How To Create and Optimize Product Listing Ads (PLAs) for Dropshipping & eCommerce

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Product listing ads are a powerful way to drive traffic to your store and generate sales. Also known as Google Shopping Ads, these ads are created specifically for eCommerce.

You can get your dropshipping products in front of searchers actively looking to make a purchase.

In this guide, we’ll reveal why product listing ads are a great way to promote your products and how to set up your first campaign.

Before we get to the step-by-step guide, you’ll need great products to sell. If your products suck, even the best advertising campaign won’t help.

If you need some help finding lucrative products, check out the SaleHoo Directory. You’ll find over 2.5 million dropshipping products from over 8,000 pre-vetted suppliers. And if you want to add products ready for dropship to your store in minutes, use the SaleHoo Dropship tool.

Once your store is full of awesome products, you’re ready to start driving traffic and sales with PLAs.

Here’s everything you need to know to create a profitable product listing ads campaign.

What are product listing ads?

Product listing ads (PLAs) are advertisements displayed in Google search results for product-focused search queries. They are a type of advertisement on the Google Ads platform.

Unlike a typical text ad displayed on the search engine results page (SERP), PLAs are specifically designed for eCommerce. They contain up-to-date information that is pulled directly from your eCommerce store product feed.

Google dedicates prime real estate on the SERP for product listing ads. They are often displayed above text ads or on the right-hand side of the SERP:

Google product listing ads are also displayed above the organic listings if a searcher clicks on the “Shopping” tab:

These ads enable advertisers to get the attention of online shoppers when they are actively searching for a product. So you can get your dropshipping products in front of people at the precise moment they are looking to make a purchase.

Advantages of using PLAs

Google Shopping Ads are increasingly popular with advertisers. Over 75% of U.S. retailer ad spend goes to Google Shopping Ads, and they generate over 85% of all clicks:

Traditional text ads account for 23.6% of retailer ad spend but generate only 14.7% of clicks.

In simple terms, Google Shopping Ads work. They get more clicks for less percentage ad spend.

Here’s a rundown of the other advantages of Google product listing ads for dropshipping.

You only pay when you get clicks, not impressions

Product listing ads work on a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model. Just like you only pay your dropshipping supplier when a customer buys a product, you only pay Google when somebody clicks on your ad and visits your store.

You don’t need to worry about blowing your budget on impressions that don’t generate clicks and conversions. It’s also much easier to work out the ROI of your campaigns and identify the products that are performing best.

They get your products seen

Product listing ads take up the best positions on the SERP and Google Shopping tab. They are also highly visual with an eye-catching image.

Shoppers notice these ads, and they get clicks. Even if a shopper doesn’t click on your product, they will see your brand at the top of the search results, increasing brand awareness.

Brand awareness is an important part of the eCommerce sales funnel and converting prospects into leads, and leads into customers.

And because Google Shopping Ads uses a PPC model, you won’t have to pay for this increased exposure.

The CTA is clear, click to shop

When a searcher clicks on Google Shopping Ad, the motivation behind the click is clear. They are close to making a purchase and know the type of product they want to buy.

For example, if a shopper searches for a “heavy-duty exercise ball,” they know the type of product they want to purchase. And by looking at the PLA, they can see if a product is in their price range. They already have a lot of the information they need to make a purchasing decision.

This increases the chances of them making a purchase and reduces ad spend by limiting wasted clicks.

The search intent is very strong

A searcher using a product-focused keyword or clicking on the Google Shopping tab is already past the research phase of the buyer’s journey. They are looking to buy.

There is clear commercial intent.

In the U.S., nearly 25% of people turn to search engines when they are looking to purchase a product:

Product listing ads are the best way to get your dropshipping products in front of shoppers that are actively searching and ready to make a purchase.

The user experience is very simple

A smooth user experience is key to eCommerce sales. Therefore, you want to make the transition between an ad and the landing page on your dropshipping store as smooth as possible.

