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What Google's Search Partner PLA Announcement Means for Advertisers

Google announced last week that PLAs are now eligible to show on retail and commerce sites in the Google Search Network, similar to how text ads can currently show on search partner sites. Overall, we think this will be a positive for advertising retailers as it will increase PLA reach and volume.

What do we know?

PLA targeting on partner sites will operate similarly to text ad targeting on partner sites, where Google determines contextual relevancy based on product category, product name or user's search. Google began testing this in April with about 1% of traffic, and this is expected to ramp up given the recent full launch. Google has not released a concrete timeline with regards to traffic volume, but we do not expect it to exceed 15% of overall PLA traffic in the immediate term. Right now, PLAs are eligible to show on a small subset of retail and commerce sites in the Google Search Network that are part of the AdSense for Shopping program. Walmart.com is one such example.

Walmart PLAs

The auction dynamic is the same on search partners as it is on Google.com and Google Shopping, though Google optimizes ads for each of these search sites separately. Bidding is cost-per-click (CPC) based, and while Enhanced CPC (eCPC) bidding is not currently supported for PLAs on search partners, this functionality is expected to be added in the future. Quality score is calculated for each publisher site, so even if CTR is low, it won’t impact Quality Score on Google’s search properties. Just like text ad search partners, advertising retailers cannot segment or bid differently for separate publisher sites. At this point the only choice is to opt in or opt out, so individual retailers will need to monitor performance and make that decision accordingly.

Am I Opted In?

All retailer advertisers are automatically opted into this program. You can verify this in the AdWords Interface under the Campaign Settings tab. Under Networks there is a check box for ‘Google Search Network, Include search partners’ that allows you to opt in or out of this feature.

Search Partner Setting

How Do I Check Performance?

In order to view performance of search partners vs Google search, select Segment by ‘Network (with Search Partners)’ in the AdWords interface. You can view this for all Shopping campaigns in aggregate (extend the ‘Total-Shopping’ section by clicking on the ‘+’), or for individual campaigns and ad groups.

Aggregate Shopping Performance

Aggregate Performance

Campaign Level Performance

Campaign Performance

Ad Group Level Performance

Ad Group Performance


Given the growth and success of PLAs, we understand Google’s desire to further expand and monetize the PLA ad unit. While PLA volume on search partner sites is currently low, we are optimistic that this additional targeting option will increase qualified PLA traffic.
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