How to Set Up Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs)

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Flowchart showing the steps required to set up Google Product Listing Ads

Introduction to PLA’s

The New Merchant Centre Requires more Product Attributes

When the Google Merchant Centre, a.k.a Google Base moved from a free platform to being paid, AdWords integration started to happen. The Merchant Centre started to receive updates around the same time, with many more fields being requested:

  • product id
  • description
  • google product category
  • shipping weight
  • availability
  • price
  • brand
  • condition
  • product type
  • quantity
  • online only
  • MPN

The more information that Google has about a product – the better they can direct a potential buyer to it. There’s also the knock on effect of a reduction in spammy, affiliate Google Shopping results in the move to becoming a paid platform.

*This video requires audio

How do I get my Products into the Google Merchant Centre?

Most content management systems for e-commerce sites will either create a product feed on your behalf, or will offer plugin/ extension for product feeds.

  • You can submit your feed to the Merchant Centre by clicking on Data Feeds > New Data Feed.
  • Enter a .txt file name from your site, then hit save.
  • Locate the feed, then click ‘create schedule’.
  • Enter the feed URL here that your plugin or CMS provided.

If your CMS doesn’t offer you a feed or a plugin you can still submit a feed manually by creating your own .xml feed using Google Docs. A downside of this is that you’ll have to resubmit every 30 days.

Check your Products have Validated
Once you’ve created your product feed in the Merchant Centre, you can check its status by clicking on the ‘Data Feeds’ option on the left sidebar. If all your products have validated, you should see a numerical value with the full amount of items inserted on the right.

To see your product list, click ‘Products’ on the left sidebar. If the product has validated ok, there should be a lovely green tick.

Integrate AdWords with the Merchant Centre

Within the Merchant Centre, click on ‘Settings’ on the left sidebar, then click ‘AdWords’.

You should see an input box to enter your Adwords Customer Id. You can find your Adwords Customer Id on the top right of any AdWords page when you’re logged in. Enter this id in the Format: XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Google Merchant Center & Adwords Link

If you’ve already linked an AdWords account, you can still enter another account – just use the ‘Link another AdWords account’ option.

Start to Create PLA’s!

  • Log into AdWords, and create a New Campaign.
  • Choose the Search Network, and select ‘Product Listing Ads’. Set up the campaign with geographical targeting, bid & budget, but be sure to select your Merchant Centre account from the product extension drop down. Hit ‘Save’.

Adwords Google Merchant Centre Dropdown

  • Create a new ad group within that campaign. It’s best practice to include ‘PLA’ in the ad group name.
  • By default your ad group will be set to target all products in your product feed. It’s best to have separate ad groups for separate products or ranges, or you may only want to advertise certain products or ranges. To do so, within your ad group, go to the Auto Targets tab.
  • Choose how you wish to segment your products following the Merchant Centre attributes, as below.
  • Then add promotion text to each of your PLA ad groups. Use something that offers the customer something, like Free UK Delivery. Don’t be tempted to use caps, or disallowed characters.
  • Finally, add Negative Keywords to the campaign, as you would with any AdWords campaign. Then set the campaign to ‘enabled’!

adwords pla campaign auto targets


product type
adwords labels
adwords grouping



With id, you can specify one specific product, whereas product type and brand will target a group of products.

To use product targets, you’ll need to refer to the Merchant Centre product feed. Open it up in a different browser, then drill down to the product that you want to target. The attribute(s) that you choose can then be entered into AdWords and validated.

If you get a green tick when you hit the validate button, great! If there’s a red x, don’t be too put off, sometimes you can ignore it. Save it anyway and keep an eye on it for impressions.

Common Problems with PLA’s

It’s recommended to get a plugin for your product feed. Manually creating an xml file can be tricky and time consuming. You also have to re-submit once a month.

Also note that Google Merchant Centre feeds will not validate for hard goods (ie. anything other than digital content) unless they have values for 2 out of the following attributes: GTIN, brand and MPN. Generally your CMS plugin should take care of this for you, but it pulls the data that you have submitted. So if there is no MPN (Manufacturer Product Number) and brand within your CMS, then the feed will fail.

You can see exactly what the problems are in your Merchant Centre account by clicking on ‘Data Feeds’. You can see any errors by clicking on ‘(view errors)’.

We hope you find this helpful. Let us know if you’ve any questions by commenting below.



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