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5 Tips for a Smooth Transition from PLA to Google Shopping

Claudio Dominguez

8 years ago



Shopping campaigns are the new type of campaigns that are targeted for Product Listing Ads (PLAs). This new type of PLA campaigns
streamline the way you manage and bid on the products you want to promote.

They also help you with a more granular reporting on performance and easier management that will allow growth.

Some of the key benefits of this new type of campaigns are the following:

  • Retail-centric product management system
  • Advanced reporting for product performance
  • Benchmark data to compare against competitors
  • Campaign level priorities

Besides having more data to work with and the fact that managing your product inventory will be much easier, there are other things to take into consideration when considering making the switch from PLA to Shopping Campaigns.

Perhaps the biggest reason you can find to make the transition is that Google will force the transition by August of 2014. So, why wait on something to catch you off guard when you can make the transition yourself and make sure this is a smooth one that will bring benefits to your advertising efforts?

You Get Better Data to Work With

Shopping Campaigns give you access to metrics that will ultimately help you optimize more efficiently and thereby improve your performance.

With access to benchmarks for both CTR and CPC, you can better understand the optimizations needed to improve your Shopping Campaign performance. The Impression Share metric will allow you to know how many impressions you are really getting from all the opportunities there are to show your products.

Why You Should Wait to Transition to Shopping Campaigns

Not everything is perfect with Shopping Campaigns. Shopping Campaigns are mainly intended to ease the work for small businesses wanting to break into the Product Listing Ads space.

It has proven difficult for Google to create an interface that is both easy to use for small businesses, but at the same time offer the needed complexity for bigger advertisers to manage their campaigns efficiently.

If you’re a bigger advertiser, you want to read the next couple of sections closely to determine if you can afford to transition to Shopping Campaigns.

a. Bidding Is All Manual (Yes, You Can’t Use Excel, AdWords Editor, Rules or API)

The more granular you get, the more time it will take you to adjust your bids. There is no way to export to Excel in order to make bulk changes or apply rules. There is no support in AdWords Editor for Shopping Campaigns either; and worst yet, you cannot implement rules or use API based changes to modify bidding.

For all of this, you will need to spend a significant amount of time adjusting your bids manually for each product group or even specific products, depending on how much you separated your inventory.

If you have a small inventory then this will not create an issue. But if your product selection is above the 1,000-3,000 product mark, then I can guarantee you will spend a lot of time managing bids.

The good part is that you can easier segment your products, so you can aggregate your bidding decisions. It’s not perfect though and you will spend a lot of time on bidding with the current Shopping Campaign setup.

b. It’s Tedious to Set Up (Again, No AdWords Editor Support)

I use a combination of Excel and AdWords Editor to create my campaigns. Ultimately AdWords Editor takes all the credit though, as that is where I upload all my campaign information and then upload it to AdWords. However, this method is not applicable to Shopping Campaigns because there is no AdWords Editor.

This means that you will have to go through the tedious task of setting everything up in the AdWords interface. Using settings from other campaigns will not prove that useful, so you will need to click on every option and select the appropriate setting. This is far from optimal in terms of efficiency and time management, but it is the only option available at the moment.

I hope that Google will fix this very soon. I can only imagine what the biggest advertisers do at the moment (granted they don’t have access to a new beta version of Shopping Campaigns).

c. If You Can’t Adjust Your Data Feed You Will Have Challenges Creating the Right Structure

If you really want to create highly relevant and granular Shopping Campaigns, then you need to be able to adjust the information in your data feed. If you are relying purely on a standard data feed, you’re going to experience difficulties with the new Shopping Campaign format.

Being able to optimize your data feed means that you will be able to optimize your product titles and descriptions. But more importantly, the Shopping Campaign structure is based on your data feed. If you only have top-level categories or generic categories you will end up with a sub-par Shopping campaign that will force you to make bid changes for each individual product (which is almost impossible to manage at the current time).

Tips on How to Make the Transition

1. Use Sub-Product Groups to Get Out of One “All Products” Group

A common mistake by PLA advertisers was to group all products together in one sole Ad Group. The problem persists in Shopping Campaigns, but now it’s much easier to divide your product groups than it was before.

Shopping Campaigns allow us to easily create product groups based on the information found in our data feed. To create them we will just need to expand our initial “All Products” product group into others.

