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New SEMrush PLA Research Tool Overview

Sergio Aicardi
New SEMrush PLA Research Tool Overview

Product listing ads (PLA) are extremely effective for e-commerce advertisers who are looking for a not-so-traditional way of search engine marketing. With product listing ads, search engine users can see your product pricing and competitor’s product pricing all from the Google results page as shown in the screen shot below.

Product Listing Ad campaigns are a relatively newer form of search advertising when compared to traditional keyword based search ads with a headline and descriptions. Because it’s a newer form of search marketing, the CPC (cost per click) for clicks with a PLA campaign are generally less expensive than those of a traditional search campaign.

The reason is because, like any type of advertising that is effective, the competition will increase the cost of advertising over time due to the fact that advertisers will offer to pay more and more to obtain the best exposure/positioning. I wrote a post recently that explains how CPC inflation works and how to combat it, which I encourage you to read if you’re not familiar with CPC inflation. Soon, the price per click on the shopping network is going to increase in price as the competition offers more and more for the coveted top ranking positions (driving the cost higher and higher).

Without further ado, let's dive into the new SEMrush PLA research and data tools.

Advantages of Using SEMrush For PLA Competitor Research

From my experience as an online shopper, I really enjoy using shopping ads. I like that I can compare prices and see reviews all in one place as shown in the screen shot below.

As the owner of a marketing company in Miami, I’ve handled many e-commerce campaigns. One thing is for sure: your competitor’s pricing is crucial. Fortunately, now that SEMrush has a PLA reporting feature, you can see competitor pricing really easily.

With this new reporting feature you can also easily identify websites showing ads for products similar to those you — or your clients — are showing ads for. Today I’d like to go over the three reporting features (PLA positions, PLA competitors and PLA copies) so that I can share how I use these reports for improving our client’s campaigns.

PLA Positions Report


Using the PLA Positions report you can do a number of things.

For one, you can export the data and create a pivot table to find out how to group your products according to the structure your competitors use in their campaigns. You can see which landing pages are being used and which corresponding keywords are used to present those pages on Google Shopping results. With this data, you could choose to build out additional ad groups on your search campaigns as I explained in a previous SEMrush post titled “SEO keyword research tips for Excel."

All you really need to do is export the data and plot your rows/columns to get a really nice report showing all landing pages and keywords they rank for on Shopping as shown below.


On another note, you can also use this data to create product-intrinsic search marketing strategies for traditional SEM or SEO campaigns. Using this data can provide you with additional insights as to how aggressively your competition advertises their products on the PLA network. You can easily check to see how they map out their product titles and how product pages are designed; from a competitor research standpoint, this can be very helpful.

As a former PPC account manager, I have been longing for a tool like this to quickly get a bird’s eye view of my competitions product listing ad structure.

PLA Competitors Report (Ed note: the following tools and features are available to beta testers, and will be available widespread soon)

Most business owners are typically only aware of direct competitors. What you might not be aware of are the competitors on the other side of the world targeting similar keywords or promoting the same products as you because they aren’t so easy to find.

With SEMrush, you can algorithmically find competitors and analyze their PLA campaign structure with the click of a few links. Simply plug in the domain of a competitor (or your own e-commerce website) in the blank field, and SEMrush will provide you with a list of competitors based on the amount of active “common keywords” they have with regards to the ads your researched domain is showing PLA ads for. Essentially, you are going to get a list of advertisers showing ads for the same keywords your research domain is popping up for on the shopping network. With this type of report (as shown below) you can quickly toggle between the PLA research reports for many competitors without breaking a sweat!


When I use the PLA Competitors report, I typically go through about five competitors. Then, after a few Vlookup functions and removing some duplicate fields, I’m left with a very large list of keyword ideas and product title ideas for a ton of keywords. I can also get some CPC data as well to forecast spend projections when considering a budget expansion or budget allocation for a new PPC account.

There are tons of great ways to export this data into Excel and organize it in ways that can supplement any other keyword data you have compiled. If you’d like to see some more Excel functions and tricks, you can check out “Excel Tips & Tricks For SEO.” You'll find many great ways to organize SEM data, like the data you pull from SEMrush reports (and not just the PLA ones).

