How to: Set up and Track Product Extension Ads in Google AdWords

Product Extension Ads isn’t the newest tool on the block from Google AdWords, but it most certainly is pretty cool. Especially if you have a Google Base Merchant Center account with product feed. The Help Center stuff at Google is a wall of explanatory text, but I still found myself emailing the reps asking for the nittiest and the grittiest of details, in particular, how these ads are tracked, attribution and how items are chosen.

groomsmen gifts

So first of all, these are the “plus box ads” that were buzzed about earlier this year in beta. The feature is available on a per campaign basis in any AdWords account that is linked to a Google Base account. Since that’s a requirement, let’s start there:

Setting up a Google Base Products Feed

For a more step by step walk through, check out our Create a Google Product Search Feed post.

    1. Login or start a account and sign into your Merchant Center
    2. Since the FTP/scheduled upload option is another post by itself, let’s start with the easier manual upload option. You’ll need to build out a product list in say Excel, for example, with the following required attributes: id, title, condition, price, link, description and the optional image link, which in my opinion isn’t optional.
    3. Use the Google product feed guide to complete creation of your product feed and save it as a txt file.
    4. Now before you save it all up and call it a day, you might ask, how does my Google Analytics (or any analytics tool) know how to attribute the source? Well it doesn’t. Not well anyway. Google product feed visits that aren’t UTM tagged are attributed as Google organic as the source, which is technically true. But if you want to separate that out, add a “utm_medium=google+products” at the end of your destination URLs and that’ll solve it.That being said, there is actually more you can do here to not only control which images show up in AdWords from your product feed, but what keywords trigger them. See the end of the post for more on that.
    5. Add an account (site) in your Google base account and select manual upload and upload the file. Don’t forget to set a calendar reminder for when the feed expires!
    6. Depending on how many products you have this could take a half hour or all day to upload. Then add on more time for the items to actually begin showing in Google Products. The status “publishing…searchable soon” is a good sign.
    7. Once you can verify that your items are actually showing up in Google Products search (Shopping) and active, go into your Google Base account and under “Settings-AdWords” paste in your AdWords Client ID number and click “add”.
    8. Now go into your AdWords account and open the settings menu of the campaign you want to show products with and look for “Networks, devices, extensions.
ad extensions
  1. Click “edit” and your Google Merchant account name should be there with a little checkbox. Check the box and click “save.”

That’s it! You’re all linked up!

OK, now here’s the trickier stuff.

How to Track, Edit and Trick Out Your AdWords Extension Ads

How does Google choose which products are shown with their ads?
I asked the rep about this and the answer was “Our system will automatically choose the offers that are most relevant.” (Yes, that is a very canned response. Thanks.)
Each product extension ad will show anywhere from 1 to 6 images with the ad depending on the query and inventory of images to select from.

So let’s say that you set up the product feed just so you could utilize product extension ads but your best keyword is something unspecific like “groomsmen gift ideas.” The products that are showing up with your ads aren’t the ones you want. How do you control which 6 products out of your 1000 shows up with that keyword search?

You’re going to need to do some editing of your upload file. Google does provide a matrix of additional attributes that you can use to maximize your product extension ads.

On your product feed spreadsheet, insert a column after the required attributes for the attribute: adwords_prefer_for_query. Inside that column next to the products you want to be associated (or featured) for that specific keyword, add in your keyword, so in this case “groomsmen gift ideas.” (Note: This works best for exact match keywords. So if the user searches “best groomsmen gift ideas” there won’t be that same association.)

If you want to see exactly what a user typed in for a search and then visited your products listing with, insert an additional column: adwords_queryparam as the attribute and plugin in kw={keyword} after every product. This will make it so when a user clicks on your ad, it will pass through the exact search query through to GA.

Adwords Prefer Query

Click to open full-size image.

If you want to direct paid search visitors to a specific landing page than you would your organic visitors (like the ones that would come through Google Shopping without seeing your PPC ad) use the attribute: adwords_redirect and paste in the URL you want them to go to. This will cause the product search destination URL (the “link attribute” to be ignored.)

How can I tell how everything is doing?

AdWords does have a reporting column built into the reporting feature in AdWords. It’s got quite a few data points, but here’s what is not available now, but will be soon:

  • Plusbox Expansion: Number of plusbox expansions
  • Offer Click After Plusbox Expansion: The number of clicks on offers that occurred after a plusbox expansion
  • Expansion Rate: Share of plusboxes that were expanded
  • Normalized Expansion Rate: Number of expansions divided by the number of headline clicks on the product extensions-enabled impressions

Current reporting options:

adwords product extension report

I’ll post more info here as I get it! I do have some additional information from Google, once I can get the document open….

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