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.

SEMPO_Kenshoo

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.

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