Cillian Bracken Conway
4th Feb, 2016

Based on data released by performance marketing agency Merkle, product listing ads (PLAs) on Google are gaining traction, with traffic beginning to surge in the fourth quarter of last year, with search results going beyond YouTube and third-party retail sites.

As shown through Merkle’s Digital Marketing Report, AdSense for Shopping picked up steam in August 2015. At that time, it showed ads through its partners Target and Kohl’s.

Visibility of PLAs further increased when Shopping Ads of Search Partners showed on YouTube. Eligible Shopping Campaigns, which opted in to Search Partners, appeared in cards along with contextually relevant videos on smartphones, tablets and desktops.

PLAs that appeared in image search, even when limited, also contributed in the increase in traffic, as it is counted in Adwords reporting as part of the Search Partners network, together with search results on YouTube and third-party retail sites.

Google announced last September 2014 that it established a partnership with e-commerce and retail sites to begin showing PLAs through Adsense for Shopping. This allowed partner sites to promote their goods and monetise traffic, while expanding an advertiser’s PLA reach at the same time.

When Shopping Campaign is set up, search partners can promote products by providing users detailed information even before an ad is clicked. Through retail-centric reporting tools, partners can track how a product performs over time.

The program had a similar concept as the Amazon Product Ads, which ended 31 October 2015, just two months after it launched.

The search giant’s shopping campaign expansion didn’t have a similar fate, however. Traffic share from PLAs on Search Partners increased on all devices, with the surge more noticeable on smartphones and tablets.

  • There was a 12% increase of PLA clicks on tablets in December of last year.
  • There was a 7.1% increase of PLA clicks on smartphones in December of last year.

In terms of average traffic conversion rate from PLA search partners, search results on are 48% lower on phones than on the web. Clicks on search partner PLAs on tablets and desktops have a lower conversion rate at 33% and 35%, respectively.

When PLAs across all devices are taken into account, they contributed to a 38% increase of Google search ad clicks from retailers in Q4.

The introduction of bigger PLA formats on mobile phones, also resulted in a 208-percent increase year over year on PLA spend on mobile.

Image of a graph showing increase in ad spending.

When Adsense for Shopping was introduced, it was believed to give Google a stronger foothold in product search, especially when many partner sites joined the network. The forecast turned out to be correct.