AdWords Image Extensions: Early Reactions & In-The-Wild Examples

The PPC world is abuzz over the news that Google opened its beta for image extensions, which allow AdWords advertisers to include images with their text ads. In these very early days, PPC managers that have had campaigns in the beta are in experimental mode, while others are eager to get their accounts into the beta. We asked several marketers for their thoughts on the new feature and followed up with Google to get some more details.

Bringing A Branding Flair To DR

Below is capture of an ad with image extensions. The images have more of an editorial feel than the head-on product shots used in the PLAs. This is what Google is aiming for. The expectations are that the images are beautiful, convey a sense of experience and add something useful for the user searching. Think editorial and branding rather than direct response.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 AdWords Image Extension

Image Extensions Give Visual Power To The Top Spot

Marketers know how persuasive images can be, and the fact that so many have seen success from product listing ads has them even more bullish about the prospects of image extensions.

“This is basically their version of PLAs,” says Elizabeth Marsten, Director of Search at Portent Inc., about a a stock photo client. She thinks image extensions will be “great for those industries and niches that were limited to text only because their product or service wasn’t something that had a MPN or UPI.”

Wordstream founder and CTO, Larry Kim also sees benefits for companies that have been left out of the PLA mix.  ”Our research has shown that for travel and automotive, conversion rates were HIGHER in display ads vs. search ads. I’m sure it’s because the image is so much better at conveying beautiful vacations and fancy cars. Advertisers that aren’t ecommerce vendors with product feeds have been left out, but now with image extensions, those advertisers are going to do amazing things — at the expense of organic search results and those advertisers that are not using the image ad extensions.”

Tally Keller captured this ad for HTC One in a tweet, and like Kim, commented on the visual dominance the images give the ad.

Tally Keller Image Extension Example

“The introduction of image extensions further solidifies Google’s transition toward a more visually engaging SERP,” says PPC Analyst, Reece O’Neill. O’Neill says it’s too soon to offer feedback on his account’s image extension testing, but says that “With over 50% of above-the-fold content often dedicated to sponsored listings, it’s clear that businesses with large budgets will find the most success with PPC. I think it’s further evidenced by the fact that image extensions will only trigger for an ad in position one. Overall, I’d expect image extensions to yield additional paid clicks … but the lingering question of how conversion rates are affected remains to be seen.”

In my talks with Google, it was made clear that image extensions are open to all types of advertisers, including e-commerce companies, and should be seen as a blending of branding and direct response messaging.

Oddly, other than Google’s own “Sydney hotels” example, which I haven’t been able to replicate, I have not seen any non-e-commerce ads with image extensions.

Bumps In The Beta Road – Image Guidelines

One problem some PPC managers have encountered is getting images approved by Google. Even with the general guidelines Google has provided, it can be trial and error to find images that pass muster.

A team at PPC Associates was perplexed when the images for one client were disapproved. They were told it was because the client’s branded keywords were for “runways” and the images were of dresses. After a second try the ads were again disapproved because “we only allow one of the three images to have white space around it.” Google’s written rule of thumb on white space is that the “images should fill as much of the available space as possible and avoid unnecessary blank space”.

Mercer Knives AdWords Image Extensions

A few guidelines to keep in mind:  Images have to be high quality. No animation, overlays or logos that aren’t part of the product are allowed. Images need to be available and visible on the website. Image size 640px by 360px is preferred, and only 16:9 aspect ratio is allowed.

You also may want to craft new ad groups for image extensions. The guidelines stipulate images should be representative of all the ads and keywords in an ad group. But more specifically, the majority of keywords in the ad group should be “image-seeking”, meaning product keywords are fine, but product + price/ reviews are not.

Lastly, if your images are deemed “too DR” they won’t get through.

Early Days: Low Traffic & Small Data

Currently image extensions are limited to the top ad position, and it’s not always easy to get image extensions to show even when ads are already running in the top spot. PPC Associates were told that approximately 1% of all searches are actually seeing the ads now. So early adopters will need to be patient and expect relatively small data as Google ramps the testing.

While many marketers are hoping to be able to see reporting on individual images, it looks like that won’t be available, for the near future at least. The reporting will show aggregate clicks on images versus headlines and won’t get more granular.

Impact On Organic

It’s a bit deceiving, but the image extensions don’t actually take any more real estate from organic listings than when there are three traditional text ads — in both cases the top ad block is in line with the bottom of the right side PLAs.

Yet, Larry Kim says, “These blinged-up ads (like PLA’s) steal all the commercial intent from the SERP. Price and images in the ads suck in the people looking to buy and what’s left over are just the tire-kickers.”

Elizabeth Marsten says,  ”it will make a SERP even ‘noisier’ than before”.

What do you think about image extensions? Share your thoughts and any beta experiences in the comments.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Features: Analysis | Google | Google: AdWords | Google: AdWords: Enhanced Campaigns | Top News

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About The Author: writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting. Beyond Search Engine Land, Ginny provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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  • mike

    Seems Like the real battelfield will be top spot on PPC

  • Scott

    This isn’t Google search anymore, it’s Google Shopping.