Product listing ads make this transition simple. When a shopper clicks on a Google Shopping Ad, they land straight on the product page. If your product pages are well-designed, they can see all the information they need to make a purchasing decision directly on the page.

The last step is to click on the “Buy Now” button.

How to set up and use product listing ads

Now you know what Google product listing ads are and why they can be so lucrative for dropshipping.

In this section of the guide, you’ll learn how to set up and launch your first ad campaign.

1. Set up a Google Ads account

The first step is to create a Google Ads account.

Head over to Google Ads and log in or create a new account. If you already have a Google Account for Gmail, you can enter your login details to sign in to Google Ads.

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be prompted to create your first campaign. You can skip this for now by switching to Expert Mode at the bottom of the page.

You can now create an account without launching a campaign. The next step is to enter your business information, including your billing country, time zone, and currency.

Once you’ve submitted this information, click “Submit” to finish your Google Ads account setup.

2. Set up a Google merchant center account

The next step is to create a Google Merchant Center account to upload your products.

Head over to the Merchant Center website and click “Get started.”

Like Google Ads, you can sign up using your existing Google Account.

You’ll need to enter details about your business to complete the account setup.

Once you’ve created your account, you’ll need to verify your store.

3. Verify your store

If you already use Google Analytics or Google Search Console, your dropshipping store should be connected to your Google Account and visible in the Merchant Center.

Otherwise, you’ll need to verify your store manually.

In the Merchant Center, click on “Tools” and then “Website.”

You can now enter the URL of your dropshipping store. Make sure you include http:// or https:// at the start of the URL and click “Continue.”

You’ll now see the HTML code you need to add to your homepage to verify your store.

If you know how to add HTML code to the header of your site’s homepage, copy the meta tag and add it to your website.

For those that are less comfortable with altering code, there are more user-friendly ways to do this.

If you use WooCommerce, you can use a plugin like Insert Headers and Footers to add the HTML tag without writing or editing any code.

If you use Shopify, you can connect your store to your Merchant Center account through the Google channel app.

Once you have connected your store, click on “Verify website” in the bottom right of the page.

You’ll get a confirmation email once your store has been verified.

4. Upload your products to create a shopping feed

Now you have a verified Google Merchant Center account, you can upload your product data feed.

Google uses your product feed information to decide which products to display in organic shopping results and product listing ads.

There are three ways to add products to your feed. You can use a Google Sheets database, upload a CSV file, or use the Content API tool.

If you use WooCommerce, there are a bunch of free and paid plugins to help you upload and manage your product feed.

Shopify also has some great free and paid apps to help you create your Google feed.

5. Set up product settings

One of the most significant differences between product listing ads and Google text ads is that you don’t place bids on specific keywords related to your products.

Google uses your product data feed to determine which search terms are a good match for your products.

That’s why your product feed is so important. Google uses the information you provide to decide when to display your ads in search results.

Here are some quick product feed optimization tips. We’ll go into more detailed optimization techniques later in the guide.

Include Keywords in Titles

Product titles are one of the most important elements of your feed. Use keyword research to find out the search terms your potential customers are using and include them in a title that fits the 150 character limit.

Include Keywords in Descriptions

Product descriptions are another opportunity to include secondary keywords and increase the targeting and reach of your product listing ads.

Choose the Right Product Categories

Google provides a list of categories to choose from for each of your products. Make sure your product categories are accurate and super-relevant.

6. Link Google Ads account to Google merchant center

Before creating your first product list ads campaign, you need to connect your Google Ads account with your Merchant Center account.

From your Merchant Center account, navigate to “Tools” and then “Settings.”

Click on “Link accounts” then “Google Ads,” and you’ll see a page like the one below:

You can now click on “Link” in the “Actions” column to send a link request.

Once you accept the link request on Google Ads, you’re all set to create a product listing ads campaign for your dropshipping store.

7. Create campaign

With all the prep work done, log in to your Google Ads account.

Navigate to the Campaigns page and click on the “New Campaign” button.

Next, you’ll need to choose a campaign goal. For a product listing ads campaign, you’ll want to choose Sales.

