Transitioning PLAs to Shopping Campaigns on AdWords

By Scott Garrett | Jun 25, 2014
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The mandatory switch from Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) to Google Shopping campaigns is coming in late August. This switch may not seem as dramatic as last year’s switch to enhanced campaigns, but if you are an ecommerce retailer who currently uses PLAs, then this switch should not be taken lightly.

PLAs allow you to advertise your products on Google search in an ad unit that contains a product thumbnail image, product title, price, and promotional text. Below is an example of a PLA in the wild (boxed in red).
Google AdWords PLAs

Compared to traditional text ads, PLAs regularly have a lower cost per click (CPC) and higher clickthrough rate (CTR). One of Marketing Mojo’s ecommerce clients has seen fantastic results utilizing a strategy involving PLAs.


So what exactly is the difference between current PLAs and the new Shopping campaigns? From a searcher’s point of view, nothing will change, as the product ads will remain in their current format and position for the time being. All of the changes are occurring on the advertiser’s side. These changes may cause many advertisers to rethink the way they currently structure and manage their products ads.

The main change is in the way the Shopping campaigns are structured relative to the current PLA campaigns. Shopping campaigns are still comprised of ad groups, but now within ad groups there are product groups. Product groups allow you to subdivide your products into groupings based on attributes found in your Google Merchant Center product feed. You can group products based on the following attributes:

  • Category
  • Product type
  • Brand
  • Condition
  • Product ID
  • Custom label

In the past, ad groups within PLA campaigns used specific auto-targeting attributes, such as product ID, to associate an ad group with a specific product. This is similar to product groups, but product groups now give advertisers the ability to subdivide products beyond just one attribute. For example, within the AdWords interface, you can now easily create a product group within an ad group that only contains products that are “new DVDs” by subdividing by category 1, category 2, condition, and product type.

Shopping Campaign Subdividing

This ability has been enabled by the integration of the Google Merchant feed directly into the AdWords interface. The new interface will allow advertisers to easily see the performance of their individual products in great detail.

New Features

Shopping campaigns also contain some useful tools that were not present in PLA campaigns. These include bid simulator, impression share data, and benchmark competitor CPC data.

Another interesting addition is the newly created custom label attribute. Custom labels are another attribute that you can use in subdividing when creating your product groups. In total you can have five distinct types of custom labels pulled from your merchant feed into your Shopping campaign. For example, you could have a label for seasonal products and one for high margin products. Combining these custom labels with the other attributes will allow advertisers to create fairly niche product groups.

The last feature to note is the new ‘campaign priority’ setting. This setting is used when you have the same product included in more than one Shopping campaign, but you want to prioritize showing the ads of one campaign over the other. For example, many advertisers will opt to have a catch-all campaign that includes all products contained within their merchant feed, but they might also have a campaign dedicated to advertising promotions. Therefore, when a sale is running, the advertiser can switch the campaign priority setting for their promotion campaign to ‘high’ – so when someone searches on their product, a product ad containing their promotional text is served over their standard catch-all campaign text.


Overall, you can see that the goal of Google Shopping campaigns is to make it easier for advertisers to organize, manage, and report on product ads. The reception for Shopping campaigns has been positive so far from most advertisers, and since I am currently in the process of transitioning clients’ campaigns, I will post updates on the final outcome. However, I can recommend for advertisers who are currently making this switch to go slow, and make sure you use all the great data from your PLA campaigns to properly create Shopping campaigns that are built to focus on products that drive sales and increase ROI.

What is your experience with Google Shopping Campaigns? Comment below and follow me @ScottGarrett89

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