E-commerce retailers are celebrating today: Google just announced the launch of automated extensions for Shopping ads (PLAs).
This is huge news for e-commerce retailers using PLAs. Not only are these extensions completely free, they also require zero work on the part of the advertiser to set up – everything is done automatically.
AdWords automatically finds information that potential shoppers might find useful, such as special offers like free shipping or price reductions based on feed data, and will automatically create extensions for your Shopping ads. See the screenshot below for an example of these automated ad extensions in action:
Google is highlighting the additional benefit to advertisers – the fact that the entire process is automated and free of charge – as the primary motivation behind the switch. Of course, the addition of these extensions will also mean that Shopping ads could be more dominant on the SERPs, meaning more ad revenue for Google. We also know that the inclusion of extensions has a huge impact on click-through rates.
Google has also said that advertisers incorporating promotional copy in their ads experienced better returns. Apparently, not enough advertisers were taking advantage of this, so the shift to automated extensions is another way for Google to demonstrate better value from PLAs to potential advertisers. Google has long advocated for the inclusion of “bells and whistles” like extensions (remember when they “encouraged” advertisers to use extensions by including them in the Ad Rank formula?), so this move makes a lot of sense.
Finally, using feed data to identify offers that will likely be of interest to prospective customers is an easy, efficient way to make these ads more attractive, so it’s not really that surprising that Google decided to implement this new feature.
Something else that probably factored into Google’s decision is that the introduction of automated extensions for PLAs is a logical shift before the widespread release of Google’s long-anticipated “Buy Button.”
The addition of free, automated extensions is a great way to make Shopping ads more prominent and appealing to prospects, and encourages people to click on them. This is exactly the kind of user behavior Google wants to encourage before the new purchase on Google option becomes widely available in the near future.
For the most part, automated extensions are a win-win for everyone. That said, there are a few drawbacks that advertisers should be aware of.
Firstly, it’s not yet clear how Google will determine which Shopping ads will display the new extensions, or how these ads will be selected. If it turns out that a majority of Shopping ads will feature the extensions, users could become “numb” to them, which will reduce their overall effectiveness – something Google definitely won’t want.
It’s important to stand out on the SERP.
Something else to think about is that this feature could be highly detrimental to smaller retailers that don’t offer free shipping or rarely adjust their prices. Without these offers, smaller retailers could miss out to the big boys who can compete more aggressively, as their ads will be smaller and less flashy.
One of the first things you can do to set yourself apart from the competition is look at what your competitors are doing. If other businesses in your space are offering free shipping or price reductions, think about whether you can match these offers. If you can’t offer permanent discounts, consider adjusting your prices on a regular basis to at least create the illusion of price drops during peak shopping periods.
Something else you can do is enroll in merchant promotions to provide even more compelling offers to potential customers. Although merchant promotions appear very similar to the short-lived offer extensions that were retired after just a year, merchant promotions are catered specifically to online consumers.
If your ads feature merchant promotions and your competitors’ don’t, you stand a much better chance of tempting prospects to click on your ad instead of theirs. Plus, it’s never been easier to enroll in merchant promotions, as the approval waiting period is now just a day or two.
If you haven’t gotten your Google Trusted Stores certification already, do it right now. This powerful trust signal shows that your business is trustworthy, which is a major selling point for even the most hesitant online shopper. Read more about the Trusted Stores program, and how to enroll, on the official Google support page.
Product ratings are one of the most powerful and persuasive elements you can include in your Shopping ads.
This extension places a star rating of your products (on a five-point scale) beneath your PLAs, letting prospects see at-a-glance how great your merchandise is and lets satisfied customers become brand ambassadors for your product all by themselves!
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