Santosh Kale was looking for a laptop bag and he decided Google was a good place to start the search and get an idea of what is available on the market and at what prices. To his surprise, when he typed in the product in Google’s search, beside the lacs of search pages that Google churns out in microseconds, on the right hand corner, there were several small photographs of the laptop bag listed along with the price on various e-commerce websites. These images sitting pretty are Product Listing Ads or PLAs. These search ads are more inclusive in product information, such as product image, price and merchant name and are clickable leading to the merchant website.
If you thought that Google’s search results were unbiased and based purely on Google’s ranking of keywords, then you’d be wrong. Search results are now influenced by how much retailers and advertisers paid to Google under its Google Shopping program. In the past, product search results were based mainly on relevance and the program was free. The PLA are more attractive than the early Google ads which were text only and hence are catching more clicks. It is still too early to say if the clicks are purely due to novelty purposes or it actually leads to sales. E-commerce websites depend heavily on Google search for traffic and leads. For those e-commerce sites that can afford it, PLAs are a boon.
Though PLA were introduced by Google in 2012 in several countries, they were introduced in India in June 2013. From the advertisers view point, a visual ad is far more appealing than one with only words. Advertisers also no longer will be worried about keywords and ranking in the Google search engine. Google will display the visual ad as the product name is typed in. Clicks on Product Listing Ads are charged on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis.