The rumor was circulating around for a while and it is now officially here.  Google has added a new “Image Extension” to the array of Ad Extensions that you can add to your AdWords campaign ads.

Google’s official post with this announcement indicates that this new feature will be great for those advertising a variety of products, such as car models, cutout jeans or different types of eye shadow.  In reality, the applications will be limitless although they will come at a cost –more on this later.

Google Ad Extension Sample

According to Google, “more than one in six searches on Google today provide results with visual content.  Image extensions will show in some cases when we determine that a search is likely for visual content.  For example, it is more likely that your image extensions will show for a query like luxury car designs than locations of nearby car dealerships

Okay, all clear so far.  Certain companies will definitely benefit from the new image extension.  However, although ad extensions can be set up at no additional cost, the fact is that they are only displayed with the top three ads in the main section of the search results page.  Those are also the highest bidding ads in your category search, therefore, if you really want your ad extensions to display all the time –including your images-, you will have to pay prime money for each of your ads and really increase your maximum bid amount.

One group of companies that may NOT see a direct benefit from the Image Extensions are those with eCommerce Websites since they can also take advantage of “Product Listing Ads” that already display images based on the search query including product price information.

There are of course certain requisites to be met in order to submit your images to go along with your ad.  Images need to be submitted in high resolution, 16:9 ratio (not sure why since this is for the web), you will need to have full image rights to your own images, and a few others.  Google will be very picky approving the images, therefore, their review team will be very busy in the coming days making sure that all the images submitted comply with all the legalities and really qualify for an ad extension.

Based on what I’ve read so far, (and Google’s new Image Extension is in Beta testing only in the US) I would create a separate ad group for the image ads.  It’s the best way to create an ad that you can fully test without affecting the rest of the campaign ads.

I would also limit the image extension to certain types of ads for certain types of clients.  This is not a case in which just because we can use an image extension we will start adding it to all the ads no matter what they are for.  Very much in line with Google’s suggestion, I would start adding the image extension to ads for luxury goods, travel and hospitality, and a few other industries or services.  Remember, you will also need a larger budget for your ads to respond to higher bids and gain that prime placement, so make sure that your client is willing to play that game too.  It’s interesting to see how Google always finds a way to increase their ad revenue.  Yes, they offer ad extensions at no additional cost, BUT in order to take advantage of them, you will need to be the highest bidder and increase your campaign budget to achieve those coveted top spots.

If you’re still interested in using Image Extensions for your campaign, you will need to fill out this form and submit it to Google for their approval.  Otherwise, you will need to wait for Google to end its Beta testing and make this new feature available for everyone else.

Possible Drawbacks of Image Extensions

As always, no matter how good the new feature is, there are going to be some disadvantages that some advertisers will find hard to accept.  So far, this is a quick list of potential pitfalls…

  1. As already mentioned, you will need to increase your budget to outbid your competitors for this prime ad rank on the results page.
  2. The image extension also comes at the expense of one of the description lines of copy.  It looks like a fair trade off if your new images are “worth a thousand words” however, sometimes those 35 characters can be much more persuasive than your three images.
  3. The image ads may cause “unwanted clicks” when some viewers may just click on the image thinking that they are for something else even if they’re not interested in your product.  This will cost you campaign money and potentially discourage advertisers.
  4. Other reviewers have also brought out the fact that it may be difficult to tell whether the images belong to the ad above or below the images.  If you’re in position one, it is clear that the images belong to your ad.  However, if your ad is in position 2 or 3, some viewers may think the images above your copy, actually belong to the ad above yours, which means that you would be sending free traffic to your closest competitors!  Maybe Google will come up with some type of dividing line between the ads, but as of now, it could be confusing.
  5. With all this added space required at the top of the results page for the image extension, the poor guy working so hard to achieve great Organic results will be pushed down on the page even more.  I can see that it may be just a matter of time before Organic results will just be relegated to page 2 and beyond, but that’s just my opinion.
  6. By the same token, some of the low end or low bidding AdWords ads may actually look more like Organic results compared to their image revamped counterparts.  For those viewers that still prefer Organic results, the plain looking AdWords ads may get a few more clicks now.
  7. Finally, if you’re trying to learn whether your Image Extensions generate more clicks or not, Google will not let you know any analytics results.  So you can’t really tell how many people clicked on the actual images.  That’s another reason to create different ad groups and experiment with results that way.

It’s too early to see the effect that the new image extension will have in the AdWords advertising arena, but for now, it will be interesting to see what image enhanced ads start appearing on Google searches and see how it evolves from there.  What do you think?  Are you excited about this new possibility or do you fear that it will make the art of writing compelling copy for a higher rank and CTR a thing of the past?  Let me know below, I’m curious myself.

Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)