Google PLA is Making Adwords Obsolete

For advertisers with a product (not a service), Google’s Product Listing Ads are much more effective than Adwords.

It’s that old adage again: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Of course, Adwords doesn’t allow for a thousand words… just 25 characters for the title, 70 for the body, and 35 for the display URL. Product Listing Ads are picture + title, and such a better choice.

I attended the Google/Channel Intelligence Shopping Summit in Chicago recently, where the topic of discussion was Google’s transition away from free listings in Google Shopping, and moving to a paid product.

As a marketer and advertiser for my company, I grumbled about spending more of my budget, but hearing Google’s Senior Manager of Shopping Jon Venverloh talk about it quickly changed my perception.

Google Shopping used to include “Froogle” and then Product Search, and it was a free way for advertisers to get their products in front of eyeballs. Google realized they were missing out on $$ as well as weakening the quality of the results.

Now with a bid cost for appearing in PLA, spammy advertisers are dropping away while legitimate businesses can fill in the void.

Google Changed Their Real Estate

It’s been a subtle change, unless you work with this stuff, but Google is devoting a much larger space to PLA than they have with Adwords.

When PLA shows up on the right rail, it dominates the SERP visuals. On the right rail, advertisers can include CTA text and offers with the ad too. This essentially negates any benefit of Adwords for having control of the messaging. An image PLUS an attractive, strong offer? Sold.

CI already has some pretty convincing data about the effectiveness of PLA. They are showing CTR’s 3x higher than traditional Adwords. Conversion rates are higher, and there is now less competition in the space.

Wait, less competition?

Right now many retailers are working furiously to get their PLA plans in place. It’s really a matter of fine-tuning the feed that’s uploaded into Google Merchant Center, but there are budgets to be figured, allocation of resources, and PLA is still an unknown for many.

In fact, according to an Internet Retailer survey from July 16 2012, 23% of retailers are opting OUT of Product Listing Ads, and 29% say they are still undecided!

To me, that represents a huge opportunity. With fewer shops competing for eyeballs, as long as I’ve got the right image and right data in place, I’m going to get the sale.

My company is currently working in PLA and striving to optimize our data feed. We’ve already seen PLA orders overtake the free Google Shopping orders on a daily basis. In some weeks, we’re seeing higher YOY sales via PLA than we ever had with Froogle.

So I’m completely sold. Between the data I’m seeing in our account, and hearing Google’s people talk about their plans for Product Listing Ads, I think there’s a strong argument for the decline in relevancy for text Adwords when it comes to product advertising on Google.

Bored Marketing Idea: McDonald’s French Fries

Editor’s note: I originally published this on my old blog ( I felt like it was still relevant, and brought it over. Please note that since original publication, McDonald’s has adjusted their slogan..

McDonald’s might be the most popular of the bunch, but fast food burger operators know that the quality (and uniqueness) of their french fries will be a motivating force for repeat business.

Who has the best fries? This is a subjective debate. Some prefer McDonald’s, some prefer Burger King, some Wendy’s…etc etc.

What’s not subjective is that feeling the consumer gets when they finish off their fries while waiting at a red light in their car. Remorse. Sadness. Disappointment. Perhaps even frustration that they didn’t opt for a larger size.

But what’s that?!

A couple of fries at the bottom of the bag?! Suddenly there’s JOY and watering of the mouth, as the tongue tingles in anticipation. A little too much for a marketing idea? Psh.

McDonald’s was running an ad on several radio stations in Las Vegas (I’m assuming nationwide, too) in which a woman takes a pickle off a male consumer’s burger. The consumer then launches into a poetic reprimand in which he explains how important each ingredient is to the burger.

People get an emotional attachment to their food, and playing on the heart strings on the “bottom-of-the-bag fries” absolutely triggers an emotional response.

Anyone who has gone through the drive-through of a hamburger fast food joint knows EXACTLY what I’m referring to. It’s like finding money in your pocket that you didn’t know was there!

So with that, I present “A Haiku for Bottom-of-the-Bag Fries”.

I look with sadness,
in your empty paper home.
Joy! Three are still there!

Of course this can be adjusted, made into a song…a short commercial, etc etc.

I’m envisioning a group of young people (ages ~20) in athletic gear sitting around an outdoor basketball court. One of them is scowling while he roots around the bottom of a McDonald’s bag.

Suddenly, his face lights up and with a grin, he pulls his hand out with two fries between his fingers. His friends laugh with him while he puts them in his mouth. Cue “ba da bah bah bah…I’m lovin’ it.”


Again, I know this is a bit dated as far as the McD’s messaging goes, but it was my most popular post on my old blog, and I still like my haiku. :)

Facebook’s Real Threat is Reddit

When Google Plus launched, there was a lot of discussion about whether Google could unseat Facebook as the reigning social network.

We all know how that’s turned out.

Then along came an app called Instagram.

If you’re among the unwashed peasants who doesn’t own an iPhone (like me), then you weren’t a part of the insane user growth on the popular image-sharing site.

When Instagram became available on Android devices in April 2012, user growth accelerated further. The current tally is somewhere in 50-60 million user range.

And Facebook came calling.

Facebook thought it smelled a challenger. Continue reading

Online Marketing in a Post-Recession World

Editor’s note: I originally published this on my old blog ( I felt like it was still relevant, and brought it over. I’ve updated some of the copy throughout.

In our post-recession economy, it’s becoming increasingly important to seek efficient, profitable growth and adapt to changing consumer behaviors.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s unlikely that past methods will yield efficient returns on spending. The downturn has fundamentally changed consumer expectations in a lasting way.

Tricks and gimmicks are a thing of the past – replaced with an expectation of product quality and customer service.

These changes in consumer mindset will require online retailers to improve and adapt their efforts across each marketing channel, with a new focus on engagement with the consumer.

Marketers must also increase the efficiency at which they spend their budgets and leverage key technologies to earn consumer loyalty.

Continue reading

Persuasive Marketing: Using Customer Base-Value Neglect to Your Advantage

Here’s a fun fact: When given a choice, most consumers will choose a “bonus” over a “discount”, even if the discount is a better financial offer for them.

Why is that? Why do we consumers (yes, I’m a consumer too!) lean towards getting more “bang for our buck” than actually saving a buck? This seems counter-intuitive.

Well, as it turns out, we’re programmed that way.

Continue reading