After many years of planning and experimentation, Google has finally implemented a way for images to (sometimes) appear with ads in search results. Although the strict rules and requirements might present a challenge for advertisers, image extensions can add a visually appealing feature to help draw attention to ads.

example of image extension showing in google search ad

Starting out as a mobile-only feature, image extensions have since been added to desktop search results as well.

When an image extension is displayed, viewers of the ad will see the ad’s: headlines, descriptions, URL, and image. When a click occurs on an image extension, the system considers it a typical click — as if they clicked on a headline of the ad — and charges the advertiser accordingly.

There are two different aspect ratios for image extensions: square and landscape. The recommended dimensions for square are 1200 x 1200 pixels. The recommended dimensions for landscape are 1200 x 628 pixels. Campaigns and ad groups can have up to twenty image ad extensions attached. Having the same image uploaded in the two ratios would count as two images.

How They Can Impact Results

Like all other features of Google Ads, image extensions are intended to improve results — meaning more clicks. Google is always focused on finding ways to improve ad quality and click-through-rates since ad clicks are its primary source of revenue. For Google to widely implement image extensions as they have, they must have data that proves image extensions can help ads perform better. This makes sense since an image could easily attract a viewer’s eye when it’s surrounded by text.

How to Create an Image Extension

To create an image extension:

  • Click on Ads & Extensions, then Extensions.
  • Click on the blue “plus” sign to create an image extension.
  • Select the campaign for the image extension.
  • In the next pane, you will select whether you want the image extensions to apply for a campaign or an ad group, whether you want to create a new extension or an existing one, and which images you want to use. You’ll also be able to see a preview of how your image extension will appear with other elements of your ad.
  • When you’re adding the images, you can upload them from your computer, have Google scan your website to find images that can be used or choose from a library of stock images. Images that don’t already have an aspect ratio of 1:1 or 1.9:1 will need to be cropped with the embedded cropping tool.

Keep in mind that adding images at the ad group level is best for applying the strictest level of relevance, as they will take priority over campaign-level image extensions.

panel to create google ads image exttension

Requirements & Quality Standards

Here are some rules and requirements for using image extensions:

  • Your Google Ads account must have a clean history for policy compliance.
  • You must have an account with Search campaigns that are active.
  • The account must have been open for at least 90 days.
  • The ad campaigns must promote an eligible type of business. (Certain sensitive topics, such as healthcare and gambling, are not eligible to use image extensions.)
  • The maximum image file size is 5120 kilobytes.
  • The following file formats are accepted: static GIF, PNG, and JPG

Legal disclaimer: Google says that by opting into image extensions, you confirm and acknowledge that you own all legal rights to publish the images you are using and to share those images with Google. 

The following are not allowed for image extensions:

  • Text or graphic overlays, including logos
  • Excessive whitespace
  • Images combined together, such as in a collage
  • Blurry or unrecognizable images
  • Images with nudity

Dynamic Image Extensions

Google offers an automated way to add image extensions to your ads. It’s called Dynamic Image Extensions. This feature finds relevant images from the final URL of your ad to be used as image extensions. Google describes the image approval process as “robust”, utilizing machine learning to analyze for quality, relevance, and suitability of the images. 

Google recommends that image extensions and dynamic image extensions be used together so you can get both the benefit of image extensions and an easier workflow. Image extensions will always serve over dynamic image extensions. Perhaps you might add normal image extensions for your most important campaigns or ad groups and have dynamic image extensions as the fallback option for campaigns or ad groups that are less significant for your traffic. 

Dynamic image extensions can be opted-into at the Google Ads account level. They will only show when the system predicts they will boost the performance of the ad.

To opt-in to dynamic image extensions:

  • On the left menu, click Ads and Extensions. Then click Extensions.
  • Scroll to find the dynamic image extensions section.
  • Click “Opt-In”.
  • You’ll need to click a checkbox that confirms that you have the legal right to use the images in your advertising and that you are granting Google the right to publish the images on your behalf.
  • Then click “Turn On”.

example pane of google ad dynamic image extension

Stock Photos

A searchable library of stock images is now offered in Google Ads to be used for image extensions. To use stock images when creating image extensions, select the “Stock Images” options when you’re prompted to choose an image for your image extension. After you’ve chosen an image, you can then crop it to make it fit properly for the square or landscape format.

image selection choices for image extension in google ads

Best Practices

Here are some best practice recommendations from Google for implementing image extensions:

  • Allow some space in the outer edges of your image, keeping the main content in the center 80% of the image.
  • Consider account structure for best use of image extensions. The most general application is to simply use dynamic image extensions, but the images for those will be chosen by Google. Apply normal image extensions at the campaign level to specifically choose images to be used for particular campaigns. For the highest level of control and specificity, apply image extensions at the ad group level. Keep in mind that campaign-level image extensions take priority over dynamic ones and that ad group-level image extensions take priority over campaign-level ones.
  • Add at least three images when adding image extensions.
  • Prioritize square images over landscape (since square is required), but it’s best to use both.
  • Remember that the images don’t appear very large. Using a simple background for the main content can make it easier for people to see what your image is about.