Choose Shopping from the campaign type options.

Now, choose a name for your campaign. You can also set your budget and bidding strategy - you can change both of these settings later.

It’s now time to create product groups based on your Merchant Center feed.

You should break your campaign down into smaller product groups with subcategories. This will allow you to get more granular performance data and optimize individual product groups.

You can divide your product feed based on category, brand, channel, and item ID. There is also an option of creating custom labels and using multiple level groups to further segment your products.

Once you have set up your product groups, upload your assets (logo, images, text) and save your shopping campaign.

8. Determine your budget

Before you launch your product listing ads campaign, you need to work out your budget.

One of the biggest challenges of using PLAs for dropshipping is that the margins on products are often small. To generate a decent profit, you need to focus your efforts on the right products.

For example, if you sell watches with a $20 profit margin per item, you can afford to promote the product on Google Ads and still generate a healthy profit.

If you sell kids' toys with a $3 profit margin, it will be hard to generate enough sales to make advertising the product on Google Shopping worthwhile.

The most popular option for Google Shopping Ads is to use a daily budget. This limits the amount you will spend each day. The right budget for your campaign will depend on the product group and how much you are willing to spend to reach your goals.

It’s important that you get enough exposure and clicks to generate performance data, but you don’t want to blow through your budget too quickly.

Try to find a balance that generates the best results for your dropshipping store.

9. Set up bidding

One of the big decisions you’ll have to make is whether to use manual or automated bidding.

Smart Bidding is Google’s automated Shopping Ads solution. You can choose a strategy from Target ROAS, Enhanced CPC, or Maximize Clicks, and Google will handle the bidding for you.

With manual bidding, you need to pay much more attention to your campaigns. You’ll need to set the maximum bids, but you will get extra insights and transparency that you don’t get with Smart campaigns.

For a new campaign, it’s generally better to opt for manual bidding. This is because you get more control over the campaign during the initial stage when you generate your first conversions.

Once your campaign has been up and running for a while, you can experiment with Smart Bidding to see how it impacts campaign performance.

How to optimize Google product listing ads (PLAs) and make more sales

Uploading your product feed and launching a campaign isn’t enough to be successful with product listing ads.

You need to optimize your ad campaign.

Here are 10 Google Shopping Ads optimization tips to get maximum ROI and sales.

1. Create eye-catching titles

Your titles have a significant impact on clickthrough rate and making sure that your products show up for the right search queries.

A good title can increase your visibility in search results.

Here’s an example of the Google Shopping Ads for “personalized headphones”:

You can see that some of the listings do not feature an exact match of the keyword, but they do feature secondary keywords like “customized.”

Using target keywords and secondary keywords can increase the visibility of your dropshipping products.

It’s also important to pay attention to the character count. Try to keep your titles below 150 characters to avoid them being cut off by Google.

2. Create a negative keyword list

Negative keywords are vital for campaign ROI.

You can't choose the keywords that will display your products like a text ad, but you can still add negative keywords to your Google Shopping campaigns.

Negative keywords ensure that your products are only displayed to shoppers that will be interested.

For example, if you sell luxury watches, somebody looking for a “cheap” or “budget” watch is unlikely to buy from you. But they may still click on your ad.

Wasted clicks cost money.

The way to stop your products from being displayed for irrelevant queries is to use negative keywords. So you could add “cheap” and “budget” to your negative keywords list so that your PLA ads are not displayed when searchers use those terms.

You can find “Negative Keywords” in the “Keywords” tab in your Google Ads account.

You can add negative keywords to individual ad groups or across your entire campaign.

3. Focus on a few networks in the beginning

If you stick to default campaign settings, Google Ads will display your products across its network, including YouTube and third-party websites.

With a new campaign, you should turn these options off.

When your ads are displayed on third-party websites, the commercial intent is much lower than when a shopper is actively searching on Google. The same goes for YouTube.

These options can be a great way to generate sales through remarketing, but you should turn them off until you have some performance data about your campaign and can see what’s working.

