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Google Extends Product Listing Ads to the Google Search Network

July 12, 2015

Good news for advertisers using Shopping Campaigns: Google is now allowing you to opt into displaying your Product Listing Ads (PLAs) on retail and e-commerce search partner sites.

Displaying your shopping campaign ads across Google's search partners network helps you reach motivated consumers outside of the google.com and Google Shopping environments.

Where Will Your PLAs Appear?

Google said the network includes "a small set of retail and commerce publishers." The example they used in their announcement was Walmart; in this case, an advertiser selling tailgate grills could have their ads trigger on the Walmart site when someone searches for a tailgating grill.

It begs the obvious question: doesn't this potentially take sales away from the partner sites?

Like any and everything Google does, this functionality has probably been tested extensively and will be monitored and evaluated as it rolls out across more partner sites. However, the participating partner sites are part of the AdSense for Shopping program, whereby publishers earn revenue for hosting AdSense Shopping ads. They'll have some analysis to do of their own, to determine whether the additional revenue stream is more lucrative than any potentially lost sales.

What Do Google PLAs Look Like on Partner Sites?

They appear much the same as on Google Search, but publishing sites will have some degree of control over where the ads are placed on the page.

In this example from Google, the ads appear in a left-hand sidebar and are labeled "Sponsored Products."

Google Product Listing Ads expanded to search network

The obvious drawback for advertisers is that the ads are appearing on sites likely to sell similar products – this is how they're triggered. So while consumers are more likely in a frame of mind to make a purchase, the competition is right there on the page, as well.

There may also be some confusion if consumers don't understand that clicking an ad actually takes them off the site and to a new retailer. A person looking to save money on shipping, or order a number of items from one retailer, might find this a bit annoying.

How Do You Opt In to Show Your PLAs on Partner Sites?

Those creating new Shopping campaigns will find that the default "campaign type" setting already includes the Google Search Network consisting of Google Search, Google search partner websites, and Google Shopping.

If you're creating a new Shopping campaign, you actually need to opt out if you don't want your ads to trigger across partner e-commerce and retail sites. You can deselect the "Include search partners" checkbox if you want out.

It's worth noting that right now, Google is auto-upgrading all Product Listing Ads campaigns to Shopping campaigns. If you've been using PLAs and haven't upgraded yet, as of September 2 they will have some limitations:

  • You can no longer create new targets.
  • You cannot change bids and destination URLs on existing product targets.
  • You cannot create or edit text for PLAs.

During the auto-upgrade process, Google warns, "Though we’ll attempt to replicate your regular Product Listing Ads campaigns’ settings, bids, and budget, the setup for these new Shopping campaigns might differ."

If you haven't done so yet, go check on your PLA campaigns.

Complete the upgrade to Shopping campaigns so you can review your ads and make sure they're appearing the way you expect. Then decide whether you want your ads to appear across Google's partner sites network and make sure the "Include search partners" option is set to your liking.