Our brains can process and identify images seen for as little as 13 miliseconds. That's just proof we are indeed visual creatures. For instance, a study revealed that consumers now prefer images to text while shopping online, with 59% believing that visual information is more important than textual. This is why it makes sense that some people would rather watch the 2-hour film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement than read the less than 400-page novel.
So it’s no longer a surprise when Google’s latest update is to update search engine results by introducing image extensions to Google Ads. Text ads can now have image extensions appended to them to complement your message with better context and engaging visuals.
What are Image Extensions?
Like other ad extensions, image extension functions by complementing your text ad with more content, visibility, and prominence. When image extensions are clicked, you are charged with the same CPC as your text ads or when someone clicks your headlines.
This is how an image extension looks like on Google mobile SERP.
Just like the case of another recently introduced ad extension, the lead form extension, it looks like Google is still in the process of rolling image extensions across all Google Ads accounts. As of writing, only about 50% of our current Ad Grant clients are currently eligible to use this new ad extension. There are no definitive criteria as to who qualifies for this new feature but here are some requirements to keep in mind:
Make sure the account is compliant with Google’s policies
Alcohol, sexual content, and gambling are a definite no-no
The account must have been active for more than 90 days
To maximise the potential of image extensions, you have to make sure your photos are relevant enough that it makes sense to be seen alongside your ads; if your ad is about hearing products, then don’t use an image on prescription glasses or other vision aid products. You also wouldn’t want to use a blurry picture or a badly-cropped one; chances are, these images may not even get past Google’s ad approval. Most importantly, you can only use images that you own or have legal permission to use for advertising or commercial purposes.
How to Add Image Extensions?
Here are some important creative guidelines to remember:
You can only use images in the following file formats: PNG, JPG, or static GIF
The maximum file size allowed is 5120 KB
The recommended image safe area is in the centre 80% of the image
There are 2 aspect ratios available: square (1x1) and an optional landscape (1.91x1)
The minimum image resolution allowed is 300 x 300 pixels for images with a square aspect ratio and 600 x 314 pixels for landscape images
Now to crack on, select a campaign you want to add your image extensions to.
Click the Ads and Extensions tab and select Extensions.
Look for the blue plus sign + , upon clicking this button you’ll see the list of all ad extensions you can create. Choose Image extension.
You can add image extensions per campaign or per ad group.
With Create New as the default option, just click + Images:
a. There are two options to go from here: first is by uploading images from your computer.
Another way is via website scan—just enter your website URL and Google will scan for images in your website that meet the requirements.
Then select the images you’d like to use. One by one, you need to review the cropping for both the square and landscape orientation.
Click Select 2 Ratios, then click Save.
You can select up to 20 different images, just repeat steps 4.a. Or 4.b. (You can also do a combination of both image upload and website scan)
After clicking Save, your image extensions will go through the usual ad approval process.
Check back after a couple of minutes to see if your image extensions have been approved.
Common reasons for disapproval include images with logos, texts, or too much blank space, gifs, collages or images that are combined together, blurry, distorted, or poorly cropped pictures, and images with nudity or those that are sexually suggestive.
How Effective are Image Extensions?
Currently, image extensions are only eligible to show up on mobile Google search results page. After testing out the two available aspect ratios, only the square (1x1) has gained impressions and clicks across all of our accounts. So, isn’t it a waste of time to add images using the landscape orientation knowing that they’re not serving? Well, not really. It looks like the optional landscape aspect ratio is a more recent addition, implying that image extensions might soon appear on a desktop search results page.
Here are some of our findings after testing out image extensions to 8 different Ad Grant accounts.
Do image extensions improve performance?
For the setup, the following shows a week’s worth of data, set from the day after the extension had been added, to compare to the previous week. Data shows that 6 out of 8 or 75% of the accounts had an increase in clicks, impressions, and cost.
How do image extensions compare to other ad extensions?
Here is the performance of all the ad extensions of Account D. Again, to control the set-up, the date range is set for a week, a day after the image extensions were first added. This is then compared to data from the previous date range.
Given that image extensions only appear on mobile search results pages (as of writing), it makes sense that they have fewer impressions and clicks compared to other ad extensions such as sitelinks, callouts, and call extensions, which appear across different devices.
Now let’s pay attention to the click-through rate. Our data shows that image extension, whilst only appearing on mobile, gives us the highest CTR among all ad extensions—double that of structured snippets.
Should You Add Image Extensions?
As the Google Ad Grant is still exclusively for search advertising, grantees should take advantage of this new feature to elevate their ads from text-heavy to a more visual one. As Content Marketing Institute writes, “Because images naturally draw the human eye, visual content becomes an organic search competitive advantage.”
Even though image extensions currently only appear on mobile search results, it’s undeniable that the use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has dominated Google’s search traffic in recent years, making up 63% of all Google searches.