Google Tests Image-Text Search Ads

Marketers wondering what a product listing ad (PLA) might look like are paying close attention to an experimental image-text search ad that Google is testing. The banner-like ad appears at the top of organic search results. 

A screenshot by the Dallas-based Web marketing app maker Synrgy shows a banner ad at the top of the page for Southwest Airlines. Below the image sits a description and hyperlinks that link to landing pages for checking in online, booking award travel, and checking flight status and schedules, along with special offers and customer service.

Search marketers are fully aware of the support from images and text ads. A Harvard Business School study explores the influence that display ads have on search engine marketing. The goal of the study was to determine whether online display ads influence search, if online advertising exhibits dynamic effects, and if so, what implications it would have for the brand's budget.

"We find that display ads significantly increase search conversions," per the study. "Both search and display ads also exhibit significant dynamics that improve their effectiveness and ROI over time."

Aside from increasing search conversion, display also increases search clicks and search advertising costs. The study found that each $1 invested in display and search led to a return of $1.24 for display and $1.75 for search ads, contrasting with the estimated returns based on standard metrics.

The study also found that although "display benefits from attribution, the strong dynamic effects of search call for an increase in search advertising budget share by up to 36% in our empirical context."

Ironically, Cnet points to an interesting post written by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who is the former Google vice president of search products and user experience, explaining how the company would never run banner ads in search results or on the Google home page.

4 comments about "Google Tests Image-Text Search Ads".
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  1. Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine, October 24, 2013 at 9:26 a.m.

    Banner Ads in search - it's about time. Now if they could run display banner ads on the side of Facebook rather than placing them in the middle of the feed that would be a huge improvement.

  2. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, October 24, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.

    As Marissa is no longer there, hard to fault Google for changing and testing with the times. Although I have a love/hate relationship with Google, I actually ran their AdWords beta test about 14 years ago. During the early stages, I begged, pleaded and negotiated for them to add banner ads into the test rather than just text ads. They never once wavered, even though text ads were getting 5% CTR's and banner ads were getting 25+% CTR's (times have changed quite a bit!). So to say they're lieing, I'd argue that they've been true to their word for 14 years, but it never hurts to try something like this.

    Further - if you do the search today for Southwest - you will get this same beta - and click on the blurb that says "sponsored" in the upper right, and it explains it more. It says that Southwest has sponsored their own organic listings, and provided an image that best fits with the specific brand keyword (paraphrasing). So I wouldn't say this is a banner ad as much as I would say it's an image brand play.

    P.S. I make my living off of buying banner ads, and the last thing we need are search engines throwing banner ads all over the screen like publishers do. It detracts from the content and user experience, and ultimately devalues the real estate the banner was meant to take advantage of.

  3. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, October 25, 2013 at 1:46 p.m.

    Mr. Hubbard, Google made a offer to Sweepstakes Today about 5 to 6 years ago to put up 3 Google banners above the fold. If we did so Google would pay us considerably more. They did but it cost us about $20,000 to redesign the site and all the technical issues that go with it. NOW, Google in the last year said (by phone and email from India) want only one banner about the fold. We refused and they took away our higher click rate. This change that Google is requesting will cost us out of our pocket over $4,000. So if I take issue with your comment, we followed the so called rules created by Google and it cost us dearly.

  4. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, October 25, 2013 at 1:59 p.m.

    Mr. Hubbard, one more thing... maximizes text links for our Fortune 500 clients. We can receive over 10 times as many sweepstakes click/entries verses banner ads. The problem with the industry is very few understand or know how to market text links within a website and make money. We have mastered this. There are many sweeps we get over 50,000 entries from the text link. The real problem is Google, Google AdWords, Google AdSense and DoubleClick has total control and a monopoly on the text link. They have refuse to open this market up to the ad networks or publishers. For Sweepstakes Today this is a very big issue because 20 to 30 percent of all Fortune 500 ads have a sweepstakes or contest in the promotion. you want to sell me a "ad", sell me a text link sweepstakes.

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