FAQ: All About The Banner Ad Test In Google’s Search Results

G google logoYesterday, Search Engine Land broke the news that Google is running a test to show banner ads on branded search results. While the search giant has introduced images to its ad formats, including product listing ads and image extensions, the introduction of banner ads is a noticeable change for the company. Here’s what we know so far.

Do these new ads include the image banner and text listings?

Despite appearances, the ad is comprised of the image banner only. In the Virgin America screenshot below (sent to us by @SynrgyHQ), for example, the text listing for www.virginamerica.com and subsequent sitelinks are standard organic links.

Google Banner Ad Test Virgin AmericaWhy does the gray box surround both the banner ad and the organic listing if it’s not one ad unit?

The outline with the “Sponsored” tag inside does make it appear that the banner image and text listing are part of one giant ad. Why Google has chosen to blur the lines between paid and organic in this test is unclear, we’re still waiting for an answer on this.

Can users click on the banner ad?

Yes, a click on the banner leads users to the advertiser’s website.

On what types of queries are the banners showing?

The banners are appearing on specific branded queries only. A Google source referred to this test as a “brand image experiment” when speaking with the Synrgy folks.

What advantage does this type of branded banner give advertisers?

The banners allow brands to take over the ad space on branded search queries and essentially present a branded search results experience. Here is a side-by-side look at results for the search query [southwest airlines] with standard text ads versus the results when the branded banner ad displays. The advertiser appeal of the banner ads becomes clear.

google-banner-ad-vs-standard-branded-resultsBut isn’t this a departure from Google’s past stance on banner ads?

In response to the announcement that Google was partnering with AOL in 2005, Marissa Mayer, then Google VP of search products and user experience, the company promised banner ads would never come to web search, saying:

There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.

No, there aren’t crazy graphical doodads or even calls-to-action on these ads, but one could still say these branded banners are a break from Google’s 2005 pledge.

What advertisers are participating?

The test is currently live with about 30 advertisers. Participating brands include Crate & Barrel, Southwest Airlines and Virgin America.

How are advertisers charged for the ads?

We are waiting to hear from Google on this question as well if the banner ads are priced on a CPC or CPM basis (or both).

How large is this test?

The banner ads are showing for less than 5 percent of search queries. So, if you haven’t been able to see these ads yet, you’re not alone.

Has Google officially commented?

Yes, this morning Google released this statement:

“We’re currently running a very limited, US-only test, in which advertisers can include an image as part of the search ads that show in response to certain branded queries.  Advertisers have long been able to add informative visual elements to their search ads, with features like Media Ads, Product Listing Ads and Image Extensions.”