With mobile taking over desktop and a user’s attention span shrinking, now’s a good time to (re)explore Google’s PLA and what it can do to help you make your ads more visual and concise.

What’s with that frown? Worry not, we will not bore you with a huge lingo-riddled research only to drown you in a sea of figures later. What we have here instead is a short overview of PLA

…so what’s a PLA?

Even if you never used it in your advertising campaigns, you most certainly have met PLAs from the other side of the play. But just as a brief reminder, PLA stands for Product Listing Ads, a Google feature that allows companies who sell their product online display the image and price of their merchandise in search results.

Well, having put it that way, it really doesn’t look too impressive :\ I mean, a picture with a price below – how lame and outdated is that? Surprise, advertiser! It works incredibly well on the Web, and let’s see why.

What Makes PLA All Great

King of the Hill

For shopping queries, PLAs always display on the first page of Google’s Search Engine Result Page, above all organic search results, which is a nice (but often costly) shortcut to the top for people who can’t or simply won’t invest enough time, effort and money into SEO.

Product Listing Ads also offer a unique ad format that combines a picture of your product, its price and the name of your company. Essentially, that’s all the information most customers need to tell if they want your product or not.

The combination of these two factors alone guarantee your PLA the dominating position in any shopping-related SERP and increase the Click-Through Rate by helping your potential customers make an informed decision to purchase your merchandise.

Double Impact

We hate to make a reference to a Jean Claude van Damme movie here, but hey – PLAs can double the ‘kicks’ of your advertising campaign if they team up with your text ads. It’s absolutely OK in Google’s book to display multiple ads from one and the same advertiser on a given search result page. And that could potentially mean a significant boost to consumer traffic attracted to your website – if your text ad misses the spot, the PLA will get ‘em! Aaand the other way around, yeah.

Taking the High ROAS

There will be some figures, after all. As if to prove the previous two advantages are the real deal, PLAs score a second-to-none rate of paying off. A research conducted by PPC Essentials reports an average 407% monthly PLA return of ad spend.

But nothing’s perfect in this story, so it’s high time we talk about the price at which this highly successful type of online advertising comes.

What’s Bad About PLA?

Easy to Learn and Hard to Master

For a beginner, PLAs can be very deceptive – although practically having no minimum bids and charging only for clicks, they can turn out to be pretty expensive if you don’t manage your campaign properly. And that ‘set and ready’ format really makes you assume there’s little to no management required. And if you fall for that, you’ll get your budget drained for no good. So please don’t! Carefully studying Google Shopping first guidelines will spare you a lot of money and painful memories.

Competition

It’s huge. As more retailers start using the product listing ads service, you need to keep in mind that the number of retailers itself is increasing as well, so if the situation should change at all, it won’t be for the best. At least not from a beginner’s perspective – if you’re selling apparel, it’s gonna be a toughie.

But tough does not mean impossible. What that means is you will have to do an excellent job setting up your advertising campaign and targeting your audience in order to compete with the industry’s titans.

You’re Not Escaping SEO

Perhaps calling PLA a shortcut to the top of the SERP was not… the whole story. Reasonably, Google does not neglect the fundamentals of its relevancy evaluation algorithms when it comes to ads, expensive as they are. Any issues with your company or store’s website will have a negative impact on your quality as a retailer in the eyes of Google robots, which, paired with high competition, can render your PLA campaign useless. Consider running an SEO audit before placing any bet on your PLAs and add its cost to the total.

Conclusion: What Next?

If you’re willing to give PLAs a shot or perhaps even a second chance (now that you know you had SEO to blame again), hopefully this article will be useful as a general outline of this advertising format. But you will find it too shallow to giving that outline more details and eventually drawing a clear picture of what PLA is and how to take the most out of it,  which is something you will need to do in order to succeed. Like we said before, the safest next step you can take on your journey into PLA is studying the official Google Shopping guideliness. Spoiler Alert: it will be a pain, but the gain is ultimately worth it.

And if you like your PLA guide nice and easy – keep following the blog, for we’ll definitely be covering more ground on the topic in the near future.