The transition to Google Shopping – What do advertisers have to care about?

Google Shopping

There are only a couple of days left until Google abandons its PLA campaigns, which will then be completely replaced by the new Shopping campaigns launched earlier this year. For this reason, I want to give you a short overview of what to keep in mind and how you can work on a smooth transition – in case you have not done it yet – including an easy step by step guideline which will help you to get ready during the last couple of days!

What are Product Listings?

Product listings have become one of the most vital parts of any successful PPC strategy, especially for retailers offering products with a high online competition. In comparison to usual search ads, product listings offer the possibility of actually seeing the product before clicking on the ad, including the price, shipping costs and the most important product information delivered in the title (see image on top).

Why the transition?

Questions arise why there actually has to be a transition from PLA campaigns to Shopping campaigns. I will try to answer that question: product listing have become an important part of retailers’ campaigns, sometimes spending up to 60 or 70 % of the total paid search budget on PLAs. Until Shopping campaigns were launched, PLA campaigns have always been modified search campaigns connected with a client’s Merchant Center. Therefore, developing dedicated campaign types was just a matter of time.

In addition to that, PLA campaigns could not offer you detailed reports of the performance of single products unless you set up your campaigns very granular – one product ID per ad group. But with the new Shopping campaigns you get far more new data via Google, such as performance data on products and brands. All of which can be found either on ad group or campaign level.

What to keep in mind during the transition

Ideally, you have already transferred your campaigns to Shopping campaigns or are almost done with the transition. According to my experience, it takes a while for every campaign to achieve a performance in scope with your key performance indicators (KPIs). Therefore, Google recommended a gradual transition when it announced the end of PLA campaigns.

When you already have enough data on your PLA campaigns, you can use this data to build up your new Shopping campaigns. Just figure out which brands, products or product types already work well and start with these for your campaigns. Give the product groups their own ad groups. Others, for example brands, can be set up within one ad group at the beginning and gradually be split up as soon as you see that enough relevant and valuable data has been gathered. If you split them up granular, you should also make sure to exclude other targets and other products in “All Products”!

Have you used AdWords Labels with your PLAs? Don’t forget to rework them, make them Custom Labels and use more relevant product targets to set up your campaigns. Choose these carefully and make sure they reflect ad groups and campaigns you intend to set up.

If you offer seasonal products give them a label and set up an own campaign for them. With Shopping campaigns, you have the possibility to set campaign priorities. So if you want to promote your ‘sale‘ products separately you can set up an own campaign for them, set their campaign priority to high and make sure that they are only displayed via their own dedicated campaign. While this campaign is active, your labeled products will not be displayed via other Shopping campaigns.

You should also make sure to use the extra reports now being offered with Shopping. You receive great and detailed insights that will help you to improve your performance.

A step-by-step transition guideline

  1. Think about how you want to set up your Shopping campaign. By brands? Or by product types? Do you need labels for special product targets? Make sure that you do not waste time on reworking the feed over and over because you didn’t plan your process!
  2. Check your current PLA campaign(s). Do you already know what product targets work well? Use them to have a first outline of which targets you can already set up in own ad groups and which ones you keep in one overall ad group at first. Start simple!
  3. Rework your feed – use Custom Labels instead of AdWords Labels! While reworking this part of your feed you can also use the time to make sure it is still up to date to Google’s feed requirements.
  4. Get started! Setting up Shopping campaigns in the user interface feels kind of odd at the beginning but do not worry: You will eventually get used to it. Don’t forget to exclude certain product targets as well. Take your time at the beginning to figure out the best workflow for the setup.
  5. Pause your PLA targets as soon as you are ready to start with Shopping. If you have not started yet, you will not have enough time for a smooth transition anymore, but try to use the last couple of days. In order to avoid conversion and turnover drops, pause your PLA ad groups and campaigns step by step, activating the correspondent Shopping ones at the same time.
  6. As soon as you have transferred your traffic from PLA to Shopping, you are done. You can finally start checking the performance of your new campaign(s) and use the new reports and insights offered by Google.

Google also offers an upgrade tool for PLAs, which creates a Shopping campaign from your regular PLA campaign, with a campaign structure and bids based on your regular PLA campaign and historical performance data.


Maximilian Hainlein

I'm working for crealytics as Social Media and Marketing Manager since 2011. My motto: "It's better to be the needle than the haystack."