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Gallery Ads: Google Finally Created a Visual Paid Search Ad That Works

Ever wonder what happened to Google’s Image Extensions or  Visual Sitelink betas? These forays into making text ads more visual were short lived due to poor performance. However, Google continues to learn and optimize, and the newest iteration, Gallery Ads, are proving to be strong performers. This beta launched in February 2019 and now that we’ve had time to test it, the results are in! This latest visual ad format is the most appealing one yet, as Google has taken elements from display and social ad formats and tailored it for the search experience. One of the biggest features is the use of the carousel, displaying four to eight images per ad.

This ad format beta is only available on mobile devices currently, and to trigger, the ad must be in the first position. The visual component, top of SERP/above the fold location, and sheer page real estate this unit has, lends itself to a strong ad engagement opportunity.

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The Nitty Gritty Details

Google has a very thorough list of requirements for the image specs for Gallery Ads. They also have certain requirements for the quality of the image. This all seems very standard, and if advertisers are already utilizing display or social ads, they should have creative elements that would easily comply.

Don’t have images? No problem! Google can scan your site, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, yes, even LinkedIn. Do use caution when selecting images though, as it has to be cropped to fit the 1.91:1 landscape size.

So, how will Google charge you? It’s actually very straightforward, and is done in one of two ways:

  1. Straight Up Cost-Per-Click (CPC) – User clicks, cost is incurred.

  2. User Swipes to the third image – Swipe right three times, cost incurred.

However, in the event that a user does perform both methods – they swipe to the third image and a click ensues, the advertiser’s account will only be charged once.

Current Successes & Barriers

As mentioned above, this ad format is currently in beta and is available in all markets, but only targeting the English language. Many iProspect clients have already been testing this and seen promising results: on average, comparing Gallery Ads to standard Mobile ETAs, they on average have a much stronger Interaction Rate/CTR (up approximately 44%), with a lower CPC (down approximately 40%).  

However, from our experience, there is quite a rigorous approval process. Several brands have had compliant images and text descriptions, but have still not been approved for their ads. In order to see this beta get released to full utilization, Google will need to improve this process and figure out a better way to automate/standardize. Lastly, Google should also consider allowing each image to have it’s own landing page (similar to the how Social and Display carousels function), as this allows for a more relevant experience after the consumer interacts with the ad unit. But remember, this is just a beta!

Conclusion

Google has finally cracked the nut on using images in paid search. While, currently limited to mobile devices and strict image requirements, with the results generated so far, we recommend getting whitelisted and testing this beta immediately. Additionally, with the success of this beta, it’s likely that a video element could be easily incorporated as a future feature.

At current state, this ad is great for branding and mid-funnel efforts. For this reason, the best opportunity for this ad type is in the Nonbrand space to effectively capture users’ interest and push competition below the fold. If Google does incorporate dedicated URLs for each image, then this could pave the way for low funnel initiatives as well.

With initial data coming in, this is a fantastic beta and testing so far has been a success! Fingers crossed this is the first step in Google finding a successful way of incorporating more display and social ad features in a SERP.