Google's Latest Real Estate Play: A Test on PLAs

What might happen to Click Through Rates (CTRs) if Google were to present shoppers with not five, but sixteen Product Listing Ads, all on one results page? It’s a question that a lot of marketers are asking, as news of Google’s latest real estate test, focused on PLAs, recently hit the search and marketing trades. So far, we know that this is a very narrow test, with no reporting or benchmarks from Google for the time being; and overall, it’s meant to create a more fluid user experience.

So, what exactly do the expandable PLAs look like? By clicking on the arrow in the bottom right hand corner of the traditional block of five ads, shoppers go from seeing this:

Nike PLAs 1

To this:

Nike PLAs2

That’s more than triple the number of PLAs…and we have some questions.

What could this mean for text ads? Though real estate for PLAs is very clearly expanded, the results page itself isn’t getting any larger, which means that text ads and organic listings will be getting a boot down. And if PLAs are dominating the real estate, it would likely have some kind of impact on text and organic performance. Hypothetically, shoppers might engage more with the PLAs for the simple fact that there’s more of them to explore. If more traffic does in fact come through PLAs, we might be looking at a pretty massive shift in the paid search landscape as a whole. We recently covered the evolution of paid programs, where we discussed the multitude of benefits offered by PLAs – all of which Google is likely thinking of with this test. If Google plans to do a widespread rollout, it would interesting to see how reporting and performance changes. In other words, how are shoppers clicking through from initial PLA to expanded products to the actual Google Shopping page?

Another question we have here is, what could this mean for mobile? Google has been very clear on its initiative to make the mobile experience as seamless as possible, so it may have plans to implement a similar experiment with PLAs on the mobile screen – potentially in a carousel-like format.

Though just a small test at this point, expandable PLAs are an exciting development for retailers, particularly for those with a lot of different varieties of product. More space means increased opportunities to get a shopper’s attention. But it could also mean increased competition with competitors and/or retail partners.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be keeping a close watch on the expandable PLAs format, and will wait to hear from Google on any other developments with this test. Stay tuned!

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