Google Shopping Campaigns & Product Listing Ads

Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns can be a great way to promote products with Google AdWords. PLAs are search ads that display product name, image, price and merchant name. Utilizing Product Listing Ads can increase click-through rates (CTR) and decrease cost-per-click (CPC) when compared to standard text ads. Shoppers find PLAs more relevant than standard text ads when searching for products.

Product Listing Ad Examples

A Google Merchant Center account is necessary to setup a Google Shopping campaign. This is where you will add your product feed, detailing the products for sale on your website. Once this is complete, you’ll be able to create your Product Listing Ad campaign in AdWords and begin the process of creating ad groups and product targets. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started with Product Listing Ads:

Step 1: Create a Google Merchant Center Account

To get started you’ll need to create a Google Merchant Center account if you don’t already have one. You’ll also need to verify your domain and complete all necessary settings within Google Merchant Center.

General Settings

  • Start by going to:
  • Login or sign up for Google Merchant Center
  • Once you’re logged in to the dashboard, select “General” from the left navigation under “Settings” to enter your store information.
    Tip: Make sure you choose the same time zone as your AdWords account in this section so your data will be consistent.

    Google Merchant Settings Examples

  • To validate your domain, click on the blue “Verify this URL” link below the Website URL field in the General Settings section.
    Google Merchant Settings Verify Domain


Tax & Shipping Settings

Select “Tax and Shipping” from the left navigation under “Settings”. Here you can choose to charge tax within a specific region or none at all. You can also create flat rate shipping charges in certain areas, list the days for shipping products, and use single, multiple, or carrier calculated shipping rates.


AdWords Settings

Select “AdWords” from the left navigation under “Settings”. You have the option to create a new AdWords account or link Google Merchant Center to an existing AdWords account. To create a new AdWords account, follow the prompts given to you at the top of the page. To link an existing account, enter your AdWords Customer ID number and click the “Link Account” button.

Google Merchant Settings Link AdWords Account

User Settings

If you have employees or an agency that needs access to your product feeds, select “Users” from the left navigation under “Settings” to add additional users to the Google Merchant Center account.


Step 2: Create a Test feed in Google Drive or Excel

Data feeds are the files that contain information about your products. This includes product name, description, price, image, etc. for all the items in your store (or just the ones you choose to include). There are several ways to create a product feed as well as 3rd party tools that help automate the process for various e-commerce platforms.

Ensuring the information in your product feed is accurate and formatted correctly is important. When creating your first product feed we recommend using a “Test Data Feed”.

Test Data Feeds

  • By using a Test Data Feed instead of a live feed you are able to fix any errors that are found in your data feed before it goes live. To create a Test Data Feed, follow the same steps as creating a live feed. Click “Data Feeds” in the left navigation, then click “New Test Data Feed” to create a Test Data Feed.
    Google Merchant Settings Test Data Feed
  • Next, you’ll need to choose the country you wish to target with your product feed. You will need a different feed for each country if you plan to market in multiple countries. Countries have different feed requirements so be sure you know what is required for your target country. Reference Google’s Product Feed Specifications for more details on requirements for each country.
  • After you’ve selected your target country, name the feed file that you’ll be uploading to your account. We suggest using a file name with the word “test”, such as “test_feed.txt” to differentiate your test feed from the live feed you will create later.
  • You can then choose to upload a feed file from your computer or a Google Drive spreadsheet. If you don’t have a feed file yet and would like a template to help speed things up, you can choose the option shown below to have a Google Drive spreadsheet generated for you with default columns needed for your feed.
    Note: If you are using 3rd party software for product feed management you may have a link to a data feed file instead of having to create a feed manually.
    Google Merchant Settings Create Test Data Feed
  • If you already have your feed in a Google Drive spreadsheet then you can choose the 2nd option then select the spreadsheet from your Google Drive account.
  • Once you “Save changes”, you will be taken to the Data Feed section of the dashboard. Once you have all the product information and attributes completed in the feed document, click ‘Upload Now’ which will allow Google Merchant Center to upload the product feed and alert you of any errors or issues.
    Google Merchant Settings Upload Test Data Feed
  • After clicking the “Upload now” link, your data feed will begin to process.  Once complete, you will see a list of the number of products uploaded and a link to view any errors found in the feed.
  • If there are errors in the feed, click “view errors” and you’ll be brought to a summary page of the errors found in the feed. You can address these errors and fix them as needed. Many times these errors come from having data in the wrong format, or missing required information. To be sure you have data in the correct format and all required data, reference Google’s Product Feed Specifications
  • Once you’ve corrected any errors you can optimize the feed. This can help increase the chances of your products showing in Google Shopping organic results and also as Product Listing Ads in AdWords for your desired keywords.

