Product Listing Ads: A Comprehensive Guide & Best Practices

by | Oct 10, 2023 | Amazon Listing Optimization

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) emerged in 2012 as Google’s first major foray into incorporating rich product images and details directly into search results. Prior to this, text-based Google AdWords ads dominated the search landscape. 

PLAs ushered in a more visual era, displaying product images, prices, store names and more. This provided a preview of the actual product or website listing, enticing searchers to click through to the merchant’s site.

Over time, Google refined and expanded PLAs into full-fledged Shopping Campaigns in 2018. These campaigns unify product data across Google surfaces including search, shopping, images and more. This transition expanded PLAs beyond Google Search into a multi-channel product discovery engine.

product listing ads

The Impact of PLAs on the Search Landscape

How PLAs Have Reshaped the Search Landscape

PLAs, or Product Listing Ads, have had a significant impact on the search landscape since their introduction. These ads have revolutionized the way products are displayed and promoted on search engine results pages (SERPs). Prior to the emergence of PLAs, search results were primarily composed of plain text ads and organic blue links. However, with the introduction of Product Listing Ad management, the search landscape underwent a transformation.

One of the most notable changes brought about by PLAs is the visual appeal they offer. Unlike traditional text ads, product listing ads best practices needs to incorporate visually compelling product images and details directly into the search results. This visual element immediately captures users’ attention and provides them with a more engaging and informative experience. By showcasing product images alongside relevant information such as prices, ratings, and reviews, PLAs enable users to make more informed decisions without even clicking through to a website.

product listing ads

The Visual Shift: From Plain Text Ads to Colorful Product Images

The transition from plain text ads to colorful product images through PLAs brought about a significant visual shift in the search landscape. This shift had a profound impact on searchers, as it allowed for effortless product discovery and research directly on Google. The inclusion of large product photos and key details such as price and merchant name simplified the comparison process even before clicking on any specific result. This visual enhancement provided users with a more engaging and informative experience, enabling them to make more informed decisions without having to navigate through multiple websites.

As consumers quickly adapted to these visually appealing PLAs, their behavior underwent a notable change. Studies have shown that PLAs achieved click-through rates that were up to 10 times higher compared to traditional text ads. This increase in click-through rates can be attributed to the fact that the visual nature of PLAs immediately captures users’ attention and entices them to explore further. The ability to see product images and important details at a glance significantly influenced consumer behavior, making PLAs an effective tool for advertisers to drive traffic and conversions.

product listing ads

Consumer Behavior: Increased Click-Through Rates for PLAs

The introduction of PLAs brought about a significant change in consumer behavior, leading to increased click-through rates for these visually appealing ad formats. Advertisers found that PLAs provided a product-focused format that effectively showcased their offerings, with built-in social proof elements such as ratings, brand name, and price points. 

This eliminated the need for persuasive text ads and allowed the product images and details to speak for themselves. As a result, advertisers quickly embraced PLAs as a powerful tool for promoting ecommerce products.

By 2019, PLAs had become the primary source of clicks for retail advertisers, despite only accounting for 30% of text ad impressions. This shift in consumer behavior was so significant that leading retailers like Walmart allocated a substantial 80% of their search budgets specifically to PLAs due to their superior performance. 

The Financial Implications of PLAs for Advertisers

product listing ads

Cost Comparison: PLA s vs. Traditional Text Ads

When it comes to cost comparison, Product Listing Ads (PLAs) offer significant financial benefits for retailers compared to traditional text ads. PLAs not only deliver stronger results but also come at a lower cost per click (CPC). 

According to studies conducted by IgnitionOne, PLAs have been found to achieve click-through rates that are six times higher than text ads, all while maintaining a CPC that is only half the cost. This cost advantage makes PLAs an attractive option for retailers looking to maximize their advertising budget and achieve better returns on their investment. 

By leveraging the power of visually appealing product-focused ads, retailers can effectively reach their target audience while keeping their advertising costs in check.

Advertisers’ Budget Allocation: PLAs vs. Text Ads

The exceptional cost efficiency of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) compared to text ads has resulted in a significant reallocation of budget by advertisers. Retailers have recognized the value of PLAs and have made substantial shifts in their budget allocation towards this advertising format. 

Walmart, for instance, revealed that PLAs now account for 80% of the total amount spent on Google Ads, a substantial increase from the mere 15% allocated in 2015. Similarly, Amazon has dedicated 80% of its Google ad spend exclusively to PLAs. These statistics highlight the growing recognition among advertisers of the effectiveness and return on investment that PLAs offer, leading to a strategic shift in budget allocation to maximize the impact of their advertising campaigns.

The Right Fit: Who Should Use PLAs? 

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have become an increasingly popular advertising format for retailers, thanks to their cost efficiency and effectiveness in driving sales. However, not all businesses may benefit equally from using PLAs. 

product listing ads

1. E-commerce Retailers: A Perfect Match

E-commerce retailers are the ideal candidates for utilizing PLAs due to their ability to showcase products directly in search engine results. According to a study by Merkle, PLAs accounted for 60% of Google search ad clicks for retailers in Q4 2020. This statistic highlights the significant impact PLAs can have on driving traffic and conversions for online retailers. 

