Product Listing Ads and Google Shopping are hot: More sales for less cost than most other shopping channels. But setting up a PLA campaign is a skill that most merchants have not yet acquired. This step-by-step guide will get you started. It is simple and short, but extensive enough to start a profitable PLA-campaign.

Before you begin, make sure that you already have a Google Merchant Center (with products uploaded successfully) and an AdWords account.

1. Linking your Merchant and AdWords accounts

This is fairly simple: Log into your Google Merchant Center (GMC) > Settings > AdWords. There are two ways to get it done:

  1. If you already have an AdWords account that is part of the same Google account (uses the same login) as your Merchant Center, you can link your GMC to your AdWords account while setting up your PLA-campaign. Click on the blue “Set Up Product Listing Ads Campaign” button to start the process.
  2. Enter the AdWords Customer ID and click “Link Account.” This works with any AdWords account.


2. Setting up a PLA campaign

  • Go to the AdWords account you have linked with your GMC.
  • Click the Campaigns tab. Then click +New campaign and select Search Network only.
  • Change the name of the campaign to something like: Product Listing Ads.
  • Select the radio button next to “Product listing ads” in the campaign type section of the page.

  • Set language and location targeting to your preferences.
  • Set the daily budget.
  • Scroll down to the Ad extensions section of the page and choose a linked Merchant Center account to associate with your campaign.

  • Click save and continue.
  • On the next page: Change Ad Group name to: All products.
  • If you have a promotion that is applicable to all your products put it under “Promotion”. The text can be up to 45 characters long and will appear under your ad.

  • Add a default bid to your adgroup.
  • Click Save ad group.

3. Structuring your campaign

Click the Auto Targets tab. You will see one product target called All Products there. It is a default setting but not an optimal one. You will be better off adding multiple product targets and set different bids for different groups of products.

Creating Product Targets means that you create a group of products (defined by a maximum of 3 ‘attributes’) and set a bid for all products in this group. Product targets in a PLA-campaign perform the same role as keywords in a regular text ads campaign. The attributes most commonly used are Product_type and Brand.

To create a new product target, click +Add product target, select the ad group and add a group of products using the attributes. Let’s say one of your product types is headphones. This is how you do it:

Alternatively, you can also set a product target for all Sony products (so: for the Sony headphones and all other Sony products):

You can also create product targets using multiple attributes, so your bids can be more granular:

You can validate each product target before saving it, to make sure it matches products in your GMC.

Do the same with all your product types until each product is covered.

Keep the ‘All products’ product target in case there are still products that are not covered by any of the product targets you have created. All products will work as a ‘catch-all’.

4. Managing bids

Start by setting the same initial bid for all product targets, except ‘All Products’; for the All Products target, set a bid that is 50% of the other bids. This will prevent the generic ‘All Products’ target from taking traffic away from your specific product targets.

Check the performance of each product target at least once a week. Adjust the bids to maximize effectiveness of your campaign.

If you decide that some products are not worth advertising for, you can completely exclude them from the campaign. However, it’s not sufficient to pause the corresponding product targets, because traffic will still be generated by the ‘All Products’ product target. You need to exclude the products from your feed completely. Check if your feed management tool gives you such an option. If you use DataFeedWatch, you can do in the In/Exclude products tab.

5. Negative keywords

Although a PLA campaign doesn’t use any keywords, you can still use negative keywords to prevent your PLAs from being triggered by unwanted search queries. To do this, go to the search queries report in the keywords tab > details > search terms > All.

If you find search queries that are not related to your products, or clearly underperform, check them and click Add as negative keyword.