The Total Guide to Product Listing Ads: Part 2, How to Set Up Your PLA Campaign

You’ve asked for it, and here it is: The Total Guide To Product Listing Ads. We have a feeling this product will continue to expand and get cool, new features since it’s doing so well for our eCommerce accounts. But, there is so little information out there about how to set these up and make them work for you right now. We took it upon ourselves to put everything we know about PLAs into one, six part guide. We’ll be posting twice a week until all six parts are posted, so keep your eyes peeled!

Part 1: Setting Up Your Data Feed

Part 2: How to Set Up Your PLA Campaign

Part 3: How To Optimize Your PLA Campaign In Your Data Feed

Part 4: How to optimize your PLA campaign in AdWords

Part 5: Targeting Strategies

Part 6: Using Google Analytics To Measure Performance

Part 2: How to set up your PLA campaign

Once you have all of the requirements for Product Listing Ads such as the Google Merchant Center account and an error-free data feed, you can focus on setting up a Product Listing Ads campaign in your Google AdWords account. But how do you start?

Link Your Accounts

Before you can begin using product listing ads in your account, you need to link your AdWords and Google Merchant Center accounts. To do this, log into your Merchant Center account, then click on “settings” in the left navigation and AdWords from the menu that pops up after clicking on settings. On the AdWords page, just enter your AdWords customer ID (looks like a phone number and can be found at the top of the page when logged into AdWords). It is possible to connect one Merchant Center account to multiple AdWords accounts if necessary.

AdWords Setting

Create a New Campaign

Once your AdWords and Merchant Center accounts are linked, you can begin to create a new campaign within AdWords to specifically target Product Listing Ads. Just as a reminder, the Product Listing Ads (PLAs) should be in a separate campaign from all other search and display network campaigns in the account. This enables you to establish different settings and budgets for PLAs and track PLA performance metrics. As when adding any other new campaign, go to the campaign overview tab of your AdWords account, select new campaign and choose Search Network only.

Search Campaign

Continue with naming the campaign on the next screen and make sure to choose Product Listing Ads under the Type section of the campaign setup. The campaign also needs to target Google Search at a minimum but it is recommended to include Search Partners as well. Keep in mind that product listing ads are not shown on the display network.

PLA Campaign Set Up

Follow the set up process by choosing your location, location options, languages and bidding and budget options as well as your preferred delivery method. When you get to the Ad Extensions section, make sure that the box next to Extend my ads with relevant product details from Google Merchant Center is checked (which automatically should be the case). The Merchant Center account you connected to your AdWords account should appear below the box. However, don’t take it as a given and double check the account name as there might also be another account linked to your AdWords account that you are not aware of. Moreover, when purposefully linking two Merchant Center accounts to AdWords, confirm which of the accounts you want to use for this campaign. Don’t worry, you can always come back to this on the Ad Extensions tab within the campaign in case it needs to be changed.

Ad Extensions

Create Ad Groups

With your campaign all set up, you can start to focus on creating ad groups on the next screen:

Create Ad Groups

Name your ad group, taking care to be descriptive as it helps with the management of the whole campaign as with any other of your campaigns. PLAs don’t use ads in the way you are used to. You don’t need to write an ad, as Google creates the ad based on the data in your feed. However, it is recommended that you test special promotional text, even though it is optional.

An “All Products” product target is created by default when initially creating the campaign but also when adding new ad groups to the campaign. Since this will be your first ad group, you can leave the All products checkbox checked. It is best practice to set up an All Products product target as it targets all of the products in the Merchant Center product feed and can feature any products on Google Search and/or Google Shopping that are not covered by any of the product specific ad groups. Start with a safe minimum bid. Judge this based on what you are comfortable paying in your Search campaigns. If the average cost-per-click is $0.75 in your Search campaigns, start with that as your default bid. It is suggested to set the “All Products” ad group bid lower than the product specific ad group bids in the PLA campaign. This is to ensure that product specific ad groups will be shown rather than the all products ad group. Once you click Save ad group, your first ad group is live.

