Last May Google announced that it would begin experimenting with display ads on its popular Image Search, which it has largely been unable to monetize – in 2006 the company estimated that it was missing out on $200 million a year because it wasn’t including ads in search results, and that number has almost certainly gone up since then. Google has previously tried to incorporate text ads into results, but abandoned the practice after seeing a marked decline in traffic.

We haven’t heard anything from Google about the ads since then, but we’ve just gotten a screenshot of one of them in the wild. As promised, the ad is distinguished by a subtle yellow background and a “sponsored link” header. Unfortunately, it seems like these new ads may only be taking text matches into account, without using any image recognition – the ad below is for a Guinness barstool that happens to be named “Buffalo”, but is clearly unrelated to the other images that dominate the results.

It’s impossible to judge the new algorithms based on a single example, but I hope this isn’t representative of what we’ll be seeing when the ads launch to the public. It’s not uncommon to see Google AdSense ads that are irrelevant to text searches, but these aren’t intrusive and generally don’t detract from search results. With images, a botched match is far more jarring – bad results on Image Search would probably turn off far more users than the abandoned text ads ever did.

Thanks to former TechCrunch contributor Steve Poland for the tip.

This post was originally posted by our content partner Techcrunch and is being republished on with permission.

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

152 thoughts on “Google Image Search Sponsored Links – TechCrunch”
    1. That will be a good idea.It will add some beauty to the pages-hopefully if they are really relavant.

        1. I agree that relevance will be key here. Expect loads of articles on how to effefectively SEO your images…..heheheheh

    2. they already do something similar for adsense, i.e. advertisers can have image based ads

  1. Quite eerie in amongst the images themselves, above the search images would fit better IMO. Will google really choose more clicks over a better user experience?

      1. Google’s success has a lot to do with treating users right. So I think clearly separating sponsored images is a good idea.

        1. Yup, I totally agree. As long as sponsored images are clearly separated from the result images, that would be great.

    1. It’s not really “in” the images, it’s off to the side and in that barely-visible gold background. The vast majority of people won’t care.

      1. I bet they will care for the first part because most are used to seeing all the related images and in a row so many will try and copy or save the sponsored image, only to realize that they’ve clicked a completely irrelevant ad.

        1. I like your perspective. You definitely got a point there, it will happen to inexperienced users, but monkey soon learns to avoid the highlighted pics, no matter how subtly they’ve been integated….;-)

      2. what if they created a “sink” effect where the ads dropped off a bit on the right hand side?

      3. I think that you are right in that they won’t care as long as it is relevant to their search. If this happens google will work it out…if they can do it for relevant searches on their sites then this is just a problem that already has a solution….it just needs to be found

  2. That’s kind of interesting. If they decide to go ahead with it, I’d imagine it will start out a bit rocky… hopefully getting better.
    Visual distractions ARE easy to pick out. Much more obnoxious than text!

    1. They are having trouble monetizing Gtalk, Google Earth, Google Gears (which I doubt will ever monetize), and Youtube.

    2. Trust me, Google will always find something to monetize. I doubt they’ll run out of ideas now, even if it seems like they have explored everything already out there for them.

  3. I think Google should also implement related images search links in the top,
    remove dead images links asap & also add some rating
    feature using which visitors can rate the search images.

    But I surprise they never had ads in place at image search.
    May be this things will get better but I wonder how its going work out.
    One question Shoe:Have you heard of them asking AdWords users to upload images?

    1. Their goal is speed… Bloated features would way it down and Google’s image search is target for really quick searches… In depth, just go to Flickr.

    2. I think it’s just a BETA kind of thing for now, so I doubt adword’s advertisers have access to it yet.

    1. Google is all about the money. But they do manage their operations quite well though with clients and users as priority.

  4. The way they are doing it now will cause many problems and be a failure if they release it to the public like that. It diminishes the user experience and advertisers will get very low quality accidental traffic and pull out of it. At the very least they need to put the ads in their own area off the the side but they need to do a little more than that IMHO.