By displaying product images, prices, and other relevant information, PLAs provide a visually appealing and informative experience for potential customers, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

2. Retailers with Large Product Inventories

If your business offers a wide range of products, PLAs can be a game-changer. Traditional text ads may not effectively showcase the variety of products you offer, making it challenging to capture the attention of potential customers. However, PLAs allow you to display multiple products simultaneously, increasing the chances of attracting relevant traffic. 

According to Google, advertisers using PLAs experienced a 30% higher click-through rate compared to text ads in 2020. This data underscores the advantage of using PLAs for retailers with extensive product inventories.

3. Advertisers Targeting Mobile Users

With the rise of mobile usage, it is crucial for advertisers to optimize their campaigns for mobile devices. PLAs are inherently mobile-friendly and seamlessly integrate into mobile search results. 

Mobile PLA impressions grew by 50% year-over-year in 2020. This growth indicates that mobile users are engaging with PLAs more frequently, making it an excellent opportunity for advertisers to reach their target audience effectively. By leveraging PLAs, advertisers can tap into the mobile market and drive conversions from users on the go.

4. Advertisers Focused on ROI

For businesses looking to maximize their return on investment (ROI), PLAs offer a compelling proposition. The cost-per-click (CPC) for PLAs is often lower compared to text ads, resulting in a higher ROI. 

According to Sidecar’s 2021 Benchmarks Report, PLAs had a 34% lower CPC than text ads in Q1 2021. This cost efficiency, coupled with the ability to showcase products visually, makes PLAs an attractive option for advertisers aiming to generate sales while optimizing their advertising spend.

The Future of PLAs: Google Shopping Campaigns

Addressing Functionality and Campaign Management Issues

While wildly successful, Product Listing Ads did suffer from limited functionality and disjointed campaign management. Advertisers struggled to unify product data, track sales and optimize spending across Google’s fragmented systems.

Opportunities for Retailers With the New Campaign Structure

Google Shopping Campaigns aim to resolve this by consolidating PLAs with Google Shopping under one roof. This unified platform offers more seamless promotion across Google’s suite including search, shopping tab, images and more.

Early data suggests strong opportunities for retailers under this consolidated approach. Key advantages include better attribution with store visits and sales data. Advertisers also gain more granular control over product segmentation and bidding. Automatic bidding algorithms help optimize budgets across thousand of product groups.

Despite the transition, PLAs remain the primary ad unit powering performance. The core principles of prominent product images and details remain as the engine behind Google Shopping Campaigns. Retailers embracing the new centralized system will continue seeing superior results from PLAs.

product listing ads

Tips and Best Practices for Maximizing PLA Performance

1. Segment Product Groups for Optimal Bids and Budgets

Granular segmentation allows retailers to set optimal bids and budgets for each product line. By creating separate product groups for different categories, such as men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, retailers can allocate their budget and bidding strategy based on the performance of each segment. This ensures that resources are focused on the most profitable areas and maximizes the return on investment.

2. Optimize Titles and Descriptions for Maximum Relevance

The titles and descriptions of products play a crucial role in attracting potential customers. Retailers should include relevant keywords that accurately describe their products. 

For example, if selling running shoes, including specific details such as brand, model, size, and color in the title and description will help match customer search queries and increase the chances of appearing in relevant PLA searches.

3. Use High-Quality Images to Grab Attention

Visual appeal is essential in capturing the attention of online shoppers. Retailers should ensure that their product images are high-quality, clear, and visually appealing. 

For instance, if selling home decor items, using images that showcase the product in a well-styled room setting can help customers envision how it would look in their own homes, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

4. Regularly Monitor and Adjust Bids

Monitoring the performance of PLAs is crucial to maximize their effectiveness. Retailers should closely track metrics such as click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, and return on ad spend (ROAS). 

By analyzing these metrics, retailers can identify underperforming product groups or opportunities for improvement. Adjusting bids accordingly allows retailers to optimize their PLA performance by allocating resources where they will have the greatest impact.

5. Leverage Seasonal and Trending Opportunities

Retailers can boost PLA performance by taking advantage of seasonal trends and popular products. Creating dedicated product groups for trending gifts, clearance items, or seasonal promotions allows retailers to target specific customer segments and capitalize on their purchasing intent. 

For example, during the holiday season, creating a product group specifically for “gifts under $50” can attract budget-conscious shoppers looking for affordable presents, increasing the chances of conversions and sales.

Leveraging AI to Optimize PLAs

product listing ads

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are opening new opportunities to optimize Product Listing Ads. 

