Inside the New Era of Google Shopping: Marketer Perceptions of PLAs and Shopping Campaigns

The paid search landscape has evolved dramatically and grown tremendously in the past few years. Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have opened up new opportunities for retailers with an engaging, product-focused format to connect with consumers and capture online traffic.

This past holiday season, Kenshoo clients saw huge returns from PLAs. By boosting PLA spend 138% year-over-year (YoY,) retailers drove a 57% YoY increase in impressions, 97% YoY increase in clicks, and 269% YoY increase in revenue from PLAs, proving it to be a highly effective ad type during the 2013 shopping season.

SEMPO_Google Shopping

As marketers have hit their stride with PLAs, Google recently announced an update to PLA management in an effort to streamline maintenance and structure. PLA campaigns will sunset in August 2014, and be replaced by a new campaign type, Shopping campaigns.

To gain some insight from the greater search marketing community on PLAs and the latest updates to Google Shopping campaigns, the Kenshoo team launched a survey with the help of the SEMPO community. In our recent report, An Inside Look At Google Shopping Campaigns, we share results from the survey of 89 global search marketers that paint a picture of how PLAs are being used and perceived in the marketplace along with real-life examples of performance, tips, and best practices from Kenshoo clients.

First, one thing all marketers all seem to agree on: the effectiveness of the format. 83% of marketers find PLA performance to be on par or better than traditional text ads. The prime SERP location coupled with the relevant images and product information make PLAs a highly engaging format.

SEMPO_PLA Performance

As with any offering, Google’s Product Listing Ads are constantly evolving to optimize performance and keep pace with trends. Google rolled out features such as local availability, local storefronts, and mobile PLAs to respond to opportunities in the market. Local availability and local storefronts tell customers when a product is available for purchase in a local physical store and mobile PLAs appear when a consumer is searching on a mobile device. 17% of our respondents were not aware of local availability and just over half of search marketers survey are active in mobile PLAs. Marketers must also educate themselves on the available functionality that could enhance performance and drive even further traffic.


Now, with the migration to Google Shopping campaigns coming, retailers must plan ahead and prepare for the changes in order to be ahead of the curve. Overall, the marketers we spoke with were optimistic about the coming updates, expressing that Shopping campaigns will make it easier and faster to set up new campaigns and product groups and helping retailers to make “more informed optimization decisions.

Marketers are eager to continue to refine their PLA programs to get the most optimal results and develop new best practices along the way. As Aimee Cerny, SEM Specialist at Rakuten Search, said: “[Since] PLAs are constantly evolving, we learn new things every day. We are constantly testing, evaluating, optimizing, and then testing some more.”

With time, we’ll be able to see the true impact Shopping campaigns have on overall PLA efforts as marketers take a test and learn approach. To view Kenshoo’s Google Shopping research and analysis, along with marketer insights and tips, download An Inside Look at Google Shopping Campaigns in full.

State of Search Infographic – Overview

SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic.

The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and what to expect in 2014. The report includes data from both company and agency respondents. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report that was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

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SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report

Click on the link if you would if you would like more information on SEMPO membership and benefits.

Click on the link to view past State of Search Marketing Reports.

PPC and the Marketing Lifecycle

Paid Search is often used to bring awareness to your product or service, but don’t overlook its value during each phase of the marketing lifecycle.

Most marketers are familiar with the acronym AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action), which describes the timeline from which a consumer engages with a brand. This tried and true model can be applied to your paid search strategy, but as Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google, told SEMPO Director Mike Grehan, a better approach can be stated using three simple terms. See. Think. Do.

See. Think. Do. is a simple framework of which the goal is to reach a qualified, addressable audience with the proper message at any time in the decision-making process. Since the time to shift from “see” to “think” to “do” varies for every consumer, it is necessary to have three distinct yet simultaneous PPC programs to reach the broadest possible audience.

Using Kaushik’s example, digital marketers must think from a consumer’s perspective. During the “see” stage, PPC campaigns should try to reach everyone who is in the discovery consideration stage. This is anyone qualified to be a customer. In general, your keyword strategy should be broad and general in nature but still limited to those who are likely to be interested in your service. Your ad copy and landing page calls to action must align with the consumer’s intent. Calls to action such as “Learn More” or “Contact Us” will help drive consumers from the “see” stage to the “think” stage.

As you build your PPC campaign for those in the “see” stage, the goal is not yet a conversion, so key performance indicators should be based on your goals of driving awareness. Share of impressions and percent of new visits are a few of the KPIs that are relevant to determine if your campaigns are effective.

In the “think” stage, your keywords will become narrower, while your targeting becomes more specific. Instead of driving consumers to a home page or a contact form, you should think about which “micro-conversions” will help drive the consumer to the next phase. These micro-conversions may be driving the consumer to a category page or a video download. During the “think” stage, your goal is to prove to the consumer that your product or service is THE solution to their problem. Your goal as a marketer is to determine your prospect’s intent – based on their measurable action – to move toward the “do” stage. It is during this stage that you’ll begin to focus more on your overall click-through rates, page depth, and percent of assisted conversions. It is also important to measure conversions to your micro-conversions. Those in the “think” stage are closer to making a purchase decision but are still likely not to convert in the traditional sense.

As the consumer moves further down the funnel into the “do” stage, your metric for success can finally be conversion rate. It is at this stage that consumers should be ready to buy. From a PPC perspective, your keywords, ad copy, and most importantly, your landing page must be aligned and optimized for conversion. Your keywords should be very focused and specific toward buying, ad copy should include direct links to shopping cart pages, and landing pages should have clear and definitive calls-to-action. You should, however, look beyond conversion rate. Other metrics to review in the “do” stage are return visitor rate, checkout abandonment rate, and profit. This chart succinctly describes See. Think. Do.

See. Think. Do. should be applied not only to your PPC campaigns but to all your campaigns. It is a simple, yet effective way to measure not only direct response but all your marketing actions.