Google Shopping Ads: What We’ve Learned So Far

In October 2012, Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) became Google Shopping. With this, Google removed the Google Shopping listings from the organic side of the equation and made them a purely PPC play.

Many people, including Danny Sullivan, have noted that Google has now embraced a paid inclusion model. Things have certainly changed, and advertisers need to stay on top of their game to take advantage of new opportunities. In this article, I’ll share some tips we’ve learned related to Google Shopping ads.

Before getting started, a few notes on Google Shopping:

  • It’s a feed-based product, and feeds are submitted via Google’s Merchant Center. After linking a feed to a Google AdWords account, the best strategy is to set up a separate campaign for all Google Shopping ads.
  • Google Shopping has both CPC and CPA bidding. The biggest difference is that CPA doesn’t include the ability to label (more on this later) and doesn’t pay per click but only pays when a purchase is made. Bids are also set as a percentage of the price of a product (for example 20% of $100 = $20). We prefer CPC bidding because of its flexibility, and we tend to get pretty good ROI using it.
  • In some more optimized accounts, Google shopping accounts for 25-30% of overall traffic. Over time, this may increase as ad units may increase in size and take up more screen real estate. Lately, Google has been testing a number of different sizes and shapes. Here’s an example of a common layout:

shop for running shoes on Google

Optimizing Google Shopping Ads

There are different ways to optimize your Google Shopping advertising. There’s the optimization work related to the feed itself (like the content of the feed and specific attributes associated with the feed) and optimization work within the Google AdWords platform. My recommendations below will cover both.

Long Headlines & Descriptions In The Feed

As you know, there are no keywords associated with Google shopping ads, and Google pulls information from the feed to match relevant products to queries. You can increase the chances ads will show for specific queries with longer product titles and descriptions as Google has more content to pull from.

Think of it as SEO for your product feeds. On, more information displays in the search results but titles and descriptions can get truncated; so, include your best content at the beginning of attributes. Titles can get truncated after 30-40 characters, but descriptions attributes are not limited as much and can be longer.

Take a look at the example for the George Foreman grill below:

Google Shopping SERP

Include Handy Attributes In The Feed

In the feed, basic fields like title, description, ID, product_type, image_link, etc. are required attributes. Below are some other handy attributes we also like to include in feeds. Note: these tend to be used by more sophisticated advertisers.

AdWords Grouping (adwords_grouping)

This is used to group products in any way you want. In the example below, adword_grouping has been used to create groups related to pillows, pillowcases, sheets, comforters, etc., but can be used to segment out high volume products, etc. This is a very good option for companies with relatively simple product sets.

AdWords Grouping

AdWords Labels (adwords_labels)

This is similar to adwords_grouping, but works only with CPC bidding. The major benefit with adwords_labels is that it can hold multiple values and allows products to be tagged with multiple labels.

Use Auto Targets In AdWords Interface

Advertisers can bid on core attributes (above) using the auto targets tab. This allows advertising to bid differently based on product types, product groupings, etc. For example, an advertiser may want to bid differently for products grouped as “top sellers” than for a specific group created around other keyword terms.

It’s worth noting that a generic “all products” target is created by default in accounts that have Merchant Center feeds associated with it. “All products” casts a pretty wide net, so bid lower if you use this option. Another important point is that product targets have to match exactly or they will not show.

Auto Targets

Take A Look At Your Keyword Terms

Despite many myths, advertisers can see keywords terms that trigger your Google Shopping ads in the Search Query Report at the campaign level. It’s wise to look at these terms to ensure the campaign is as relevant as possible and to pinpoint terms that are not a good fit. The best way to exclude terms is to have extensive negative keyword lists in your campaign (campaign or ad group level).

Here’s how to view keyword terms:

PLA campaign -> Keyword Tab -> Keyword details -> Search Terms -> select “All” to see all terms


You won’t see this option if you go into an ad group and then to the keywords tab. This is likely why so many people think it’s impossible to see keyword terms related to Google Shopping ads.

Try The “Promotion” Option In Google Shopping Ads

Advertisers are able to include a “promotion” with Google Shopping ads units. These are added in the “create an ad” part of the interface. Shipping and discount offers tend to work well in the promotion section and can really make ads pop when the format is displayed by Google. Differentiate your advertising from your competitors, especially if you’re in a competitive space.

Here’s where the promotion option is located in the interface:


Here’s an example of a Google Shopping promotional message:

Coupon Code

Feel free to share your Google Shopping tips in the comment section below.

Author’s Note: A special thanks goes out to Stephen Woldenberg & Brian Bensch for their valuable help with this article.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Google: AdWords: Product Listing Ads | Google: Google Shopping | Paid Search Column


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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  • Pat Grady

    CPA Bidding, “We prefer CPC bidding because of its flexibility, and we tend to get pretty good ROI using it.” We also prefer CPC bidding, the tracking / attribution of sales with CPA bidding is too squooshy. CPA is just a way of doing scale, like a pet shop with 60,000 SKUs – where the number of Auto Targets is so large, and the discrete CPC settings would apply to smaller individual datasets, as to be a Large Scale Automation tool, not an ROAS Optimization tool. If your scale is manageable with Auto Targets and more direct CPC bidding and tracking, you’ll be able to optimize ROAS far better. The idea, that you somehow “pay less” on a CPA model, persists with our clients. It’s still a CPC auction, no matter how you choose to pay. Leaving your calculated effective CPC bid, dependent on the vagaries of CPA attribution, is a looser, not tighter (or cheaper) method of ROAS control.

  • Sam Mazaheri

    Hi Mona, your link says “” instead of “”

  • Sergey Lucktinov

    I’m not sure if this is an issue right now but when we started using PLAs CPA bidding was not working.

  • Chirag Dattani

    Great Article! What’s going to be really interesting moving forward with the launch of PLA’s on Mobile Devices is that how Google determines the Ad position for the PLA’s on Mobile Devices. PLA campaigns for Mobile may need some additional optimization techniques depending on the factors involved determining the Ad positions.

  • Jasmin

    Hi Mona,

    it’s also possible to create a Search Query Report on AdGroup Level:

    PLA campaign -> Select an AdGroup -> Auto Targets Tab -> Show Keywords -> Select “All”

    (I’m not sure if the button is called “Show Keywords” in english because I don’t have an english dashboard but you’ll find it just beside the “Change Satus” & “More Actions”)

    Using this report is much more comfortable when you have big campaigns with a lot of AdGroups


  • alanmitchell

    I give each product it’s own ad group, and track each ad groups’s revenue in Google Analytics to work out ROI for each product and ad group. Bids can then be optimised for each ad group based on the ROI it generates. In my experience, it is much more effective having multiple products in the same ad group, than having to tediously mine for insights using the limited data which is available.


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