4. Optimize product images

Product images play a crucial role in clickthrough rate and conversions.

A key benefit of the dropshipping business model is that you don’t need to stock inventory or deal with the packing and shipping of products. However, the hands-off approach can be a challenge when it comes to PLAs for dropshipping products.

Rather than using the standard images your supplier has on their website, you can order a sample product from your supplier and create new custom images.

An alternative is to ask your supplier for custom images or to use user-generated images from your customers.

Whichever way you source your product images, make sure they are clear, crisp, and show the product in use if possible.

As you can see in the example PLA ads above, the products used in real-world scenarios stand out. It can be a great way to differentiate your products from the rest.

You can find out a bunch more conversion tips for your store in our eCommerce optimization guide.

5. Write appealing product descriptions

Product descriptions are not displayed in the PLA, but they do impact which search queries trigger your ad.

You can use the description to include your primary and secondary keywords and describe the key features and product attributes.

Like the product images, don’t just copy and paste the description your supplier uses on their website. Take time to create custom descriptions for your dropshipping products.

The first 150 characters of the description are shown in organic shopping results, so you make sure you are writing your description for humans and not just for search engines.

Sell the benefits of your product, place the important information in the first couple of sentences, and be descriptive and concise. Product descriptions have a 5,000 character limit.

6. Divide products into ad groups

We already mentioned the importance of product groups. But you should also divide your campaign into specific ad groups.

This will give you more control over your budget and bidding.

You can think of your ad groups as the different departments in your store. Dividing your products into ad groups helps you track the performance of the different types of products you sell.

You will already have one ad group when you create your campaign. To add more, you need to go into your Google Ads account and click on “Ad Groups” in the menu.

From here, you’ll be able to choose the campaign, name your ad group, and set the budget.

You can create ad groups for different product groups or subcategories.

7. Determine your ROAS for each product

Some PLA product groups will perform better than others. In fact, the Pareto principle states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes.

If you apply the Pareto principle to your Google Shopping Ads campaign, you can expect around 80% of sales to be generated by 20% of your products.

You can improve the performance of your ad campaign by determining the return on ad spend (ROAS) for each product. Some products will generate more clicks and sales.

One of the best features of Google Ads is that it makes this data easily accessible in your dashboard. You can easily see which product groups perform the best and which are costing you money but not generating many sales.

You can use this information to adjust your bidding strategy and dedicate more of your budget to the 20% of product groups that generate the most sales.

8. Exclude unprofitable products

Working out the ROAS for your product groups also helps you identify the products that get clicks but not many sales. Remember that wasted clicks cost money.

You can exclude these products from your campaign to make your ad campaign more cost-effective.

There are also times when it makes sense to exclude certain product groups temporarily. For example, if you sell seasonal winter products, you can exclude these products from your campaign over the summer months.

It doesn’t cost anything to keep seasonal dropshipping products listed in your store, but you don’t want to spend money promoting a product that is unlikely to sell.

If you want to find out more about the metrics that matter to your dropshipping store, check out our guide to eCommerce metrics.

9. Make sure the user experience of your store is optimized and seamless

When a shopper clicks on your PLA, they go straight to the product page on your website. You pay every time a user clicks on your ad, so you need to make sure your store converts as many users as possible.

Here are some simple conversion rate optimization tips you can implement to get more sales and improve the user experience:

  • Include social proof
  • Make sure your store is mobile-friendly
  • Keep the checkout process as short as possible
  • A/B test different elements
  • Offer guest checkout

Optimizing your store for conversions will also help you to generate more sales from your organic traffic. It’s an effective way to get the most value from the traffic you drive to your store.

Check out our guide to eCommerce traffic to see how you can get more organic visitors to your online store.

10. Setup conversion tracking for google shopping ads before creating your first campaign

Before you launch your campaign, you need to set up conversion tracking. If you don’t track conversions, you’ll be operating in the dark and wasting your budget.

You also won’t have the option of using Smart campaigns. Google uses your conversion data to see which product groups and ad groups get the best results and adjusts your bidding automatically.

