Google Testing Huge Banner Ads For Branded Queries


Google has confirmed that they are testing incredibly large banner ads for specific branded queries.

@SynrgyHQ posted an image on Twitter showing for the query [southwest airlines a huge “sponsored” ad at the top of the search results.

A Google spokesperson confirmed this is a “small experiment” running currently in the U.S. market.

The ad seems to take up the majority of the screen real estate. I assume since it is a very branded query, Google finds this ad to be relevant and they are testing to see the click-through on this ad.

The No Banner Ads Ever Promise

In 2005, Google promised that banner ads would never come to web search, saying:

There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.

Eight years later, it seems Google may be ready to break that promise.

Update: The team at Synrgy has learned from a source at Google that the “brand image experiment” is live with about 30 advertisers, including Crate & Barrel and Virgin America. The test is showing for less than 5 percent of search queries.

Synrgy also provided access to the HTML page. Despite the gray box surrounding both the banner and the text listing, the ad is comprised of the banner only. The Southwest Airlines text listing and sitelinks below the image are standard organic results. We’ve asked Google for clarification on why the gray box surrounds both paid and organic units as well as cost structure and will update here when we learn more.

Postscript: See our follow-up story, FAQ: All About The Banner Ad Test In Google’s Search Results.

Our sister site Marketing Land is collecting examples of these brand banner ads spotted in the wild. See which brands we’ve been able to spot in search results below:

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Sanil Subhash Chandra Bose

    Is page layout penalty applicable to Google as well in this case?

  • JM

    You are right. I will say that we can’t expect people who start out in the online marketing world to fully grasp each and every marketing channel out there. I’d never trade my experience and knowledge in SEO for anything. I eventually moved into the PPC world and now diving into the Growth Hacker discipline. The moral of the story in that you can never stop reading and learning in this industry. It’s why I love my career.

  • Dean Marsden

    I sort of like the visual aspect. Google promise was a long time ago now, way before its new visual direction and integration of brand weighting and social results. If people search for a brand, having a result such as this is fine and more useful for users. What I’m afraid of is that the payment for these results could be quite high and could exclude many businesses.

  • Ashish Pratap Singh

    if this is limited to branded queries, i find it ok, buy will ruin
    the search experience if it have been rolled out to non-brand queries. (what i am guessing is it will be rolled out to non brand queries as well)

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