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Google unveils Image Search image ads

'A seamless experience'

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Google has added image ads to its Image Search engine.

Earlier this month, in a radio interview with Bloomberg, Google indicated that image-happy ads were on the way, and they officially arrived this morning, during a press event at the company’s headquarters.

"What we’re announcing today is a new suite of image-related experiments [in which we're] pairing display ads with image search," said R.J. Pittman, Google’s director of product management. "We believe that if we can align the nature of the images from advertisers with the nature of the images in image search, we can really help users find more of what they’re looking for."

They can also make a great deal of money.

As Pittman demonstrated, ads will appear in a highlighted box above organic image results, but also in a similar box right alongside organics. Yes, this is similar to what you get with standard web searches: Some ads at the top, some on the side. But – judging from the screens showed by Pittman – the difference between ads and other results may not be as obvious to the casual web surfer.

In Pittman's slides, some ads were indistinguishable from organic results except for a yellow background and a "sponsored links" tag. They were the same size, the same format, etc. - and they were not set to the side of the page.

"You’ll see that there’s a kind of more seamless and complete user experience than just running a snap of ads down the side and across the top," Pittman said. But Pittman reiterated that at this point, Google is still experimenting with these ads, and things may change depending on responses from users.

"This is one of our most popular properties, and we want to monetize it," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience. "And we want to do it in a way that actually improves user experience."

Of course, her definition of an improved user experience may differ from yours. ®

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