Google’s Image Extension Beta Opens Up

You’ve likely seen the breakdown before:  

  • People who see content only recall 10% of it three days later; that number goes up to 65% when you add accompanying images.
  • 60% of people say they’re more likely to make a click when an image appears next to something they’ve searched for online.
  • It only takes the brain 13 milliseconds to identify an image.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. 

All (well, most) are verifiable statistics that speak to the importance of images in our daily lives – and in our online encounters. In fact, the two are becoming more and more synonymous as an ever-growing portion of our day-to-day activities actually take place online, especially in 2020

From shopping to consumer research and e-learning, the way images influence us is more relevant than ever – at least if you’re keeping tabs on the tweaks Google makes to its organic and paid search machine. (You should be.)

Google Ad Image Options

In its Google Marketing Live announcement in 2019, Google cemented the importance of images in its various paid ad formats. In essence, Google reasoned that instead of just scanning text about your product or the benefits of your page, an image reassures users that your landing page will be beneficial. 

These visual benefits for Google Search Ads came in two major formats:

  • Gallery Ads. This type of ad image is located at the top of mobile search only and was the primary image type encouraged by Google at the time. Once Gallery Ad Beta began, users were able to view four to eight larger images on a carousel (plus an optional tagline) and swipe through them to get an overview of product offerings or multiple views of a single product.
  • Image Extensions. At the same time, the search engine announced it was again running with the idea that a single image could be associated with a text-based paid ad placed prominently on the SERP.  Much like accompanying images can help boost clicks for organic search results, adding relevant images can help drive users to click on an ad. 

Of the two, Gallery Ads were considered the prominent ad image choice, and Google rolled out a beta program for the format in 2019. However, after months of testing, Google has chosen to sunset Gallery Ads Beta as of August 2020.

Gallery Ads Sunsets, Image Extensions Rise

The decision to phase out the larger, predominantly image-focused Gallery Ads is telling – especially when combined with the fact that Google also announced that Image Extensions would be receiving its own closed beta in December of 2019. Although popular with the automotive industry and a few other select niches, Gallery Ads never reached the level of implementation Google had hoped for, potentially because they were too involved.

To utilize Gallery Ads, advertisers were required to devote attention to developing an entirely new type of ad format. This involved choosing optimal photos, optimizing them for Google’s use, developing captions, structuring and sequencing, and more. The result was an image ad format with a fairly high entry barrier – an issue highlighted when the company chose to open up a beta program for Image Extensions (an image type with a relatively lower barrier to entry) instead.

Image Extensions Beta Opens Up

Unlike the other ad image types, Google Image Extensions is able to pull images directly from your existing site content, which appear as a single, right-oriented thumbnail image next to your ad text. The ad appears very similar to organic search results, in this respect, serving to further blur the line between organic search and paid ads for the user. In fact, Hugo Boss saw a 5% boost in CTR using image extensions, resulting in a 250% improvement in ROI. Once only available on mobile, Google is now testing Image Extensions on desktop as well.

Allowing Beta adopters to utilize Dynamic Image Extensions in this way effectively removes the entry barrier for advertisers who either already house quality, relevant images on their landing pages or lack the development time necessary to begin a new image campaign from scratch. If you don’t want to go the dynamic route, you can of course choose images to accompany your text ads as well. Just make sure images are: 

  • Square
  • 1200×1200
  • Relevant to your page content or products

Try Image Extensions for Yourself

Whether you like the idea of Dynamic Image Extensions you don’t have to upload or prefer to hand-select your ideal Image Extensions, Google announced in mid-July 2020 that it was opening up its Image Extensions beta for access beyond the initial closed testing group. So, how do you access Image Extensions? See if you’re eligible to participate in the open beta by navigating to “Extensions”, then click the “+” and select “Image Extensions beta.”

As with any Google Ad product, keep in mind that testing is essential. While Dynamic Image Extensions provide you with a pain-free way of adding images to your ads, you’re also giving up control of the images you display; that’s why it’s crucial to A/B test Dynamic Images to determine their efficacy in driving users to your page. As mentioned, you can select the images to be used as well, but the importance of testing increases when you have control over the images shown – perform testing of a few different types of images to determine which are the most likely to drive clicks.

Access Google Paid Search Image Insights

Need more information about participating in Google’s Image Extension Beta? Unsure how adding dynamic images could help boost your traffic?

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