Product Listing Ads: New Ideas
To Improve ROAS And Sales

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane

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Original Publication Date: December 15, 2016

If you sell products online, then there’s a really good chance you already know that product listing ads (PLAs) are the best performing ad types around.

Google Shopping has continued to make improvements to its ad platform, and eCommerce stores are quickly taking advantage of everything Google has to offer. With good reason.

Product listing ads have been shown to have a 21% higher click-through-rate compared to traditional text ads.

product ads vs text ads rkg merkle q3 2015

And the benefits don’t stop there

That’s why we’ve partnered with Shopify Plus to give you some new ideas for improving the performance of your product listing ads.

[ View GIFographic Here ]

Three Different Levels of Search Intent

When you’re trying to create sales from people who are searching for your products, it’s important that you try to match your bids and product pages to the search term.

Since you can’t target keywords directly yet with shopping campaigns and product listing ads, the next best thing you can use are negative keywords – more specifically, three different types of negative keyword lists.

With at least three different shopping campaigns, you can match conversion intent to the three different levels of search intent:

  • Generic searches like “sneakers”
  • Brand searches like “Nike sneakers”
  • Product searches like “Nike HyperDunk”

In your three negative keyword lists, the list attached to your generic campaign includes negatives related to brand and product searches. The list attached to your brand campaign includes negatives related to generic and product searches.

And finally, the negative keyword list attached to your product campaign includes negatives related to generic and brand searches — without preventing your product searches from triggering your PLA.

If you don’t break out your campaign product groups by generic, brand, and product searches, you may have a complex spider web of awkward bidding on your hands.

Not to mention the lack of control.

With this setup, you should find that your product campaigns have the highest conversion rates and lowest CPA. These campaigns attract visitors that have already done their homework on what specific product they’re looking for.

Your brand campaigns should be next up on the performance side, with slightly lower conversion rates and higher CPAs compared to your product campaign.

And finally, your generic campaign will probably have the lowest conversion rate and highest cost per conversion. These people are still in research mode, and not sure exactly what they’d like to buy.

To take advantage of this user interest, your bidding setup should look something like this:

Product campaign: Highest, most competitive bids

Brand campaign: Competitive bids

Generic campaign: Lower, less competitive bids

Your Product Descriptions & Your Feed

Google’s taxonomy of product categorization is something you should pay close attention to.

Taxonomy is the information your Google Merchant Center account needs to show your PLA ads on Google. Google uses taxonomy to keep your product feed up to date.

Specifically, Google uses the combination of your product description and the product category/taxonomy to decide which searches your product will appear for.

Make a mistake and you could lose out on valuable impressions.

Just take a look at the “active” clothing breakdown that Google has as part of their taxonomy:

  • Dresses
  • Jackets
  • Leotards
  • Pants
  • Shirts
  • Shorts
  • Skirts
  • Tanks
  • Undergarments
  • Activewear Sets

For more info, you can see how the taxonomy structure works here.

When it comes to the descriptions that accompany products in your shopping feed, you have quite a bit of character space to use. But you won’t need it all.

Use the product description to share the features and highlights of the product. According to Shopify, this includes:

  • Front loading the important information in the product description. Use the first two sentences to include the most important info for the product.
  • Using different keywords here without keyword stuffing. This will help Google know what you should show up for.
  • Not writing a novel. Keep your product description concise, because your text might get cut off. Try not to add in too many Remove filler words that don’t pack a copywriting punch.

Smaller Product Groups FTW

The more things you have to juggle, the higher the chances that you’ll eventually drop the ball.

It’s a universal truth that’s relevant outside of Google Shopping too, but this definitely goes with the product groups that live inside your ad groups within your shopping campaign.

The more tightly knit your product groups are, the easier it is to adjust bids at the individual product level. It also helps you control the search term volume that comes through.

This ties back to why Single Keyword Ad Groups work so well for regular search, display, and social too.

Keeping That Margin/Profit Pulse

Ecommerce advertising is extremely black and white when you have revenue tracking in place. It’s vital that you don’t try and optimize your Google Ads account around a single cost per acquisition metric.

Instead, you should be focusing on your return on ad spend (ROAS) ratio by keeping your margins in mind as well.

A 2.0 ROAS, for example, might be great. But only if the cost per sale doesn’t dig too deep into your margins.

Below is an example of two columns you can create in your Google Ads account once you have revenue/transaction tracking in place:

Total conv. value = total revenue generated from that campaign, ad group, product group.

All conv. value / cost = Your revenue generated divided by your ad spend cost (this is your ROAS/ROI).

conversion value and cost chart

Check conversion value data

As you can see, you’ll have different ROAS ratios depending on where you look in your account. You should focus on ways to improve that ROAS ratio over time.

Bring Back Those Lost Sales

You’ve probably already heard the stat that, on average, only 2% of your landing page visitors actually convert on the first visit.

By using retargeting to your advantage, you’re able to automatically create ad sets that dynamically update the product that the visitor was on before they left your site.

Known as dynamic remarketing, you can stay top of mind as your visitors do more research before they buy.

Platforms like Google Ads, Facebook, AdRoll, Perfect Audience (and many others) have native dynamic remarketing tools to make your life super simple.

By connecting to your product feed, the advertising channel of your choice will pull all the relevant info to create an ad with the goal of bringing back that lost sale.


Here’s how it works – image source

The great thing is that the cost per acquisition (CPA) of a dynamic retargeting campaign is usually less than a regular CPA if your audience is configured correctly.

Here’s To Your Increased Sales

As a retailer, online advertising can be a complex thing. Luckily, however, you don’t have to deal with things like lead quality and offline sales that are harder to measure and attribute.

With a solid foundation and the tips above, you can generate a strong start to grow your eCommerce efforts over time.

What’s your best-kept eCommerce optimization secret?