If you’ve already set up conversion tracking on Google Analytics, you’ll still need to implement the Google Ads tracking code. This is because you want your campaign to run on the most accurate and up-to-date conversion data, and that comes from the Google Ads tracking code.

You can find out how to set up Google Ads conversion tracking in the detailed guide on the Google Ads Help Center.

Google shopping ads & PLA FAQs

There’s no one-size-fits-all cost for Google Shopping Ads. Depending on your bidding strategy and the types of products you sell, you can spend as little as $1 a day or as much as $100 a day. Of course, some products cost more to advertise than others.

Generally, you want to spend enough to get conversion data and see what is working at the start of your campaign. You can then adjust your strategy based on real data. You can set your maximum spend per day to make sure you never go over budget.

Google Shopping Ads can be a cost-effective way to generate traffic and sales. There’s a reason why Google Shopping Ads have become so popular among retailers.

You can make sure your products are visible when your customers are actively searching for a product to buy. And you only pay when a shopper clicks your ad and lands on your product page.

Google Ads is the advertising platform that includes Google Shopping Ads, Google Search Ads, and the Google Display Network.

When most people think of Google Ads, they picture the text ads displayed at the top and the bottom of the search engine results page. Advertisers can bid on specific keywords to be visible in search results.

Google Shopping Ads contain an image, pricing, and a title. These ads appear at the top of the results in the Shopping tab. They can also appear in the regular search results.

Unlike text ads, advertisers do not bid on specific keywords. Instead, Google decides if the product is a good fit for the search query.

Both types of ads use a PPC model where the advertiser only pays when somebody clicks on their ad.

Google Smart Bid is a bidding strategy that uses machine learning to optimize your campaign bidding for maximum conversions. You can use Smart Bidding to optimize for specific goals, including conversions, return on ad spend (ROAS), enhanced cost-per-click (ECPC), and more.

When a searcher uses a relevant search query, Google performs this calculation automatically to adjust your bid.

It’s important to note that it takes time for Smart Bidding to “learn” what works best for your campaign. You need to generate conversions before Google works out how to get the best results from your budget.

You can use Google Ads for dropshipping. While Google used to prohibit advertisers from promoting dropshipping products, its policy changed around 5 years ago.

Here’s what the current Shopping Ads policies say:

In simple terms, you can advertise dropshipping products as long as you can deliver the product you are promoting.

Some dropshippers run into problems with Google Ads, but this is generally because of another issue that causes their account to be flagged. Before you start a campaign, make sure your store meets Google’s guidelines, including:

  • A physical address on the website
  • A working checkout process
  • A clear returns policy
  • Website structured data matches Merchant Center data feed
  • A Terms & Conditions page

You can use PLAs for dropshipping, but your store meets Google guidelines.

Both advertising platforms can be lucrative for dropshipping. One of the key advantages of Google Ads and PLAs for dropshipping is that you can get your products in front of a big audience actively looking to make a purchase.

Facebook Ads does offer more advanced targeting. It’s an excellent tool for finding the people that are likely to be interested in your products. But the commercial intent with Facebook Ads isn’t as strong as Google Shopping.

In simple terms, Google Ads is more effective for finding new customers that are ready to buy. On the other hand, Facebook Ads is generally more effective at building brand awareness and retargeting people that have already interacted with your eCommerce store.

Both platforms can play a role in a successful dropshipping marketing strategy.

Start making product listing ads for your dropshipping store

Google Shopping Ads might seem intimidating at first, but they’re much easier to use than a standard Google Ads campaign. For example, you don’t need to worry about writing ad copy or keyword bidding. Instead, Google designs the ad for you using your product data feed.

Once your campaign is up and running, you’ll be able to see how PLAs help you to meet your goals.

If you’re ready to take your dropshipping store to the next level, you don’t want to miss out on your free 250 Product List Guide. Our eCommerce experts have hand-picked the most in-demand products for 2022.

You can save time and maximize your profits by getting the right products in your store for the new year.

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