    1. I think they will make sure it is in the right spot before they release it to the public

  5. Adding image ads to an image search makes it very distracting… and even if the image was what I’m looking for, chances are it’ll be copyrighted!

  6. This was featured in a TIME article way back about Google. Apparently one of their employees came up with the idea pitched it to them, but they shot it down saying “How does this help our users?”, and left $60 million on the table. Too bad google doesn’t seem to care about that now.

    1. $60 mil is nothing to a company like Google, not worth dampering the user experience…. however, 60mil is 60mil and that’s real money.

        1. not really, a lot of times big companies won’t waste their time on the smaller projects – truth is, $60 mil in revenue is not quite enought to move the needle for a company of this size. I’m not saying 60mil isn’t a lot of money cause it is.

        1. $60 mil is lots of money, even for a big comapany like Google. It is a boost at some level.

    2. Found the original piece by Time Magazine. The figure is actually $80 million, and this was way back in 2006.

      “The engineers tell Brin and Page that they can generate extra advertising revenue by adding small sponsored links to image-search results, as Google already does with text searches. “We’re not making enough money already?” Page asks. Everyone laughs. The share price has soared as high as $475, making Google, in market-cap terms, the biggest media company in the world. (The stock plummeted early this month on earnings that Wall Street didn’t like, although it’s still far above its 2004 IPO price of $85.) The engineers press on. Their trials predict the tweak would be worth as much as $80 million a year in additional revenue. Brin isn’t moved. “I don’t see how it enhances the experience of our users,” he says. It probably wouldn’t hurt it much either. But the Google guys reject the proposal–“Let’s not do it,” Brin declares, to the engineers’ obvious disappointment–leaving the $80 million on the table.”

      Read full article here:,9171,1158961,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-bottom

  7. what’s funny is that when people search images, they are not even thinking about visiting those sites. they just want the image that is related to what they are looking for. placing of the ads may just cause people to right mouse click to copy the image without realizing that its an ad…

    anyway, that is just how i see it. does anyone else see it that way?

    1. Yep, that’s exactly how I see it.

      I predict a rise in copyright cases due to google search soon.

    2. I disagree with your comment, I get overly large percentage of visitors which were moved towards my sites because my images appeared in Google’s image index.

      I have opted into Google’s “enhanced image search” program that allows for your site’s images to be actively crawled, leading to a site index to be formed specifically for your images. This is great for those of us who may own sites that are image focused, such as wallpaper/avatar sites.

      With this in mind, I wonder what kind of impact the advertising will have on the “free” traffic people got from organic search queries stemming from Google image search?

      1. you know what, you’re right, i didn’t think about sites that specialize on images. i just noticed that since i create custom animated gif ads for my affiliate programs, when people search for an image of that product, they copy the ad since its gif and already animated and use it on their site. you can see a sample ad here: Making Sites Loop_20080921094326.gif
        i wont go as far as putting a label on them, but then again, maybe i should? like a waterwark maybe? although it may be looked at as lame, considering that its an affiliate sale?

      2. I think you are very well hit the issuance of Google. Experience has shown that this happens less frequently and it is not logical.

    1. Relevant as well… Wouldnt want to be looking for pictures of food and up with ads for various body parts.

  8. The sponsored ad is so distinct. And may users will be tricked rather than actually using them.

    If i want to advertise, i am not in using image search. Do i get to choose?

    1. There will probably be a choice in the Adword’s panel if it is ever introduced to adwords.

  9. I’ve often wondered why their image results weren’t monetized in the first place. I don’t think I ever go online anymore where I don’t end up using Google Image Search.

    1. BTW, Jeremy. I saw where I finally won a daily drawing. I’m pretty stoked. I didn’t think I would ever get drawn.

      I’m not sure when you send out the email, but I haven’t gotten anything in my inbox, or junk mail.

        1. No luck on the email. Check spam, checked junk mail, checked inbox. But nothing. I even have your domain white listed on my mail server.

        2. It’s great to see Jeremy replying to a comment here. A lot of webmasters don’t even comment on their own blogs. It’s good to listen to your viewers.

        1. i never win s*** keep playing the lotto one a year and it never happens… ;?

