2014 is the year of the PLA--get on board or get left behind.
PLAs, or Product Listing Ads, are advertisements in a specific format that includes rich product information, providing people with a brick-and-mortar-like experience in the digital space. They are designed to make shopping online easier, faster, and more seamless.
A tight PLA strategy will give you more traffic, better qualified leads, and a broader reach.
Create Product Targets
An All Products target is set by default when a campaign is initialized or when new ad groups are added to a campaign. Retain the All Products target in order to hit all products in the Merchant Center product feed, as well as feature any products on Google Search and/or Google Shopping not covered by a product-specific ad group.
Product and Category Specific
To help define your products and to organize your campaigns, you should also create product or category specific ad groups using the attributes made available in AdWords and in Merchant Center accounts. These more specific product targets can now be defined in customized groupings or labels. In addition you can develop promotional messages specific to each product group.
**REMEMBER: You can maximize visibility by setting up targets by brand and product type, as well as setting up query exclusions.
Optimize Your Bidding Strategy
Set your budget before bidding. Google will spend whatever you offer, so be sure you aren’t starting your bids too high. Then monitor your budget to optimize your marketing expenditure. When bidding, set the All Products ad group bid lower than the product-specific group bids. This will allow the product-specific group to be shown in preference to the All Products group. The bid gives you some control over where your products show up in the listings and the ability to change bids to give more exposure to better performing products.
With a lot of diligence, and some experimentation, a solid bidding strategy will net a Top 3 average position on the product listings. Because Google rotates the number of product listing ads from 3 to 6, a top 3 average increases your exposure. As you collect data you may find you need to adjust bids up or down to stay in the rotation without overspending. Just be patient and keep practicing, but don't turn the knobs too soon. This is all about fine tuning.
Use every bit of the data gathering power of PLAs by focusing on performance in the feed and in the ad platform.
In the Feed
If you have variations of the same product, use one line or SKU for every variation. For example, assign a different SKU for each attribute combination (color > size > type, etc.). With this in place you can set targets for each product variation and provide more chances for it to come up in search results. It will also help the customer by eliminating a selection when it is out of stock.
In the Ad Platform
If you can, use a single product to define the target, which increases both granularity and control. With bids set at the Product Target level you can then freely manipulate bids for each individual product. With multiple products in a target you could overbid for one product in the group and bid too low for another. Granularity helps you stay on budget while increasing the chances of your product being seen.
Maximizing control, optimizing your feed and targets, and making gradual ad-spend adjustments will enhance the overall performance of your PLAs and help to keep you within your budget. If you don't get it right the first time, no sweat. Chances are most of your competitors won't either. Keep refining your bidding strategy, tweaking your messaging, and segmenting your ad groups. Exercise caution, and be vigilant in monitoring your analytics. You'll get there. Now, go get 'em, champ.