Google is introducing image ads to search by unveiling a new Gallery Ad format.

While it is sometimes hard to predict what Google will come out with next, what they will do away with, or what they will update, one thing remains true: a new ad format is always on the horizon. Last year it was Responsive Search Ads, then it was expanded-expanded text ads, and now it appears their next ad endeavor will be Gallery Search Ads. Google announced during their Marketing Live event in May that this new ad format will be rolling out later this year. In this article, I will focus on the ins and outs of the upcoming Gallery Ads, but to learn about the other updates coming to Google this year check out Hanapin’s On-Demand Webinar of the Key Takeaways from Google Marketing Live.

I have long been an advocate of image ads. The rise of Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube have helped to move society away from text and towards a new, image-centric way of viewing digital content. Google has already taken steps to keep up with the trend through display ads, shopping ads, and Gmail ads – but now it is time for search to join the party.

So what are Gallery Ads?

When imagining Google Gallery Ads, it is helpful to think of them as Google’s version of Facebook’s Carousel Ads.  Essentially, they consist of a series of images that searchers can swipe through. Advertisers will be able to upload a minimum of 4 images and a maximum of 8 images displaying their products or services. Google has yet to release any specifications on image sizes, quality, etc. but we can expect them to fall in line with other ad image requirements.

Gallery Ads won’t consist of solely of images, however.  They will also feature up to three headlines, just like expanded text ads, and will utilize taglines that are unique to each image.  These tag lines will not appear as image overlays as we see in some GDN display ads, instead, they will appear similar to that of the Facebook Carousel Ads. The headlines will always show above the gallery images and taglines will always show below, switching as users swipe through the images.

Sounds pretty great, right? Right. However, there are a few nuances to how these Gallery Ads work that we should be aware of.

Unlike text search ads, where searchers receive up to 4 ads at the top of their results page, Gallery Ads only show one at a time – there will be no stacking of images at the top of a user’s search screen. The ads will only appear in the top placement of a user’s search results, above any other text ads that may appear following it.  Therefore, they will compete with all other ad formats in auction as usual. If you have Gallery Ads in your search arsenal and your bid wins top placement, a Gallery Ad will be shown. If you win the second position or lower on the page, a text ad will be shown regardless of if you have Gallery Ads in your ad groups. Finally, if you do not have Gallery Ads locked and loaded in your ad groups, but you win the first position, your normal text ads will still be shown in the top spot.

Another difference between Gallery Ads and other search ad formats is how advertisers will pay for them. Unlike most ad formats that are paid by the click, these will be paid for in one of two ways: by the click or by the swipe. By the click is exactly what it sounds like, cost per click, just like any other ad. By swipe, however, is a little different. If a searcher doesn’t click on the ad but swipes through 3 images, the advertiser will be charged. A couple of clarifications on this point, however. 1) Advertisers will only be charged once, even if a searcher swipes through 3 images AND clicks on the ad. 2) Advertisers will only be charged once if the user swipes through more than 3 images. Essentially, this plays out as an either/or scenario, therefore there is no difference in max. CPCs or bidding.

Finally, and arguably the biggest need-to-know about Gallery Ads, is that for the time being they are mobile-only ads. Yep, Google is only rolling out these new ads to mobile devices – but they hint that a desktop version may be unveiled sometime in the future.

So what can we expect from Gallery Ads?

In their reveal of Gallery Ads, Google also provided a few insights into the performance we can expect to see from the exciting new ad format. It is a well-known fact that the human eye is more attracted to images than to text, and Google acknowledges this. Based on test performance, we are likely to see 25% more interactions from ad groups containing Gallery Ads than ad groups that only utilize text ad formats. Searchers are more likely to swipe through a Gallery ad – particularly if the photos are eye-catching – than they are to read and click on a text ad. Not a big surprise, right?

Additionally, Google recognized that while these ads may have a higher interaction rate, their direct conversion rates may not be all that different from text ads. With that said, Google argued that Gallery Ads will garner assisted conversions later in the sales funnel, as users tend to remember images over text and are likely to return to a product after viewing images Gallery Ads. Can you say, “I’m a visual person?”


Gallery Ads are a highly unique endeavor and are sure to see some vastly different results than text-only ads. As always, start prepping your image creative and jump on the Gallery Ads train early to benefit from the low-competition period once they are rolled out. But, as with every new feature Google rolls out, be aware that initial hiccups and adjustments are likely to occur.

All in all, it is an exciting time for search. The possibilities are endless for advertisers, particularly e-commerce businesses. From displaying multiple aspects of a retail product to highlighting popular dishes on a restaurant’s menu, to taking searchers on a visual tour of an apartment, digital search strategies will be evolving to fit an image focused agenda as Google Gallery Ads enter the game.

^Click for more info and the full agenda!