  • lindabateman

    Anyone think about how this will be effected by Ad Block?

  • http://www.spadesmedia.com/ Jim Banks

    Thanks for the clarification on some of the points in respect of image sizes and the examples Ginny.

    I posted my views here http://www.blueglass.co.uk/blog/adwords-image-extensions/

    I think for brands that have tablet/smartphone propositions that do well on Pinterest this could be a pretty big deal. The trade off might be higher bid prices to snag the top spot.

  • Colin Guidi

    Any way to make money, right? I don’t like the extension, it unfairly will draw visual attention to a top payer and take away from top organic results IMO. Lame.

  • Cédric Brun
  • Kelvin Jones

    I think these look great, but offering such a large area of search to one advertiser, has to mean that Google are 100% sure that that result will fully satisfy the searchers needs. If that happens then it’s game on. If not then we’ll just see a drop in the conversion rates. This’ll be great for those that don’t leave it to Google to decide.

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    Can’t speak from an Advertisers perspective. But it looks pretty horrible- IMO.

  • Durant Imboden

    On the plus side, it will help to differentiate the ads from the organic results. (On some displays, such as my laptop screen, the tint behind the text ads is almost invisible.)

  • Colin Guidi

    Yea but the images are only available to the top advertiser, making the following two ads above the organic results look the same as they always have. It’s just a way for Google to inflate the CPCs for advertisers who are competing to bid for the top position to see the new rich visual ads.

  • Durant Imboden

    I’m not sure that “inflate” is the right term. If ads with images perform better than ads without images, the no. 1 spot will be worth more to advertisers. And if they don’t perform better, advertisers won’t pay a premium for the no. 1 spot.

  • Phil Walsh

    Be careful what you wish for, I think this will significantly increase click through rates for these ads but might have a real impact on conversion rate.

  • Dan

    Just another way of driving up bids. Top position has just become that bit more valuable, and in the highly competitive verticals, that bit more necessary.

  • http://www.LeadDiscovery.com/ Jerry Nordstrom

    My feeling is that the image ads will cannibalize conversions from the remaining PPC and Organic listings. Google search is increasingly becoming a shopping comparison engine and not the pure search engine that initially won us over.

    Many of Google’s early, large advertisers were comparison engines in the product, insurance, finance/mortgage, Real estate industries… now it looks as though Google has used their money to steal away their business.

    Being the first beta users may result in a boon for them and a painful loss for others.

  • Sydney Hadden

    Interesting. I wonder how many extensions you will be able to use in one ad. This will likely mean a lot more management per targeted group in order to achieve the best ad for each ad group. Also, why is Google holding back on the image click data (particularly since the “enhanced” updates, you would think they would transcend the data views).

  • Colin Guidi

    “I’m not sure that “inflate” is the right term. If ads with images perform better than ads without images, the no. 1 spot will be worth more to advertisers. And if they don’t perform better, advertisers won’t pay a premium for the no. 1 spot.” – I respectfully disagree. Also, this is why launches go through alpha phases and then reach a beta state, b/c Google has deemed them effective (effective traffic drivers, meaning more money).

    “Also, even if the images are only next to ads in the no. 1 spot, they’ll help to identify that block of results as ads (not as organic results).” – That still leaves the bottom two ads to be ‘hidden’ or blended if you can’t distinguish the background colored box around them. If these ads are meant to be beneficial to the user, why not expand them beyond the top listing? It’s b/c Google wants to bid up CPCs based on competition.

    “I think text ads with mages are an improvement over plain-vanilla text ads, and I’d like to see the concept extended to AdSense.” – They are an ‘improvement.’ But every improvement is done with revenue in mind.

  • Durant Imboden

    Sure, the new ads should be good for Google’s revenues. But so what? They’re also likely to please advertisers who get the no. 1 spot, AdSense publishers (if the “image extensions” are extended to AdSense), and users who find ads with images more appealing than text-only ads. Google doesn’t have to suffer for other parties to benefit.

  • Colin Guidi

    Go back to your original statement to my comment. It’s snowballing and getting off topic at this point.You said you liked the update because it’s hard for you to see the tint box behind the ads.

    Well, the tint box is there and the images are only for the top spot, leaving the following two ads only with the tint box for distinguishing them from organic results (just as before the update).

  • http://www.alexseo.se/ Alexander Edbom

    It will attract “google image” searchers, those who just want to download pictures :p

  • Andy Taylor

    I think they look too much like just images. If I had no knowledge of the extension and I just saw those three images at the top of the page, I’d think they were Google images results for the query. They don’t have a price or product description like PLA’s. I might be wrong, but I don’t think these will steal too much traffic from organic because if I were to see the above SERPs and was looking to make a quick purchase, I’d go for the PLA’s with product information on the right rail rather than the images without context at the top of the page.

  • Nebosh Course in UAE

    Thanks for putting great resources .Provided list looking very helpful for SEO works

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