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Image Ads in Search - Yep, They Help

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I was pigeonholed recently as a marketer's pipedream. I'm the guy who bought a 12-pack of Miller Lite when they released their Vortex bottle in March. I'm also the guy who bought Dove's men's body wash that was made to seem so masculine during their Super Bowl ad.

I hadn't bought either product before and now use them regularly. Although gimmicky, those marketing teams did a great job illustrating the product and then saturating my life.

As a visual consumer, I relate better to certain marketing tactics. And as a marketer, I find solid results in a visually rich search engine marketing strategy.

The following placements have been available for several months for trial and testing. Let's explore some opportunities for those of us who are more visually stimulated.

Google's Plus Box

In November, retailers were introduced to Google's plus box option. Although the product syndication was a little off during the first few months, this particular extension has come a long way. More often than not (some of this also depends on the quality of your product feed), Google highlights a relevant image, title, and pricing within the unit.

When it comes to metrics, here's what mid-to-large retailers have seen: During beta testing and the early months, we noted the same lift in CTR that Google boasts within their blog, around 10 percent. However, that shouldn't be surprising, considering we were pushing competition farther down the page (add Sitelinks into that equation and you have some serious real estate).

Although traffic increased, we saw a parallel for conversion volume. Most of these retailers stayed with it, though. Now, seven months in, we're seeing solid numbers.

For example, a shoe retailer saw an 8 percent increase in conversion rate on top of a CTR increase greater than 10 percent. In some cases, this CTR increase was greater than 30 percent. Doing some quick math, that's an 18 percent increase in revenue associated to that specific product campaign. That's a legitimate return.

The future of product extensions: What about extending these to the financial or travel verticals?

Yahoo's Rich Ads in Search (RAIS)

When Yahoo announced plans last year to provide a rich ad layer in paid search, I chuckled. But to be fair, this became an engaging product. Like Google's plus box, there were a few kinks in the early months, such as reporting, product knowledge, ad operations, and pricing (flat rate -- many times higher or equal to some retailer's total Yahoo spend).

When it comes to metrics, here's what related advertisers have seen: Initially we struggled with program performance because it was inflexible and just plain expensive. Like product extensions, we saw between a 12 and 25 percent increase in CTR, which wasn't shocking (the unit is two times the size of a regular unit closed). That being said, the brand conversion volume only increased by 3 to 5 percent, which didn't make up for the deflated ROI metric due to that flat rate pricing.

Yahoo caught the drift early this year and swapped the flat rate for CPC, which helped their case. This contributed to an average campaign ROI increase between 15 and 25 percent.

The future of RAIS: Retargeted search syndication plus ad units based off previous searches.

Google's Ad Sitelinks

Ad Sitelinks are one of the most adopted Google products lately. The original product limited reporting or link flexibility; however, a 2010 enhancement has created a concrete extension to the listing environment.

When it comes to metrics, here's what related advertisers have seen: Like the other products, this placement pushes competition farther down the page, which almost automatically increases the likelihood of CTR enhancement. I, like many, am greedy and want more -- specifically: more revenue. When running comparables on a large domestic retailer, we saw CTR increase by 13 percent or higher while conversion followed at more than 14 percent. On the average, we've seen conversion metrics increase by between 12 and 22 percent.

The future of Sitelinks: What about trying out dynamic site links based off a feed, so your links populate the best product, property, airfare, etc. -- defined by your feed at that moment?

A Few Additional Things to Contemplate

If you have a strong SEO presence, be aware that these placements may cannibalize some brand results. However, it's still worth your while, as in many cases we have seen the combo increase overall revenue performance by 10 percent or more.


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