As a retailer (depending on your industry category) you will likely find that the percentage of your budget that should be allocated to PLA advertising could range from ten to over forty percent this holiday season. Plus, because of changes Google has made and because more of your competition are discovering the power of PLAs to drive revenue, the bids necessary to achieve position will be higher than last year.
PLAs have to potential to make or break your holiday season and since Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, you need to address PLA problems and opportunities immediately.
Here are ten tips to help you optimize and improve your product listing ads performance this holiday season:
Sort your PLA feeds based on popularity of product (sales). Consider appending and updating a score relating to popularity of sales to your internal feed documentation. This may impact your bidding strategy. People may prefer that the more popular products be served to them, and so, in the case of several similar feeds/SKUs, a small bid increase may change the odds that the more popular product is shown.
Consider taking top products and testing different images -- especially if your images for the same product are identical to those offered by your competition. Sometimes in PLA ads, the image that is most different stands out from the rest, resulting in higher CTR, more traffic, and a higher PLA Quality Score. Your ad will serve more often.
Revisit price decisions. Price will become a key determinant in CTR for many products this holiday season. If your products are the kind that get shopped around for price, consider the impact of price not only for conversion rate, but also for CTR (click-through rate). Have a strategy in place to monitor competitor pricing, particularly for high-volume and popular feeds.
Track more than just the "Thank You" page. If you have a retail footprint, track the other online behaviors that can result in store visits or phone call behavior.
Break out mobile (smartphone) campaigns with different success metrics. Mobile users and even tablet users (which you can break out in Bing but no longer in Google) have different behaviors. If you can dynamically include local retail info in a product landing page, you may find that users are more likely to show up at your store.
Add the Special Offer extension and Trusted Store icon. Check with Google or your agency to see if you are eligible for the PLA "Special Offer" extension, as well as the Google Trusted Store icon. Both of these increase visibility and CTR on your ad and therefore get you on the SERP less expensively due to higher Quality Score.
Test the binary nature of the PLA bids for your high-volume listings. In the main paid placement SERP, position is very important and correlated to CTR, where the top through third positions (depending on the SERP) receive the bulk of the clicks. In PLAs, once you are bidding enough to show up in the 8-Pack or the 5-Pack, position is not nearly as important as brand, price, and image.
Use text ads and PLAs together. Understand the incremental value of the additional screen real estate. Having the right messaging in your ads to attract a different kind of searcher can result in a great fit between the PLA ads and the AdWords ads. Some people shop visually, others shop by reading text, and some do both. Even for those who do both, the different messaging between your two ad placements should allow them to pick the most relevant.
Deal with out of stock items. Nothing is worse than dropping a consumer on a page where the item is out of stock. You paid for the click, have a process in place to ensure this doesn't happen.
Have some extra budget set aside. If you could buy dollars for eighty cents, you'd want to do it all day long. Similarly, if consumer search volume and purchase demand is high this holiday season, make sure you have the budget available across your overall media budget, search budget, and PLA budget to take full advantage.
Have a great Cyber Monday and holiday shopping season! Remember the Pareto rule for the greatest success with your PLAs this season: work on the parts of your campaign with the highest opportunities.
Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.
Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.