How Do PLA Shopping Campaigns Work in AdWords?

pla shopping campaigns

If you’ve been a regular user of Google over the past few years, you know they’re famous for the simplicity of the home page and the spartan nature of their results pages.

As Google has matured and become a publicly traded company, the home page has remained very simple. Yes, they feature a new “Google Doodle” on many days, but the search box is still front and center with virtually no supporting text. The results pages? They feature a lot more these days.

What Are PLA Shopping Results?

On the traditional Google results page you would have 10 organic listings and anywhere from 3 to 11 text advertisements, like this:


However, when Google feels like the search is for a product (like my favorite sunglasses from Kaenon here), they show PLA Shopping ads (these used to be called Product Listing Ads, or PLA, so you’ll sometimes see them called that) along with the text listings. The page now looks like this:


Breaking Down a Shopping Ad

Let’s take a closer look at an individual shopping ad:

pla shopping campaigns

You’ll notice the ad here has 5 components:

  • Image: This allows people to see what the product looks like. It’s like window shopping for AdWords.
  • Product Name: Tell people exactly what you have to offer.
  • Price: They even know the price before they click. How cool is that?
  • Verified Store: The check mark is earned by qualified stores. For all other listings this just displays the root-level domain offering the product.
  • Seller Ratings: This is an extension that the advertiser must enable and have enough ratings to qualify. As you can see from the example above, it makes this ad stand out from the other 7 ads, so it’s a big boost to have it.

How Do PLA Shopping Campaigns Work?

PLA Shopping campaigns still behave on the same auction-based principles as other AdWords campaigns. However, they are set up differently. To get started you need to set up a Google Merchant Center account and create a product feed. This is basically a spreadsheet upload with all the information Google will need, like the image URL for your product shot, the name of the product, brand, condition, price, shipping info, etc.

Once you have this feed, you link your Google Merchant Center Account to your AdWords account and create your Shopping campaign (full step-by-step instructions at that link).

With your product feed uploaded and your Shopping campaign created, you can set your bids and let you campaign do it’s job.

Benefits of PLA Shopping Campaigns

The paragraph above may have made PLA Shopping campaigns sound difficult with talk of a product feed. However, there are some serious benefits you gain with Shopping campaigns:

  • Visual appeal: Search results pages are predominantly text, so the images in Shopping ads draw serious attention from search users. This leads to higher click-through rate (CTR) and more qualified visits to your site.
  • Trust: Remember the check mark of the verified store? And the seller ratings? By showing on Google and having these elements people who click the site will trust your site as a place they can buy.
  • No sticker shock: The price is right on the ad and it’s next to seven other people selling it, too. If people are price comparing they can do it right there and you know when someone clicks your ad that they won’t be scared off by the price.


PLA Shopping campaigns are a must-have for e-commerce websites selling products. They give you great benefits over traditional text-based ads and I typically see great results with my clients.

Google Search Photo via Shutterstock


Robert Brady Robert Brady is Senior Manager: Software, SMB, Strategy at Clix Marketing, a Google AdWord Certified Partner. Robert helps small business owners and large companies just getting started with Pay-Per-Click (PPC) get better results from their PPC advertising.

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