As more consumers turn to the Internet for their holiday shopping, it’s important to be thinking about how to best stand out from the crowd. Google has created two features to help eCommerce sites promote their products using a data feed within a Google Merchant Center. By taking advantage of these new features your product images will show along with price, allowing customers to make shopping decisions before costing you money by clicking on your ad, thereby saving you money while generating highly relevant traffic that also has a smaller chance of suffering from sticker shock once they reach your site.

Set up a Google Merchant Center

You have to have a Google account (like Gmail) to create a Google Merchant Center. Once you have created a Merchant Center you will be able to upload a data feed of your products, which you can then utilize in your Adwords account.

Before uploading your data feed, you need to be aware of the strict policies Google has put into place. You can review them in the Merchant Center set up process I outlined on SEO Boy a few weeks ago, or visit the official page of policies for the Google Product Search for more information.

Your data feed will need to include the six required attributes, and can also include any number of the recommended attributes that Google allows. The feed can be uploaded in either an XML or a text file.

Promoting Your Products

Within Adwords there are two ways you can promote your products through PPC.

  1. Product extensions were released a year ago and made it possible to incorporate data in your Merchant Center with your text ads within Adwords. When your product(s) were related to a search, an image, title and price were listed along with your ad, thereby giving the searcher even more decision making information – even before they clicked on the ad.
  2. Product listing ads (PLAs) were launched in beta a year ago, and originally on a CPA (cost per acquisition) model. So what makes PLAs different? They run in addition to traditional text ads, and like product extensions, show the title, image, price, and other highly relevant pieces of information to help shoppers make an informed decision before they’ve made their first click. A year later, this is now available to all advertisers, and just in time for the holiday shopping season!

Creating Product Extensions and PLAs

As I mentioned before, the first step for any eCommerce site is to create a Merchant Center. Once you are set up, and your feed is running, you can then begin testing one or both of the product features within Adwords.

To add product extensions, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your merchant account and enter your Adwords CID so they are linked.
  2. There is now an Ad Extensions tab within the online interface, so you can either first click on the campaign you want to add extensions to, or you can stay on all campaigns, click the Ad Extensions tab, and select the campaign you’d like to modify from there.
  3. There are four types of extensions that you can add to your ad, so click the down arrow next to view, and select product extensions.
  4. Create a new extension so products from your Merchant Center will show along with your ad when a relevant search query is entered.

Keep in mind the following when working with Product Extensions:

  • These are for the Search only.
  • The landing page for each product will be determined from your feed, so make sure they are accurate!
  • The product extensions are triggered when a search query matches your Merchant Center data, so make sure you use quality keywords in the title and product name.
  • The data shown in the interface on the Ad Extensions tab are for the extensions only – not the entire ad.

To add product listing ads, follow these steps:

  1. If you haven’t already done so, log into your merchant account and enter your Adwords CID so they are linked.
  2. Select the campaign you want to modify, then go to the Auto Targets tab.
  3. Choose the ad group you would like to apply the product listing to.
  4. Select either all products, or filter your Merchant Center data. Filters will help make sure that the products that are most relevant to the ad group will be shown, but selecting all products will allow everything to have a chance to show, which may be best if you aren’t certain that your categories within the data feed are accurate or complete. If you choose to filter your data, you will be able to pull out specific products based on the following fields from your data feed:
    • product_type
    • brand
    • adwords_grouping
    • condition
    • adwords_labels
  5. Once you’ve set up your auto targets, go to the Ads tab, and create a New Product Listing Ad. If applicable, enter a promotion that will help generate interest in that product – just make sure it’s a promo that they will be able to easily identify once they have reached the site!

Keep in mind the following when working with Product Listing Ads:

  • These are not triggered by keywords – so like product extensions, make sure your data feed has keyword rich content that will match what has been searched for.
  • PLAs show in addition to your text ads, so be aware that your spend may go up.
  • The ranking for your PLA is based on your bid, historical performance, and relevance to the searcher’s query.
  • Multiple retailers can show for the same product. Multiple products from one merchant can also be shown at the same time as long as they have unique content in the data feed.
  • PLAs can be seen on as well as search network sites.
  • Think of this as a comparison-shopping tool, and put yourself in the buyers’ shoes. Know what details would you look for, and make sure you include them in your data feed – it’s not ALWAYS about having the lowest price.
  • This just in: There appears to be some issues with conversion tracking – but they are working on it. I’ll update this post as we learn more!

Product extensions and product listing ads are just two of the ways you can begin to stand out from the crowd this holiday season. Check back next Monday for Caleb’s post about ad promotions and landing page best practices to make sure that you get the most out of the traffic you are driving.