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7 Deadly Sins of Google Product Listing Ads (and How to Avoid Them)

Edwin Choi
7 Deadly Sins of Google Product Listing Ads (and How to Avoid Them)

Google Product Listing ads are the bread and butter of any well optimized Google AdWords campaign for online retailers. For a majority of companies, the Google PLA campaign represents a massive chunk of online revenue. Make sure you’re not committing these seven potentially fatal mistakes when dealing with PLAs, or your Pay Per Click campaigns could quickly be showing a negative return on investment.

1. Not checking the Google Merchant Center religiously

The amount of revenue coming in through Google PLA campaigns necessitates a fanatical devotion to logging into your Google Merchant Center dashboard. This allows quick “health checks” to be performed as the Google Shopping feeds will perform at suboptimal levels if any errors or warnings occur. In particular, keep an eye out for “errors” which will prevent SKUs from being shown on the result pages. These need to be addressed as quickly as possible. Examples of potential errors shown include invalid data type, invalid columns, etc. Also note if there are “warnings”, which won’t prevent SKUs from being shown, but could decrease the amount of potential traffic a SKU could generate by lowering its rankings. Work to resolve these as well to avoid losing a competitive edge over other advertisers.

2. Not updating the feed for stock status

One of the biggest potential sources for ad spend waste for PLAs is the feed not being updated often enough, and thus not accurately reflecting the true status of inventory levels. Just like a brick and mortar store can suffer from potential lost sales with empty shelves, Product Listing Ads can suffer greatly from lack of inventory. If you are running off a feed, make sure it is being updated at least once every twenty-four hours. The Merchant Center can also read off of inventory schematic markup to get more real-time updates. One way to eliminate this problem completely is to hook into the API for real-time inventory updates. Don’t waste money advertising stock that isn’t available.

3. Not filling the feed with as many attributes as possible

There is a collection of required attributes that need to be filled in order for the Google Shopping feed to be approved. There are also many optional attributes which many advertisers neglect to fill out. Take the time and energy to fill out as many applicable attributes as possible; these help Google figure out what type of items you have and it may improve your PLA rankings and quality scores. Double check every field for accuracy, both for the raw data as well as for when the data was entered in the event of typos. Also note that some attributes require a very specific format for entering the data. Pay close attention to these particular fields, as any deviation from the accepted format could lead to Google not recognizing it at all.

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4. Not optimizing the two most important portions of your feed: the title and picture

There are two attributes that are worth some extra time and attention: the title and the picture of the product being sold. For the product title, ensure that the highest performing keyword combinations in paid search are at the front of the titles for bolding, higher clickthrough rates and better quality scores. All of these factors combine to lift PLA campaigns, and could be the difference between one that’s generating a profit and one that’s showing a net loss. For the product picture, ensure that the main image is taking up as much space as possible while eliminating white spaces. This will ensure a more eye catching image, leading to a higher clickthrough rate, and a better customer experience.

5. Not utilizing the correct Google Category Taxonomy

Google provides a very specific product listing taxonomy in terms of its product categories; make sure that it is followed in the Google Base feed. This will allow sellable products to be better grouped in categories with similar products and will help Google serve the right product to the right customer. Note that there are up to five levels of potential categories and sub-categories. Being as specific as possible is good, versus being too broad.

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6. Forgetting to search query mine for negative keywords

Although there is no keyword bidding for Product Listing Ads, negative keywords can still be found and excluded in order to raise efficiency and ROI while clearing out more budget for effective SKU targets. In one real-world example, a specific term for our company gathered 189 clicks and 0 sales. The two step action chain would be first to block that keyword out immediately and save $85.07 in costs that can be reallocated toward profitable keywords. Second, figure out why it’s not converting – perhaps it’s a page issue, stock and product mix or something else. Demand should always be viewed as potential opportunities.

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7. Not optimizing bids to the most granular level

The beauty of a well-structured PLA campaign is that each SKU target can have its own individual “profit and loss”. For hyper-efficient SKUs, higher bids would allow for more volume and market share. For SKUs that are not efficient, reducing the bids or excluding them from the feed altogether would allow other SKUs to have a chance to succeed for the same keyword targets. Being both strategic and granular gives advertisers the best bang for their buck.

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Edwin Choi is Director of Marketing for, a leading vertically integrated online retailer.
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