On June 5th, Google announced Image Extensions, a new paid search ad extension that is currently testing in open beta testing. This new ad extension places three images above a Google paid search ad that is in top position, making the ad stand out on the page and providing a new way for advertisers to create compelling paid listings that are rich, engaging, and effective in driving results. Image Extensions are a very large change in the “look and feel” of paid search ads, and can appear in combination with other ad extensions as well—though how Google combines them with other extensions is still being tested and is subject to change and testing.
While Image Extensions are a fantastic new opportunity for advertisers in any vertical, they’re particularly compelling for advertisers outside of the retail vertical, who can’t take advantage of Google’s Product Listing Ads (the only other image-based ad unit in the search results page). In contrast to PLAs, which are heavily product-focused, these pictures are intended for branding purposes, and Google is encouraging advertisers to use rich, beautiful images with little white space. We’re particularly excited to test this extension with our travel, pharmaceutical, and pure branding clients.
While the beta test is open to all advertisers with a Google AdWords representative, volume is currently low (less than 1% of searches on Google.com). There’s no cost-per-impression—pricing is still charged on a cost-per-click basis, with advertisers paying the CPC of the keyword that triggered the ad for clicks on Image Extensions. Approved advertisers can currently whitelist 10 AdGroups in their account for testing with Image Extensions.
It’s worth noting that submitted images must meet several restrictive standards of quality such as proper aspect ratio, no text overlays, and too much white space. Advertisers are encouraged to choose images that are “experiential” rather than simple product shots and should own all rights to the image.
Image Extensions are an exciting feature, but they could potentially increase CPCs as they will make the top position more competitive. Even if an advertiser doesn’t test Image Extensions now, they should factor in this potential increased competition in the coming quarters.