Rich Snippets and Product Listing Ads are ideas which can enhance the search experience for users shopping online. When someone types a query for a product, Google has enabled features both organic and paid which can highlight your product details, give more attention to your listings and ads and set your brand apart from other advertisers.
Rich Snippets are the few lines of text that appear under every search result in Google. They are designed to give users a sense for what’s on the page and why it’s relevant to their query. If Google understands the content on your pages, it can create these rich snippets, which provide detailed information intended to help users with specific queries. For example, the snippet for a restaurant might show the average review and price range; the snippet for a recipe page might show the total preparation time, a photo, and the recipe’s review rating; and the snippet for a music album could list songs along with a link to play each song. For the product advertiser, the goal of a product rich snippet is to provide users with additional information about a specific product, such as the product’s price, availability (whether product is in stock), and reviewer(s) ratings and commentary.These rich snippets help users recognize when your site is relevant to their search, and may result in more clicks to your pages.
You can optimize your product specific pages so they are more likely to appear with rich snippets by marking up your content with particular product and offer properties and description tags, preferable using the microdata format. Specifics can be found here.
Product Listing Ads or “PLA’s” are search ads that include richer product information, such as product image, price, and merchant name, without requiring additional keywords or ad text. Whenever a user enters a search query relevant to an item in your Google Merchant Center account, Google will automatically show the most relevant products along with the associated image, price and product name.
Product Listing Ads require a Google Merchant Center account and a feed set up with all of the products intended to be advertised. You then link the merchant and adwords accounts together from both tools to have access to the feed within Adwords. “PLA’s” do not use keywords and you can set offers or “promotions”, or test with none at all. You need to link in products from the feed using product attributes, for which Google provides a testing tool to make sure the product is being found in the feed. For some advertisers the competition to show as a “PLA” will be very high and you can increase the likelihood by using very specific product attributes to link from the merchant feed such as product ID.
Rich snippets and product listing ads require a bit more forethought and effort, however provide additional avenues to market products using organic and paid search. To gain a competitive edge with e-commerce, sometimes using every specifically designed tool can return extra benefits and be very rewarding.