Both have their merits and are important for almost every business, but with new Google Adwords image extensions a shift might be seen towards joining branding and direct response marketing together, making visibility on search engines ever more important and valuable for businesses.When Google introduced Image Extensions in June the possibilities for PPC seemed huge, with advertisers now able to place three large images right at the top of search results, pushing competitors further down and growing their own brand space. Bigger, more engaging adverts along with well structured image testing should result in traffic increases for advertisers and potentially a greater share of leads and conversions, while at the same time highlighting key products or unique features in an image format. PPC advertising has always been a very direct response channel, which is of course its greatest strength. But image ad extensions are much more targeted towards user experience and must follow strict outlines from Google on the look of the image – they must be attractive and cannot feature logos indicating a slight shift in how Google sees PPC being used in the future. With Google continuing to place more and more focus on being in the first position for paid results, this will almost certainly have the effect of driving up costs, particularly in highly competitive verticals where every click is valuable. In early testing carried out by Tug, image extensions have shown exclusively for brand terms in the top position, indicating a soft launch by Google. Early results have been encouraging, with CTR increases for brand terms when the images have shown. While image extensions are still limited in their use by Google the final results in a competitive market will remain unclear, however, what is clear is this will be of the most benefit to advertisers with the biggest budgets who are able to afford keeping their ads consistently in the top positions. This seems at odds with the move towards ‘accessibility’ and local search seen with the increased granularity of targeting with Enhanced Campaigns, with the aim presumably being to keep advertisers with budgets both big and small happy. But aside from the usual PPC metrics, what image ad extensions also provide is a new opportunity for branding and user experience for advertisers previously denied this by PLAs requiring a Product Feed. As already shown by Google, this will be most important to ‘premium’ brands such as expensive hotels and luxury car brands, but how about small coffee shops focused on local customers – three images showing quality coffee and a welcoming environment could be all that’s needed to persuade a potential customer to make a visit. Imagine a perfume brand, such as Chanel, now being able to use Keira Knightley in their adverts and selling a lifestyle instead of just a perfume bottle and you can see the implications this could have on branding. Image extensions could be used in the future alongside Display and even traditional Offline marketing channels for re-branding and new product promotion to form a more cohesive unit and reinforce messaging and imaging seen elsewhere. Certainly, marketing managers will see this as a new opportunity for using PPC ads as a visual cue to back up what a potential may have already seen through a different channel. Of course, as PPC ads take up more and more of the SERP clicks through these ads will increase, and Google’s profits with it, but if the results page becomes too much like a billboard then there is no doubt that searchers will go elsewhere to find a better user experience without feeling bombarded. Google must keep the quality of images high in order to not drive away searchers, increase traffic through PPC ads by making them stand out on an increasingly crowded page and keep advertisers happy by ensuring that this traffic is relevant with a high chance of converting – overall a very fine balance to strike. Jonny Miesner is a PPC Account Executive at Tug.
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