Key ways AI can enhance PLA performance include:

Automated Feed Optimization

AI technology can analyze product data feeds to detect errors, duplicate products, irrelevant items, and other issues. By ensuring that only the highest quality listings make it into PLAs, retailers can improve the overall performance and effectiveness of their campaigns. This automated process saves time and resources that would otherwise be spent manually reviewing and correcting feed errors.

Dynamic Bidding

Sophisticated algorithms can set optimal bids for each product group based on historical metrics, seasonality, competition, and other factors. By continuously analyzing and adjusting bids in real-time, retailers can maximize their return on investment dynamically. This approach allows for more efficient budget allocation and ensures that bids are optimized to achieve the best possible results for each product group.

Enhanced Segmentation

Powerful clustering algorithms can segment millions of products into refined groups with common traits. This enhanced segmentation allows retailers to create tailored PLAs that target each cluster specifically. By grouping similar products together, retailers can create more relevant and targeted ads, increasing the chances of attracting potential customers who are specifically interested in those products.

Predictive Budget Allocation

AI technology can analyze past search trends and product performance data to predict the optimal budget distribution across PLAs. This predictive approach saves time on manual budget allocation and ensures that resources are allocated to the most promising areas. By leveraging historical data and trends, retailers can make informed decisions about where to allocate their budget for maximum impact and ROI.


Machine learning models can help tailor PLAs to individual searcher intent and preferences, resulting in more relevant and personalized results. By analyzing user behavior, search history, and other data points, AI can deliver ads that are more likely to resonate with individual users. This personalization increases the chances of higher click-through rates (CTR) and conversions as users are more likely to engage with ads that align with their specific interests and preferences.

As PLAs grow in scale and complexity, leveraging AI and automation will be key to efficiently optimizing these campaigns. Retailers that embrace these technologies will gain an edge.

Conclusion: The Continued Relevance of PLAs 

Product Listing Ads have transformed the search landscape since their debut, providing a visual product discovery experience for searchers. Retailers have adapted by embracing PLAs as the centerpiece of their Google ad strategy.

The tremendous cost and conversion benefits of PLAs ensure they will remain highly relevant in the future. Google Shopping Campaigns aim to resolve lingering limitations around managing PLAs at scale across Google’s ecosystem.

Unlock the Future of Branding with AI! Join the elite 1% and supercharge your Amazon strategy with ProductScope’s ChatGPT. Save time, gain insights, and elevate conversions. Dive in now – START FOR FREE!


1. What are Product Listing Ads (PLAs)?

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are a type of online advertising format that allows retailers to showcase their products directly within search engine results. These ads typically include an image, title, price, and other relevant information about the product. 

2. How Do Plas Differ From Traditional Text Ads?

Unlike traditional text ads, PLAs focus on visual representation by displaying product images alongside relevant information. This visual format allows users to get a better understanding of the product before clicking on the ad. Additionally, PLAs are typically triggered by specific search queries related to the products being advertised, ensuring that they are shown to users who are actively searching for those products.

3. How Can I Optimize My Product Data Feeds for PLAs?

To optimize your product data feeds for PLAs, it’s important to ensure that your data is accurate, complete, and up-to-date. This includes providing detailed product descriptions, accurate pricing information, high-quality images, and relevant attributes such as brand, color, size, etc. Regularly reviewing and updating your data feeds will help improve the quality of your listings and increase their visibility in search results.

4. What Role Does Automation Play in PLA Optimization?

Automation plays a crucial role in PLA optimization by leveraging AI technology to analyze product data feeds, set optimal bids, segment products into refined groups, predict budget allocation, and personalize ads based on individual searcher intent and preferences. By automating these processes, retailers can save time and resources while improving the overall performance and effectiveness of their PLA campaigns.

5. How Can I Measure the Success of My PLA Campaigns?

To measure the success of your PLA campaigns, you can track key performance metrics such as impressions, clicks, click-through rates (CTR), conversions, and return on ad spend (ROAS). Additionally, you can use analytics tools provided by the advertising platform to gain insights into user behavior, demographics, and other valuable data points. Regularly monitoring and analyzing these metrics will help you identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize your PLA campaigns.

6. What are some best practices for running successful PLAs?

Some best practices for running successful PLAs include optimizing your product data feeds, conducting keyword research to identify relevant search terms, regularly monitoring and adjusting bids based on performance metrics, testing different ad variations, leveraging audience targeting options, and continuously analyzing and optimizing your campaigns based on data insights. It’s also important to stay updated with the latest trends and changes in the PLA landscape to ensure that your campaigns remain competitive.

7. How Can I Stay Ahead in the Ever-Evolving World of PLAs?

To stay ahead in the ever-evolving world of PLAs, it’s important to stay informed about industry trends, changes in advertising platforms’ algorithms and policies, and emerging technologies. Regularly attending industry conferences, reading relevant blogs and publications, and networking with other professionals in the field can help you stay up-to-date with the latest developments. Additionally, continuously testing and experimenting with new strategies and tactics will help you adapt to changes and maintain a competitive edge in your PLA campaigns.

Table of Contents