Google PLA click volume grew nearly five times faster than Google text ad volume in the second quarter.

Google’s Product Listing Ads accounted for 46% of retailers’ Google paid search clicks in the quarter, a three percentage point increase from the first quarter. The image-focused ads are set to account for more than half of retailers’ paid search clicks by the end of the year, according to a new report by performance marketing agency Merkle Group Inc.

The report finds that Google’s push to eliminate ads from the right side of search results has helped boost PLA click volume 73% year over year in the second quarter, outpacing the 43% growth in PLA spending. The cost per click fell 17%.

Those strong results were a sharp cry from Bing, which saw its Product Ads account for a smaller share of overall Bing search ad clicks, 15.1%, than the previous quarter when the share was 15.5%. That was the first share decline since the format launched in late 2013. Bing Product Ads click volume rose 2% during the quarter, while spending on the ads fell 6%. The cost per click declined 8%.

Meanwhile, Google text ad clicks grew 16% during the quarter, slightly outpacing the 10% increase in spending. That cost per click during the quarter fell 5%. Across text ads on Bing and Yahoo Gemini, text ad clicks fell 21% and spending declined 19%. The cost per click rose 3%, as less-expensive mobile ads accounted for a smaller percentage of traffic than it did a year earlier.

The growth of Google’s mobile PLAs helped PLAs grow nearly five times faster than its text ads in the second quarter, Merkle notes, as did Google’s push to more prominently display PLAs across Google, including in image search results.


Looking specifically at retailers, the report finds that Google paid search spending rose 23% year over year, while clicks grew 34%. The cost per click fell 9%. That’s not far off the overall trends, as overall Google paid search ad spending grew 22% year over year, while click growth grew 34%. The cost per click fell 9%, in part thanks to advertisers shifting more of their spend to less-expensive mobile ads.

The report notes that Google produced 95% of search ad clicks that were made on smartphones in the second quarter, a far more dominant position than it holds for tablets (where it accounts for 84% of paid search clicks) and desktop (78%). Overall, Google accounts for 86% of search ad clicks, a seven percentage point increase from a year ago. It also accounts for 86% of paid search spending, a four percentage point increase from a year ago.

The report also examined Google’s Expanded Text Ads, which it announced in May and rolled out today. A non-brand Expanded Text Ad, which lets retailers present more information to consumers, produced a 16% higher click-through rate than traditional ads for desktops for the median advertiser Merkle studied. On tablets and smartphones the click-through rates grew 8% and 4%, respectively. The click-through rate for brand ads was roughly the same as traditional text ads, with a less than 1% difference for tablets and desktops. ETAs for smartphones performed 4% worse than traditional ads. However, Merkle cautioned that the newness of the format makes it difficult  to fully understand the results. 

The report looked at organic search traffic, as well. Organic search visits overall fell 7%, thanks in part to Google’s increased push to drive consumers to click on paid search ads.

A similar report, by Adgooroo, found that retailers’ desktop paid search spending fell 7% during the second quarter and clicks fell 13%. The cost per click rose 7%. Looking specifically at online apparel retailers, desktop paid search spending fell 10% during the second quarter and clicks fell 15%. The cost per click rose 12%.