The holiday season is upon us and for most that means long lines at department stores and waiting for big ticket items to go on sale. For the rest of us it means the convenience of online shopping and home delivery thanks to eCommerce.
If you have ever bought anything online then chances are you have clicked on a product listing ad from a search results page. These product listing ads, or PLA’s, show up when you search for a specific item in search engines and contain specific information related to that product. Previously, anyone was able to submit a product feed to Google Shopping for free and your product could be picked up in an organic search. This led to a lot of spam an untrusted content clogging the results. Google’s requirement for products to be listed changed constantly and made it difficult to stay up to date on their requirements. If you were able to successfully list your product feed in Google, changes are you saw a high CTR but also a higher bounce rate and less engagement. As of mid-2012, Google switched to what is known as a paid inclusion model requiring a fee for merchants to have their products appear in search results. The thought process towards this move was to further “clean up” search results and only serve the best results possible.
To start using PLAs you will need to sign up for both Google AdWords and Google Merchant Center then link those accounts. Once enrolled, your information will be displayed above the organic results or above the text ads on the right-hand side in the SERPs and will contain an image along with product information and the price. The information required to list your products comes from a product feed; some of that required information is: Item id, item title, item description, Google product category, product type, link to product, image link, condition, availability and price.
Here is a sample of how PLAs differ from organic search results. Below is a query for “mens watches”
These appear above the ads on the right-hand side of Google. Here is another search for “trek mountain bikes,” you’ll notice that these ads appear above the organic listings:
Product Listing Ads have been reported to increase CTR by up to three times in some cases, attract more qualified leads and have a broader reach according to Google. This is very appealing to merchants so paid inclusion is a smart move if you’re doing eCommerce.
The product feed requirements to be listed reflects that of semantic markup. Semantic markup is a way of reinforcing the information surrounding a specific product on your website. Many businesses are shifting towards using semantic markup since major search engines have announced they prefer websites who use this coding on their sites. Websites with semantic tags around their information are easier to parse and index and therefore provide more vale to its users. Google, Bing and Yahoo have launched a collaborative effort called schema.org intended to educate the public about these tags.