Google is testing a carousel format for text-based search ads on mobile, as the tech giant considers adding more inventory on tiny screens without disrupting user experiences.
Presently Google allows a maximum of four ads displayed vertically on mobile search results, and marketers only pay when someone clicks. The carousel format would allow Google to present many more ads that would appear in a left-to-right scrollable fashion.
In an email, a Google spokeswoman said the company is “always testing new ways to improve our experience for our advertisers and users, but don’t have anything specific to announce right now.”
SemRush, a marketing analytics company, spotted the test on Friday and shared an image showcasing it on Twitter.
— SEMrush (@semrush) June 20, 2019
“If this change gets made, it will be significant,” Jim Leichenko, director of marketing at Kantar, says. “The frustration with ads on mobile is it’s limited by the amount of real estate you can.
Search advertising draws more digital ad dollars than any other format, capturing 44 percent ($48 billion) of the $108 billion marketers spent on digital advertising last year, according to the latest figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The slightest uptick in clicks would translate into tens of millions of dollars for Google.
“If this gets implemented it will be beneficial to advertisers,” Leichenko says. “It will afford more ads on the page, and simply give advertisers the ability to get in front of consumers more.”
Google has seen massive success with the carousel format on its search page for shopping ads. However, these ads are only available using a format that displays images.
Click-and-spend growth for Google Shopping — which shows images of products that people search for — surged more than 40 percent year-over-year during the first quarter of 2019, according to Merkle, a digital agency that specializes in search advertising. Google’s text ads, however, have been going in the opposite direction, falling 12 percent year-over-year during the same time period, according to Merkle.
“The carousel has been successful for Google Shopping, so naturally, users are comfortable scrolling ‘left-to-right’ instead of ‘top-to-bottom,” Matt Mierzejewski, senior VP of search capability lead at Merkle, says. “I think psychologically, users feel they are still looking at the ‘top results’ within the carousel versus scrolling down to see ‘less relevant’ results.”
Mierzejewski adds that if implemented, Google’s move to include text-based search ads would be a positive for marketers “because ads will take up more of Google’s real-estate compared to non-ad properties.”
But Leichenko, the Kantar exec, is skeptical Google will make the carousel text format widely available. “Consumers might not be as enthusiastic about scrolling through text ads on mobile phones,” he says. “Humans are visual creatures … Google Shopping has a high click-through-rate because consumers are more willing to look at them.”
Other experts are more optimistic.
“Google’s favorite product enhancements are ones where they can deliver something the consumer tolerates or even likes while simultaneously increasing yield on their fairly fixed number of search queries,” Kevin Lee, exec chairman and co-founder of Didit, a full-service digital agency that specializes in search. “In the end, Google will take the highest yield option and roll that out more aggressively as long as consumers tolerate or enjoy it.”
This article has been published in collaboration with Adage.com