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Google testing out new format for search ads

Certain U.S. advertisers are being invited to a beta program that will test the effectiveness of search ads with additional information, such as pictures and prices, beyond text.

Google is testing a new ad format that could shake up the familiar look and feel of a Google search page.

A select group of Google advertisers in the U.S. is being given the opportunity to try out so-called "product ads" that will let them put an awful lot more information in their ad than fits inside the current text-ad boxes on Google search pages. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Google has confirmed the testing, which won't replace text ads but could allow Google to test the effectiveness of a different bidding system for advertisers.

Unlike standard ads, advertisers in this program will bid on the commission they wish to pay Google for actual sales that occur on the advertiser's Web site, rather than what they want to pay when a potential customer clicks on that ad. The ads will be submitted in the same way companies submit free listings to Google Product Search or Google Shopping through Google Base, but unlike those listings Google says it will provide "prominent placements" for ads submitted through this program.

Google Blogoscoped has the full e-mail sent to potential advertisers, which identifies the program as a "beta" and describes the ads as such: "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."

A Google representative did not immediately return a call seeking comment.