Google AdWords – Showing Image Ads on the AdWords Search Network

Image Ads for Google AdWords

Google AdWords has allowed image ads (display ads) on its content network for some time now.  But you may have noticed image ads ocassionally showing on Google AdWords search network.
So what is this all about and more importantly, how can you start showing images ads within your own search network campaign?

Example of Image Ads on AdWords’ Search Network

Recently I did a search on Walker Trays in Google and these results were shown:

I know it’s a little tough to read but trust me, the word in those red circles is Target.  They are showing in the #2 position for the Google AdWords text ad.  And Target has the first and third position on the right hand bar – typically reserved for AdWords text ads but currently displaying Image ads on the search network (i.e. PlusBox ads).  Not bad if you are Target, but if you are trying to sell walker trays is not a good sign if Target owns 3 of the top spots – and two ads are images!
Also note the Google Shopping results for Walker Trays – the five small boxes below the shaded sponsored links box.  Guess who has three of those five images – you got it, Target.

The Google AdWords PlusBox Ad

Image ads on the search network are called PlusBox ads.  And they are appearing more frequently in searches. So how is this done?
According to Google, PlusBox ads are part of a small Beta test offered to select advertisers. So outside of asking your AdWords account manager to try and get you in, it’s on an invitation only basis.
But here’s basically how it works:
The images that are displayed are fed from your Google Merchant Center Account.  So you need that first.
Then, by selecting Ad Extensions in your Google AdWords account, you allow the product information in your Merchant Center Account to by shared with your AdWords account.
Google summarizes how to run a PlusBox ad here: Plusbox Ads. Search Engine Land also covered this topic a while back, that article can be found here: Google Continues AdWords Product PlusBox

Images Ads for the AdWords Search Network

In my opinion, it’s a huge differentiation to  show an image ad among a sea of text ads – so hopefully this will be expanded beyond the Beta testing stage.  Or the testing will stop so the select advertisers who can run images don’t continue to benefit from an uneven playing field.  It depends on the product (or service) but I know several clients that would love to serve image ads on the AdWords Search Network.

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