The process of adding separate ad groups for product groups/categories follows the same principles as with any other campaign. Go to the Ad groups tab in your account, click new ad group and follow the same set up process again as shown above. One thing to remember is to uncheck the product targets All products checkbox. After hitting Save ad group, you will be directed to the Auto targets tab to define the product target of this new ad group. AdWords gives you the following option of attributes to segment your products by:


These categories help you to define your products in a unique way and come in handy to organize your campaigns with any of these attributes or any combination of thereof.

Targeting Strategies

There are many strategies you can employ for this Google AdWords product. Picking the proper strategy, as with anything, will depend entirely upon many factors such as the vertical of your company, existing company goals, etc.

Targeting options

The most important thing is to target by the difference that makes performance change. For instance, if you find performance is about the same for each brand of dog food you sell, but each brand name is different from all of your other brand names, then you should target by this attribute.

I’ll go through some of the more successful and most commonly useful targeting strategies to begin with, and hopefully you’ll find one that matches your needs or could be altered slightly to match them.

  • Set up targets by brand.

If you sell items that have different brands, and you see different performance by brand, this is a great option for you. You will want to set up an ad group for each brand, and within that ad group, set up a target for each brand.

  • Set up targets by product type.

If you sell many different product types, and you see different performance based on these product types, this is an excellent choice for you. The set up is the same as the targeting by brand: set up ad groups based on product types. Within those ad groups, you should set up targets based on product types. When I say product types, I am referring to the Google product categories.

  • Set up targets by custom defined attributes.

AdWords labels targeting and AdWords groupings targeting allows you to target by category/product grouping that you decide fits your business best. This would allow you to group products/product lines by season, for instance. You could have labels for “fall line” and “summer line”. You could even include a designer’s name: “Gucci Fall Line”.  The possibilities are endless here. The key to utilizing this targeting method most effectively is to find the biggest cause of performance change in your account. You need to analyze your data in AdWords and any Analytics package you use to find what attribute you can separate your products by that causes performance changes, but everything within each attribute has similar performance. So, while these targeting choices are the most appealing because they allow the most customization, they also require the most work and intelligent analysis to utilize properly.

There are a few differences to these targeting methods you should consider before picking on. You must use the cost-per-click pricing model with the AdWords labels target, but you can target up to 10 labels at a time.  Whereas with the AdWords grouping target, you can only target one grouping at a time, but you can use it for whatever bidding method you prefer.

  • Set up targets by SKU or product id.

This is a targeting method that seems favored by many advertisers. This allows you to know exactly what product you are targeting. Instead of grouping several or many products into one target, you can be sure the performance of each target is directly tied to an individual product.

This strategy could be advantageous to any website with a small inventory or with a handful of top performing products. For example, if you sell a small line of supplements, it may benefit you to manage each product separately in your Product Listing Ad campaign.

As to the organization of this targeting method, you could either have an ad group for each target, which would be beneficial if you’re doing cost-per-acquisition bidding at the ad group level. You could also think of some other way to organize your products, perhaps an ad group for each product type, and then have the individual product targets housed within each ad group. This would be best for cost-per-click bidding.


Try to be creative with your ad group organization so it gives you the most value when reviewing performance metrics. However, be careful to not make your ad groups so granular that the data becomes meaningless. Also, while a promotion for Product Listing Ads is optional, use it to advertise a coupon code or other specials that you are running for your products. With this being said, it is important that the promotional message is true for all the products in an ad group and that it is updated on a regular basis as promotions tend to change over time. Another, often neglected, tip is to add negative keywords to your campaign before it goes live. Although you do not need to enter keywords for PLA campaigns as Google uses your product feed to match your products to appropriate search queries, negatives can improve campaign targeting from the start. One last piece of advise for setting up a PLA campaign in AdWords, only select product targets that exactly match what is in your feed or your PLA won’t show.

This is it! Now you have successfully set up your first Product Listing Ads campaign. Watch out for Part 3 of The Total Guide to Product Listing Ads, when we discuss: How to optimize your PLA campaign in AdWords.

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