads, Google Ads – the dominant PLA ad space – is a good place to get started. Setting up PLA ads is somewhat different from other CPC ads, but takes place within the Ads framework and you can achieve it in a few steps:

  1. Use the Merchant Center to Set up Your Account

    Within the Merchant Center, you can add the business information you want to display to the users who view your products. You’ll enter your business name, website, business address and customer service contact information for display. Then, you’ll enter information regarding the primary and secondary users you want to have access to the Merchant Center account.

  2. Verify and Claim Your URL

    Verifying your URL means you are proving to Google that you are the authorized owner of your website. Google adds markers to your website only an authorized owner can view, and you can choose one of four methods of verification. Once you’re verified, you can claim your website, which gives you the exclusive right to use it in the Merchant Center.

  3. Add Product Data

    The product data page lists all attributes required for your product type, as well as suggested attributes. Failure to provide required attributes results in the failure of your product to appear in a user’s search. Failure to provide suggested attributes could result in your product appearing less frequently.

    Though Google provides its own, specific, guidelines within the Merchant Center, you must provide accurate data for the identical product you show in the PLA ad. Pricing, availability, and shipping information must be as fresh, accurate, and clear as possible. Owners upload product data via a feed, a file containing all the information regarding your products, or via a Google API where you can programmatically manage your data for all Google services.

Ready to begin using PLA ads in your marketing campaign? PLA feed management can help you with the most difficult, tedious steps in implementing PLAs. Consider using a service to streamline management of PLA and other CPC ads.