Google PLA Tweaking – How to reduce your cost with individual search term bidding

PLA-Tweaking - Reduce your Ad Spending

Want to know where your money goes? Open the search term report of your Product Listing Ads (PLA) campaigns and sort by cost. Typically, you will see a handful of search terms that really spend a lot of money.

Just take this example:
High spending search term

The challenge

As you see, some of the high-cost search terms perform quite well (e.g. “chelsea boots”), others like “leather jackets” don’t. They just spend a lot of money.

So how can you change this? In common AdWords campaigns you would just set an individual bid for each search term using an exact keyword. You definitely want to do the same here, at least for the most expensive search terms that already spent > £900. The problem is: there are no keywords in PLA campaigns and that makes things a bit tricky.

Solution 1: Do it the way Google wants you to do it

Google was very much aware of this problem, so they introduced shopping campaigns. Here you have a tree by categories and brands: you just have to find the right branch for “chelsea boots” (subdivide where necessary) and manually increase the bid.

PLA Shopping campaign

This works actually quite well in most cases. But sometimes it won’t fit your needs. Maybe you don’t have access to your product feed and the product group you need isn’t there (just take “chelsea boots” as an example, as Chelsea is not a brand but a special type of boot offered by different manufacturers). Maybe your products change frequently. Maybe you’re sick of finding the right branch for 100s of search terms. Or maybe you’re an old school AdWords manager and just want to change the bid for this single exact search term.

For decreasing the bid (compared to the standard bid for all products), there is another solution:

Solution 2: Use individual bids for the exact search term

Actually, Google doesn’t allow this. But still it can be done – at least for search terms where you want to enter a lower bid than for the “All products” target. Here is a step-by-step guide how it works.

Step 1: Create a new PLA campaign; let’s call it “High Cost Search Terms” for instance.

Step 2: Create an AdGroup for each search term that has a considerably worse performance than the “All products” target. In our example, I will use the search terms “leather jackets”, “tartan dress” and “maxi dresses”. In each of these AdGroups create a new product target “All products” (trust me, it will make sense later).

Step 3: In each new AdGroup enter all high cost search terms as exact negative keyword, except for the one you want to bid on in this AdGroup. In our example the AdGroup “leather jackets” contains the negative keywords “tartan dress” and “maxi dresses”, the AdGroup “tartan dress” contains “leather jackets” and “maxi dresses” and so on.

AdWords Editor

Step 4: Go to the shared library and create a new list of campaign negatives containing all the search terms you want to give an individual bid as exact negatives.

Step 5: Apply this list to all your PLA campaigns except for the campaign “High Cost Search Terms”.

Add negative keywords using the Shared Library

Step 6: Set your individual bids for the search terms. But be careful: it only works, as long as your bids are lower than the bid of your real “All products” target!!!

Does this really work? I have to admit, I was really skeptic when I first tried it. But it does work. When I check the search terms of my High Cost Search Terms campaign, there is exactly one search term per AdGroup. And I can bid on it!

Note: By August 2014, PLA will no longer be supported – there will only be shopping campaigns. But actually, this cheat should also be working for shopping campaigns (just use a several shopping campaign for each high-cost search term).


Andreas Meyer

Andreas Meyer has been an PPC specialist since 2009. In the years since, he has been in charge of accounts of all sizes among diverse industries. As of 2014, he works as a PPC analyst in the Business Intelligence division. His areas of expertise are PPC account optimization and Google Shopping.