Google adding display ads to image search

Display ads will get more prominence on Google through an experiment that places graphical advertisements next to image search results.

Update 5 p.m. PDT: I added some more details about text ads not working well in image search and about quotation search at Google News.

Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience
Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience Stephen Shankland/CNET News.com

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google is beginning an "experiment" that incorporates graphical ads with image search results.

"What we're announcing today is a new suite of image-related experiments. We're pairing images with images for the first time--display ads with image search," product management director R.J. Pittman said at a Google media event at company headquarters here.

Google got rich off of text ads that appear next to textual search results, but the company is working to build up its display ads too. Its acquisition of DoubleClick was instrumental in the push.

As demonstrated, the ads are set off from regular results with a pale yellow background. But the company clearly wants the ads to be useful.

"How can we introduce advertising in a way that actually improves your image search experience?" asked Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, at the event.

Google began showing the image ads in the last two weeks to a small subset of users, Mayer said. It's not clear when it will be fully ready, but Mayer estimated 2009.

A sample view of the display ads in Google image search.
A sample view of the display ads in Google image search. Stephen Shankland/CNET News.com

She declined to comment on the revenue implications of the move, but said Google doesn't want to sacrifice usefulness for the new ad opportunity. For example, Google tried text ads on image search but didn't like what it found, and therefore went back to the drawing board.

"They degraded the user experience on image search," causing people to search less, Mayer said in an interview. "It's not a huge amount of fall-off, but we weren't willing to cash in user happiness to make revenue."

It's one of handful of search projects under way at the company that Google was willing to share at its "factory tour" event.

Another development, now available, is the ability to search quotations of those who've been quoted in stories indexed by Google News.

The feature lets people search for quotations from a specific person and sift the results quotations by name or how recently it was said.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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