Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have been a disruptive force on the retail landscape. They've fundamentally changed how consumers interact with paid search ads (with images, as opposed to with text only). However, and perhaps even more importantly, PLAs have fundamentally changed how retailers interact with paid search campaigns. Previously, in paid search, retailers had to "speak" in the language of search engines — that of keywords, match types and ad groups. Now with PLAs, retailers can speak in their own language — that of products and categories. They're quickly realizing that speaking in their own language is a whole lot easier.
Online merchandising teams spend considerable time grouping items together and deciding which products to display when consumers enter specific search terms. Likewise, SEM teams dedicate resources to identify the keywords and phrases that lead to the most relevant landing pages. What these teams rarely do is share how their efforts can be integrated to produce results.
Retail search marketers have for years longed to capitalize on "long-tail keywords." Unlike "head terms" that are short and have high query volume, long-tail terms are highly specific and have much lower query volume. Not only are long-tail keywords cheaper than their shorter, more competitive head term counterparts, they're more qualified and therefore lead to significantly higher conversion rates. In theory, lower costs and higher conversions should lead to higher return on investment for retailers. Unfortunately, capitalizing on long-tail keywords has proven to be much easier said than done.