Back in college I used to experiment some. Google never grew out of this and does it every day. Just as in college, these experiments sometimes entail stepping out of your comfort zone and trying things that initially might seem contrary to your core beliefs – like snorting ricotta cheese or joining an a capella group. In Google’s case this means cluttering up their relatively clean search results pages (SERPs) with banner ads – in particular their Google Images results.
Our eagle-eyed Group Account Director Ruth Nightengale spotted this particular example while searching for “Partridge Family” images:
After interrogating Ruth as to why she was searching for Partridge Family images I was able to concentrate on the so far unusual nature of this ad, in a high value area that Google usually keeps pretty clean and clear.
This second search, also spotted by Ruth, shows some of the trickiness inherent in having a non-relevant ad near search results. Worst case scenario (for McCain) is the human mind making its own connection.
On the initial evidence it would appear that Google is testing placement more than anything else – certainly not targeting. They may also be examining the quality and nature of data that can be retrieved from an ad like this on a SERP.
The downside in moving forward with this for Google is twofold. Firstly, the non-intrusive clean interface and results are a big part of the Google experience for searchers. While not garish the addition of advertising makes the pages seem less “Google” like and more like any other site. The lack of relevance to the searches only compounds this.
On the plus side: Mo’ money! The Googlefolk are currently sitting on an enviably profitable search pie but as their share of the search market edges around the 70% mark they may be looking at places to wring more bucks out and continue their stellar growth. YouTube has been the obvious place for them to monetize but they know search the best and have been the most successful at finding dollars there. There’s an awful lot of room on those SERPs – filling some of it with delicious money…er…advertising must be very tempting even as it puts one of their strengths in jeopardy.