Why New AdWords Image Extensions Will Steal All Your Leads

SMS Text

Everyone already knows that Product Listing ads (PLA’s) occupy a huge % of the above-the fold space in the SERP and suck up the lion’s share of clicks – what you might not realize is that they steal all the conversions, too! This is because PLAs are so information-rich.

Prospective customers know exactly what they’ll be getting when they click on the ad, including the price and image information, prior to clicking on the ad.

With a standard text ad, on the other hand, advertisers run the risk of getting the click and then losing the sale, if people decide they don’t want to pay that much for your product or if it’s not exactly what they were picturing.

Product Listing Ads in AdWords

Earlier this month, I explained why product listing ads (PLAs) are the conversion-sucking monsters of the SERP, taking all the high-intent clicks and leaving none for everyone else.

In a nutshell, we know this is true because big brands that were bidding on keywords with both PLAs and regular text ads saw an increase in clicks and conversions on PLA campaigns at the expense of their plain old ads.

So basically, PLAs are now pretty much required if you’re an e-commerce company and you want to compete. If you’re trying to sell your Conair hairdryers without PLAs and a Merchant Center Account, you’re screwed. Your competitors will get all the pre-qualified clicks from people at the end of the funnel who already know what they want.

But what if you’re not an e-commerce company like Macy’s or Sephora – say your purpose of doing search marketing is to drive leads to your company – you’re safe, right?

Not anymore!

Google: All Your Leads Are Belong To Us

Now even lead gen and service-based companies need to think about image ads.

All your leads are belong to us

This month, Google announced a powerful new image ad extension, which is currently in beta. Image extensions allow you to really bling out your ad with pictures, even if you don’t have a product feed and Merchant Center Account.  For example, hotels could use the extensions to show off their rooms and facilities and even the views:

AdWords Image Ad Extensions

I predict that image extensions will do for non-e-commerce companies what PLA’s are doing to e-commerce companies – sucking up all the good clicks and conversions on your SERP. Google has discovered, with PLAs, just how compelling and clickable images in the search results are, so they’re taking that information and applying it to other kinds of ads, because more clicks means more money for them.

In terms of the competitive landscape, Google is creating an environment where doing SEO isn’t enough, because the organic results are boring and too far down the page. But more than that, it’s not even enough just to use PPC – you have to take advantage of all the bells and whistles that AdWords offers if you really want your creative to stand out.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Clicks

Last year, we did a study that found some industries were getting higher conversion rates through the display network than regular search. For example, the automotive and travel industries had better conversion rates on display ads than search ads! – We believe this is because the use of visual images to show off your luxury products (cars, beaches, etc.) makes a more compelling case than a 95 character text ad.

conversion rates for display ads and search ads for travel and automotive industry

These new ad formats are a brilliant move on Google’s part, because they’re bringing the sexy part of display into the search results. It’s a very clever way to shift value out of the organic results and into the paid.


Larry Kim

Larry Kim

CTO and Founder at WordStream
Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007. Today he serves as company CTO and is a contributor to both the product team and marketing teams. Larry... Read Full Bio
Larry Kim
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Oliver Ewbank

    Great post I think this is going to have a massive impact on natural search and AdWords users who don’t use extensions. People will need to learn how to use this new ad extension fast.

  • Sumit Dass


    Nice Post!!

    this post help me a lot
    thanks for sharing larry kim

  • Luke Alley

    Thanks for the article Larry. I’ve been getting feedback that my lead-gen accounts are not eligible because the keywords are not “image related”. It’s probably to be expected, but very few of my lead-gen accounts will be “image related”. Are you running into this issue with other lead-gen accounts? Or anyone else seeing this?

    • Larry Kim

      Luke when we signed up for the beta for our clients, our rep asked for tourism and automotive clients. So i think you’re right – they’re looking for companies without product feeds doing lead gen, but not all companies.

      • Luke Alley

        It’s unfortunate but understandable. I think a lot of us were under the impression, and hoping, that any lead gen client could get in on this.

  • Nick Bennett

    Good article Larry; just been trying this Adwords development out for myself today. At last a user-friendly and fun app from Google that makes strong marketing sense for all and not just the geeks!