PLAs during the Holidays

It’s that time of year again; back to school campaigns are peaking and many retailers are in the midst of their second most important season of the year. Yet, despite the date on the calendar, attention will be shifting to Q4 and Holiday 2013. Among the retailers who won out during Holiday 2012 were those who fully embraced PLAs within their paid search scheme; these retailers found that PLAs accommodate e-shoppers natural tendency to engage with paid ads containing product images at a higher rate than AdWords’ text ads.

PLAs saw unprecedented success and growth during Q4 2012.  As overall online retail revenue captured a 14% YOY boost during the 2012 holiday season, PLAs were accredited as a driving force behind the uptick in ecommerce paid search results. Now that PLAs have been in play for more than a year, they are on track to take on an even more integral role in Q4 paid search numbers.  Last year, many retailers got in the game late or not at all. This year, many more retailers are prepared to be competitive during Q4 and are going after their piece of the pie. Since their inception PLA ad formats have consistently undergone updates, and retailers are eager to measure their evolution. This November we will be able to start comping against YoY numbers, as November 2012 was the first full month of the 100% paid model in Google Shopping & PLAs. This will allow retailers to begin to grasp a true measure of YoY success and growth without comparison against the Free Shopping revenue achieved in years past.

More than ever, executing optimization strategies within your PLA campaigns are crucial to fueling increases in volume and ROI on PLAs and paid search results. PLAs are becoming increasingly valuable as advertisers are now seeing search traffic shift to PLAs in droves. As these ads continue their growth and expand across the SERP, understanding the implications of optimizing your merchant feed and strategically executing your PLA Adwords campaigns will ensure your program’s ability to capitalize on traffic increases and search opportunities.

Google’s image based ads are encroaching upon market share from external CSEs as well as within Google search text campaigns. Included below are some considerations as you map out the ways to leverage or expand your PLA activity to support holiday traffic and search queries:

Organic Search Results: PLAs are accounting for the #1 positions in back-to-school related searches, bumping text ads and organic listings farther down Google’s SERP. Furthermore, Google is currently experimenting with expanded PLA results. Typically, five product listing ads are included at the top of the page before text ads results, however, due to the success of these visual product displays, customers may have the option of clicking on an expansion arrow to increase this number to 16, and all but diminish text ads and organic results on the first page.  This PLA format underlines the importance of PLAs in your search marketing mix.

5 pla new             16 plas


Opportunity to Drive Sales Away From Amazon Merchant Center:  Amazon does not currently participate in Google’s PLA program, which provides significant opportunity to level the playing field against Amazon:

More ad space is shifting to PLAs, enabling you to gain sales directly, rather than having the sale driven through your Amazon Merchant Center. If you don’t have an Amazon Merchant Center, PLAs now offer you a better chance of winning that click over an Amazon ad… BONUS!  And, as mentioned above, the text ads and organic listings where Amazon is still a factor are diminishing in favor of the PLA formats.

The Google Shopping tab no longer includes Amazon as a factor.  When Google Shopping was free, Amazon monopolized the page, receiving more traction while offering your products alongside your ads. Now with Amazon out of the picture, it’s time to get while the getting is good. If optimized effectively, you could be driving significant lifts for your business.


Paid Search Voice:  Product Listing Ads are the future of retail search, and supplementing traditional paid search and non-brand campaigns is crucial to ensuring your on-page exposure.  Additionally, since PLAs are the only area of paid search where you can double and triple serve along side your paid text ads, it has the ability to improve your brand’s overall SERP share-of-voice in a competitive market place.


Campaign success, especially during Q4, depends on your ability to adapt as PLAs continue to evolve and grow in paid search market share.



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