Carphone Google unveiled Image Search Ads in July 2010 but this space is still under-utilized. Many queries that are oversubscribed on Search have one or no ads above the same keyword on Image Search. Although there is less volume in this channel than traditional search, part of the reason is scalability because the process of adding and editing these ads is still very manual. Implementation is only possible within Adwords (there is no support for API or Adwords Editor) and you have to upload ads one at a time using the display ad builder.

For marketing managers running massive campaigns at scale (or those running smaller campaigns with no time to spare) Image Search Ads can be easily ignored for those reasons.

However, after a recent test with one of the UK’s largest retailers, The Carphone Warehouse, it is clear that Image Search Ads can be a great way to add incremental revenue to an already well developed marketing campaign.

We started with an initial test of 8 high volume handsets. We duplicated the keywords from our ‘Generic’ Adgroups, while taking the messaging from the best performing ad copy for each handset. For Images we used ones already in use on the Client’s Website. This approach allowed us to implement these ads very quickly to compensate for the time it takes to manually upload Image Search ads.

As you can see below, over a 30 day period Image Search ads accounted for 11.69% of clicks, 6.92% of Impressions and only cost 1.7% of the budget.


This showed us that CTR was higher, and CPCs were much smaller than Search. Furthermore, despite a relatively small level of Impressions, the high CTR combined with low cost makes this channel an extremely effective source of additional traffic.

These figures make it immediately apparent that this is a massively under-utilized channel which should be explored further.  Additionally, from a Branding perspective this is an alluringly cost-effective way to extend your reach. However, these impressions and clicks may be just people browsing with no intention of even purchasing. The question on ROI-driven Clients minds will be: “how does it convert?”


Unfortunately our doubts were justified: Conversion Rates are 68% lower than on Search. This is because, as we expected, a customer searching for Images of Phones is further up the Purchase Funnel (i.e. they are still researching the product) and therefore are less likely to convert.

However, you can see that the other core metrics are far better than on Search. If we combine these competing effects together, we can see that the cheaper CPCs and higher CTRs more than compensate for the lower Conversion Rate. The real indication of success is that despite the lower commercial intent of the Image Search audience, The Carphone Warehouse pays 59% less for each sale generated by Image Search Ads!

We are now planning to roll these ads out across all of the hundreds of handsets The Carphone Warehouse sells because we simply can’t afford to wait for Google to make it easier for us.

These additional sales are likely to be a small piece of the overall pie and it is a pain to manually upload these ads one-by-one, but it may be worth trying given the increased sales lift.  

Gareth Jones, Head of Online,The Carphone Warehouse:

“This is a great example of the incremental revenue available in other channels – we work with Efficient Frontier to test all new opportunities on Google (and elsewhere) to make sure our scope is as wide as possible.”

Michael Taylor,
UK Associate Account Manager