Canadian retailers - get excited! Google's highly praised Product Ads have recently been rolled out in Canada! Some of the recent statistics are remarkable, and really speak to how well Product Ads can perform for retailers. To get you hyped, here are some if the impressive facts to date:

  • Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have received up to 210% more clicks vs. standard text ads.
  • PLAs budget investment increased by 600% in Q4 2012
  • PLAs impression share jumped by 60% in Q4 (6.1% in December vs. 3.9% in September)
  • PLAs have had a 34% higher Click Through Rate (CTR) than non-PLA ads
  • PLA spend peaked in December, accounting for 17% of Google Search spend

So, What Exactly Are Product Ads?

Google's Product Ads have two main formats; product listing ads, and product extensions. PLAs are images of specific products that appear alongside regular AdWords ads (at the top or right-hand side of the search results page) when a user searches for products that a retailer offers. In addition to the product image, text may be displayed like the product name, price, the brand, and a truncated portion of the product description (~70 characters appear for title and description before truncation). Essentially, PLAs expose users to specific products before even reaching a retailer's site, fostering higher qualified leads that are more likely to convert. There are also product extensions that work with your existing keyword-targeted ads; underneath a regular text ad, a link will appear (similar to a sitelink) and user's can select a blue plus sign to show related products from that retailer.

How Do Product Listing Ads Work?

A feed of products available on a retailer's website is uploaded to the Google Merchant Center. Once the Merchant Center is linked to AdWords, the inventory available in the Merchant Center is synced with Product Ads in AdWords and will reflect your available products.

PLA's are triggered by a user's search query, and which product is shown is matched based on the product description. Advertisers can choose to bid by either Cost per Conversion or Cost per Click.

How Do I Get Started?

1. Verify & claim your URL in Google Webmaster Tools. (Follow the steps here).

2. Open a Google Merchant Center Account. (Follow the steps here).

3. Link your Google Merchant Center to AdWords. (In your Merchant Center, select Settings > AdWords > Enter AdWords Customer ID > Add).

4. Submit a data feed of products to your Merchant Center. There are 2 main ways to do this:

  • Upload an Excel file to your Merchant Center, including, at minimum, the following elements: Product ID, Product Title, Link to Product Page on your website, Price, Description (up to 10,000 characters, to be truncated when displayed in a PLA), Condition (New, Used or Refurbished), and the Image URL (images are recommended to be 400X400 pixels; 250x250 also accepted).
  • Use RSS, .txt or Atom XML to automatically push your product feed from your website's back end. Any back-end database should have this functionality.
Here's an example of some PLAs for the query "marc jacobs watch":
Hover over the ad to view a brief description.
5. Set up your campaign in AdWords.
6. Launch.
7. Get Rich.

Things To Keep In Mind

  • If you have products that come in multiple colors or sizes, best practices are to submit a single item to the Merchant Center per item variation. For example, if you have a pair of shoes that come in 5 colors, and 6 sizes, submit 30 separate item variants.
  • Refresh your product feed in your Merchant Center as often as possible to ensure accuracy across pricing and inventory.
  • French Product Ads are still in beta - stay tuned.
  • Caution: PLAs are still a relatively new feature, and you may see the occasional out-of-context product ad within a set of ads.

It can be slightly taxing to get PLAs up and running, but the pay-off can be invaluable. Especially since the product is new in Canada, competition shouldn't be too fierce right now (hint hint!). So far, fantastic results have been seen for thousands of U.S retailers, let's hope for similar results for Canadian merchants!

Sources: Marin Software, Adobe, Ad Exchanger