Step 3: Optimize Your Feed & Segment Products

Taking the time to optimize your product feed can be very beneficial for your Product Listing Campaigns as well as for organic Google Shopping. Helping Google understand more about your products and what types of search terms they are relevant for can increase your click-through rate and conversions.

Product Title & Description Optimization

Optimizing your data feed helps Google determine where to place your product listing ads. Optimize product titles and descriptions to include keywords that potential customers are searching for. For optimization purposes, having your target search terms or product terms in the product title and description can help Google show your products for these terms.

The idea is to make sure your title and description “describe” the product well enough that it will be shown when people search for relevant terms. This can include the color or material of the product, but should not include things like “free shipping” which is against Google Merchant Center’s Editorial Guidelines.

Using AdWords Grouping, Labels & Custom Variables

By including the [adwords_grouping] and/or [adwords_labels] columns in your feed to segment products, you’re able to target your Product Listing Ads within AdWords and adjust bids for each grouping or label, via product targets. By doing this you can have campaigns or ad groups that target individual groups of products, see detailed metrics for different product targets, and adjust bids for each product target.

The [adwords_grouping] and [adwords_labels] are very similar to each other, [adwords_grouping] attribute can only contain 1 value (such as “on-sale” OR “fast-moving”, etc) and [adwords_labels] attribute can contain multiple values (such as “on sale, holiday special, free shipping”).

Custom Labels

If you are using Google Shopping campaigns, the [adwords_grouping] and [adwords_labels] are no longer necessary, but be sure not to replace [adwords_labels] with custom labels (this could negatively affect your regular Product Listing Ads campaign performance). Using custom labels in your data feed will allow you to create Product Groups in AdWords (not Product Targets which are used in Product Listing Ad campaigns). These Product Groups allow you to segment products in your AdWords account using the data you assigned to each label, as well as other ad solutions like dynamic remarketing.

Google Shopping Campaigns Custom Label Example

Custom variables can contain similar values to the ones used in the [adwords_grouping] and [adwords_labels] attributes. You can have up to five custom labels, numbered 0 through 4 and are limited to 1,000 unique values per custom label across your entire product inventory. Every custom label can have just one value per product and it isn’t necessary for an item to have a value for one or more custom labels. Learn More About Google Shopping Campaigns

Google Shopping Campaigns Custom Label Example


Product Approval

After the data feed has been created and optimized, you can follow the same steps above to create a new ‘Data Feed’ and upload your products so Google Merchant Center can review the product prior to publishing them.

Your products can remain in “awaiting review” status for up to 7 days. To view the status of each product during the review process, navigate to the “Dashboard” in Google Merchant Center and you will see a graph that displays the current status for each of your products.

Step 4: Create Product Listing campaign in AdWords

After you’ve optimized your data feed and segmented your products, you’ll need to create a Product Listing Campaign or Google Shopping Campaign in AdWords for your products to be available for ads. Follow these instructions below:

  • Log in to your AdWords account, then click the green “+Campaign” button as seen below
    Adwords Google Shopping Campaign Setup
  • Choose the “Search Campaign Only” option, on the next page name the campaign, and choose “Product Listing Ads” or “Google Shopping Campaigns” based on the version of AdWords you’re using. Complete the rest of the required settings for the campaign and click “Save and continue”.
  • Next you will create your first Ad Group. You will need to name your Ad Group, set the default CPC and then save.
  • Once the Ad Group is created, it will be the default Ad Group for all of your products. To create a new product target for this Ad Group (or for a new ad group) using the AdWords grouping or AdWords labels you have in your feed simply click the green “+Product Target” button and you will see the options below:
    Adwords PLA Setup
  • From these options you can choose the 2nd option and then insert the attribute and value for this Ad Group. For example, if you used the [adwords_grouping] attribute for all your products and you used “free shipping” as a value, you could select “adwords grouping” in the drop down on the left, then enter “free shipping” in the text field on the right. This would create a product target for items in your data feed that have the “free shipping” value in this column of the feed. You can also add multiple attributes and values to this ad group by clicking “+Add another”.
  • You can then click the “Validate” button to make sure the attribute and the variable text you entered are found in the data feed. If so click “Save”, if not, verify you are entering the correct value for the attribute selected.

After you’ve created all of your product targets, and any Ad Groups for these targets, make sure to adjust your bids for each. You can also check back at a later time to ensure all of the product targets are collecting impressions.

In some instances, the product target for All Products that was created for you may have a higher bid and may be competing with the individual product targets for impressions. Keep this in mind when setting initial CPC bids.