By doing this, you will be able to structure your product inventory better and make better optimizations to your promoted products.

Take Benchmark CPC in Consideration for Your Initial Bids.

One of the advantages of using Shopping Campaigns is that Google will give you benchmark data for both Average CPC and CTR.

The first one will help you incredibly to set your initial bids. You will of course need to check on them in the following days of activating the campaign, but using this metric will help you start with the right foot in terms of bidding for your products.

2. Keep your PLA Campaign Active Alongside the New Shopping Campaign.

First, you need to decide what products you want to start advertising on the campaign. For this, you could go down 2 roads. You can launch a competing Shopping Campaign with all the products on it and let both the PLA and Shopping Campaign compete. This will allow you to pause the PLA a couple of weeks after.

Or, you can leave the PLA campaign only with the products that generate more revenue. This will let you start with smaller chunks over at your Shopping campaign and wait for them to pick up on clicks and conversions before you continue to move the rest of your inventory.

Regardless of your decision, you will now need to create this new Shopping Campaign and link it to your Merchant Center Account. When this is done, you will need to properly divide your new campaign by product group and make sure you bring out those products you want to specifically promote and bid accordingly.

If you choose the second approach, you will want to exclude the products that you are still running on your PLA from your Shopping Campaign. To do this, just make sure you select this option on the bid for the rest of the products that you didn’t group. Just like this:

With that done, you will also want to exclude the products being promoted in your Shopping Campaign from your PLA Campaign.

Last but not least, you need to set up a priority for your Shopping Campaign. Depending on what products you are promoting, you may want to select a low priority or a high priority.

Depending on your size you want to move between 10-20% of your PLA campaign to your Shopping campaign at a time. There is a lot of manual work when moving a big PLA campaign to a Shopping. Therefore the second approach is better as it makes it just easier to do it in chunks than taking everything at once.

3. Use Custom Labels.

In order for you to use custom labels, you will need to be able to modify the information in your data feed. As said before, this is crucial for many reasons, and using custom labels is one of them. These work the same way that AdWords labels used to work with PLA, but with Shopping Campaigns you can now use more than one.

To use custom labels you will need to add a column to your Data Feed with the header “custom_label_#”, instead of # you will use numbers from 0 to 4 depending on how many labels you want to have. Having this set-up will allow you to do custom categories for product groups and manage your inventory better.

Some examples of custom labels that you could use are labels for seasons. When using these, you will add to specific items labels such as winter, summer, spring; and bid to each item depending on the season or even exclude product groups altogether. Some other examples of custom label definitions and specific custom labels are:

  • Profit Margin (10%, 20%, 30%).
  • Inventory status (Low stock, Push this product, Old stock).
  • Seller Rate (Bestseller, Low seller).

4. Get Very Granular When Dividing Products

With all of these options to divide your products in a product group, I wouldn’t know why you will want to stay with one All Products group. You need to take advantage of the options to make sure you structure your campaign as granular as you possibly can.

This will help you bid accordingly to items that are giving you a better ROI and to those that aren’t. It will also help you determine performance based on specific product categories instead of judging all of your inventory as a whole.

I will recommend you to evenly divide your product groups and bring out specific items to which you may want to bid more, bid less or even exclude from being advertised.

5. Perform Strategic Bidding.

As mentioned before, you will be able to create proper bidding strategies for specific product groups and even for specific products. Therefore, you will be able to allocate higher bids to the product categories and products that are giving you more revenue and at the same time, bid more cautiously for those products that are not currently having the best performance.

Something extremely helpful is that you will be able to exclude products. This way you can avoid advertising for products that are not giving you good results or that don’t make sense to advertise at specific points in time.

Don’t resist change

Change may not be the easiest thing to embrace, but I can guarantee you that it is better to make this transition before it is enforced on you. Your competitors are probably doing it already and you definitely want to seize the moment as soon as possible.

If you implement these techniques and you make sure to follow the best practices, then you shouldn’t have any problems with making the transition. More than a change, you will be performing an improvement to your campaign. The new setup of Shopping Campaigns makes it easier for you to properly manage the inventory that you are advertising.

In the end, all the tools that are being placed at your disposal will surely prove this change to be a positive one.

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