Posted June 22, 2009 2:00 pm by with 2 comments

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UPDATE: Google Blogoscoped has screen shots of product ads in the wild.

Google Blogoscoped received an anonymous tip Friday about Google’s next move in search advertising through its Affiliate Network: product ads. According to the email the tipster passed along,

Product ads are paid product listings that appear [on SERPs] when users search for products on Google. . . .

Google product ads will feature product specific information directly in the ad such as price and product image. During the beta program, Google will be testing to identify the most effective ad formats. Google product ads will complement standard text ads on and will run independently during the beta.

Marketing Pilgrim’s mock up of the potential future of Google

Testing for the new ad format doesn’t require additional ad creative or campaign management: it pulls information from Google Base and sets minimum pricing at “your standard publisher rate, plus the network fee.” (Google also encourages publishers to increase their CPAs “to maximize your competitiveness.”)

The email also included an FAQ. The answers provided clarified that the ads are served “when the user’s query matches information provided in your product feed,” and independently of any text ads during the beta.

Advertisers won’t be able to add keywords to these ads—”Google categorizes and matches the items from your product feed to the user’s search query for you.” Rankings are determined by commission and quality score (which includes relevance, conversion rate of the query and ad, advertiser account history and “other relevant factors.”)

The Wall Street Journal points out today that this test might be a response to Bing’s “decision engine” challenge. Bing is positioning itself as the place to go for finding the best health, travel, local and shopping “answers.” And WSJ may have a point. I mean, compare these two above-the-fold SERPs for [canon digital camera]:



Notice that, at bottom, Bing has no organic results above the fold (the pictures click through to product information and shopping pages on But what kind of clicks do you think they’re getting? When it comes down to it, pictures, prices and product info stand out in a sea of text and blue links.

What do you think? Will tests be positive enough to get Google to roll out product ads?

  • I think Google should go for it, if their own testing proves it to be valuable. If it’s just trying to one-up Bing, then forget it. Bing’s yet to prove that its interface is preferred over Google’s.

  • Right Andy but Google is not going to ignore what they might view as a better user experience on one SERP to another, regardless of how much traffic Bing gets. This is American, when someone has a good working idea you copy it!

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..FTC Will Monitor Your Blog Posts For Paid Reviews & Endorsements