  10. Interesting. I was wondering when they were going to do something like this. As they said, it isn’t relevant to the other searches at all. Hopefully this will improve soon.

  11. Looks shit to me, and I can imagine the conversion rates being really low, after all people are looking for an image not to buy something..

    1. I agree with this. A lot of people just leave after they find the image they’re looking for. I’ve noticed this on several websites. People are looking just for images and nothing else.

  12. Google has no algo, they just trying to scare us all with wild stories … It’s a conspiracy and we need to stand together and go to msn 🙂 hahah

    1. I think I saw a case study saying Yahoo! displays more relevant results, lets head over there!

  13. What Google is doing is not getting optimum results, but more of a chance that Google will later get it right than not get it right.

    1. It’s not so “new” anymore, it’s been out since Aug. 2006, but I think it’s a very creative way to get the bored masses to tag and label images for free without payment.

      Google has successfully made the monotonous task of labelling images “fun”, which is a smart trick in my book 🙂

    1. yea its a great way for google to get their images labeled, we are doing all the work for them

  14. Target ads are always terribly “untargeted” (Pun intended)… so they’re a pretty bad sample to go off of.

  15. overanalyze much? if you owned google images wouldnt u try a bunch of different things to monetize it?

  16. Hopefully Google tries some better positions for those ads as the UX is pretty bad from what I can see in the screenshot.

    On a related note, why doesn’t Google pro-actively provide an option on their Google Images sub-section that they can also return results specifically for faces?

    For example:

    General image query:

    Face specific image query:

    They go out of their way to tell the end user that they are in “face” mode via a standard message: “Showing only images containing faces (show all images)”

    But they won’t offer this option unless users who know how to use the imgtype variable in the URL ;(

  17. I had always wondered about this, as to why they didn’t incorporate this sort of a thing a while ago, or at least keep it around?

  18. I don’t see how that will work. When people search the main google engine they are looking for products and services to purchase a lot of the time… when I search for images… um, I just want to see some images.

  19. oh, i forgot to mention… if Google is planning to do this, then i bet the first thing they did was figure out a way to stop bad results showing =]

  20. adsense have image based ads which make the big nice…… however the entire concept in google images is something i found not useful

  21. This is a big let down. If this continues people will just switch to search engines that don’t hastle them this much.

  22. LET’S GO BUFFALO! Hopefully you’ll be able to target just the image search network. I don’t see how it would be otherwise.

  23. WOW.. So it is a great feature for the advertisers which is adding more value to the adwords. By this, we will still able to target the vast audience which we were missing for years… Google always innovates.

    1. Alt tags really help get you good rankings in not only image searches but also web searches. I’ve started making use of the alt tag and it’s really given me an increase in traffic. This is one thing that many people forget about. Put keywords in your image alt tag!

  24. This looks interesting:

    Google primarily provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information…

    So Google plans to monetize the world’s information, eh? 😀

  25. I noticed this on the Marketing Pilgrim too. Why would anyone want to use image search advertising? I think it’s a waste of money because people just search for images and leave the website after they get the image they want. So there is no use of using image advertising. I have a website that receives a lot of pageviews just because of the images but the users just look at the images and leave. It’s a gadgets website.

  26. I am stuck in google image search. everytime I enter any web needing cookies, it flips me off my destination and to google image search! I am using yahoo in my search bar, yet it still is stuck on google image search and won’t let me in anywhere! my cookies are enabled and i’m on medium privacy. it adds tons of letters to my search as soon as I’ve landed where I want to be…then it flips me to google image search!Frustrated and hating google at the moment. Any suggestions?

  27. So happy that I found your site! Everytime I put Amazon in my search box [on my regular explorer page], it gets me to Amazon, then adds tons of letters to my search and it flips over to Google image search and cannot find what I’m looking for. Even though it just took me off the page that I wanted. This only seems to happen at sites where cookies are needed. I have done EVERYTHING suggested to enable cookies. I am on medium security as well. Why is google image search stuck on to my yahoo search bar? Help? Thank you in advance for understanding and helping.

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