PLA Copies Report

The PLA Copies report is a really awesome reporting feature. It presents product images, product titles and the number of keywords that the product is showing for on the PLA network for any domain you are researching.

When building a new campaign, this can give you a good amount of data to compare your own domain against. You can see if your competitors are using more keywords per product, which generally indicates they are using a very granular ad group structure. When Google AdWords has more keywords in an ad group to choose from based on relevancy, it often helps your ads reach a higher quality score; this has a direct correlation to a lower cost per click.

If you’d like to learn more about how quality score and campaign organization can lead to a lower cost-per-click and higher quality score, read “Why AdWords Hasn’t Worked For You."


Using PLA Reports For SEO & PPC Campaign Ideas

All in all, the PLA reports certainly provide some helpful data, which can be used to do a number of things. The keyword reports can serve as a great starting place for setting up phrase match or broad modified keywords in your ad groups or campaigns until you are ready to start fine-tuning by analyzing your search query data. I also find the cost-per-click data to be very helpful because you can gauge the cost of keywords on the shopping network solely — something I have been hoping for.

As our marketing company continues to get new PPC accounts we are certainly looking forward to using this tool as part of our arsenal of online tools for creating new PPC campaigns and SEO projects. I’m also looking forward to seeing this tool develop new features.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share how you use the new PLA research tool in the comments.

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Sergio Aicardi is the owner of The Miami SEO Company and lives in sunny South Florida. He offers consulting to many marketing companies in Miami and business owners alike. His responsibilities include developing business relationships and optimizing internal processes to ensure the business is constantly growing, while constantly enhancing the quality of services rendered.
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Michael Stricker
This is great, Sergio! Note that PLA Positions Report is the only feature available now. The plan, for now, is to add additional features to make the PLA Tool as fully featured as Organic and Paid. So, Copies and Competitors will come online in the near future. We'd love to hear about how people use the tool, what's good, what's missing...
Kitchen-Countertops Seattle
Michael Stricker
I agree with what your saying. I also want to know how Bing falls into this as well guys?
Kathleen Burns
Kitchen-Countertops Seattle
It isn't currently offered in the PLA position report. PLA positions we use refers to Google Shopping. There may be a plan for it further down the road to include Bing, but not at this moment.
Good overview, though in my particular vertical, PLA is not a current option. My hope is that Google will eventually extend PLA opportunity outside of traditional e-commerce/retail sites. Google met with my company a week ago and this is supposedly in the works.
Sergio Aicardi
Rob Wilson
Thanks for reading Robby! What exactly did the Google rep say was in the works? How would product sales work through other means, I'm guessing offering product ads to local advertisers that have a store front? Care to expand further on your last comment? :)
Sergio Aicardi
Hey Sergio. I work in the automotive sector and most all of my clients have pricing attached to their online inventory pages. People can't actually make a purchase for a vehicle online, so it is not true e-commerce, but it is a critical factor for people submitting leads. What is proposed for automotive would be similar to the current model. So if you were to search for "2015 Toyota Camry", you would get PLA's for your local dealerships and their corresponding prices. From what I gather from our Google rep, this should become a reality towards that latter portion of first quarter 2015. Cheers :)
Sergio Aicardi
Rob Wilson
That's awesome stuff! Thanks for sharing Robby! I'm going to connect with you via social if you don't mind. I enjoy keeping in touch with like minded people, feel free to reach out to me if ever you'd like to collaborate.
Sergio Aicardi
For sure, please do, and I have a similar philosophy on the collaborative nature of our chosen profession.
Michael Stricker
Rob Wilson
Much of the implementation will hinge on the prevalence of Schema and pristine datafeeds of products. That will make it easy for Google to create their alternate presentation of the data of others.
Michael Stricker
Based upon what I know of automotive inventory data feeds, this should not be problematic. Most dealers already feed them out to tons of other sources (cars.com, autotrader.com, etc)