Visual Search Ads - What They Mean for Small Business

Josh Curcio

Google is now in the testing phases of visual search ads which allow for large banner ads in the search results page when a branded term is searched. See example below:

Virgin-America
What does this mean for small business?

From the initial consensus it seems as though it is going to make it somewhat more difficult for small business to compete with some large business, at least in regards to serving ads for branded terms. One advantage SMBs had prior was that they could bid on a brand name of a large business and have an ad shown (sometimes). For example, a small sporting goods store could bid on "Dick's Sporting Goods" and have a consumer that has never heard of them see an ad and possibly consider them as an option. With the visual search ads a huge banner ad would be shown that the brand would pay for when someone clicks. Google's take on this is to get paid clicks for branded search terms. Many times a searcher uses one of these terms they can easily click the first organic listing, which generates $0 for Google. If they can catch the attention of a searcher with a nicely displayed banner, they may be urged to click it...at least a portion of them. Smart business decision but a hit to both SEO and small business PPC.

When Available to Everyone, Should I Do This for My Brand?

It depends on your budget really. I would have to expect that these clicks are going to more than your standard text ad. Which if you bid on your brand name you are probably paying next to nothing for. My recommendation at least initially is for SMBs to not worry about these types of ads unless your brand name has some serious competition in the search engine space or if you can benefit from nicely designed visual ads. Don't get me wrong, there can certainly be benefits but small business marketing budgets usually don't have a lot of room for wasted spend, especially on clicks that they will likely get anyway.

All in all I do think these ads look nice and it was probably a smart move by Google, but will be primarily used by enterprise level businesses. It will hurt SMBs a bit, but a well structured and managed AdWords account can still provide a huge ROI for businesses.

VIEW MORE STORIES IN PPC, Small Business, Attract

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