In what could set the stage for yet another showdown with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is testing a new ad format aimed specifically at product sellers. Under the program, advertisers will only be charged when someone buys a product from their site (instead of when someone clicks on their ads). The new ads will also feature product-specific information like the price of the item as well as an image, a contrast to the typical text-only Google ads.
Google says in a note to advertisers (via Google Blogoscoped) that it’s “constantly experimenting with new features and visuals to improve ad effectiveness and advance the end-user experience.” But it’s likely not a coincidence that Microsoft has somewhat successfully managed to differentiate its own ad offerings by appealing specifically to product sellers. Via Microsoft’s Cashback program, which was introduced a year ago and got additional prominence in Microsoft’s recent relaunch of its search engine, users who buy some products they find through Microsoft’s search engine get a percentage of the purchase price back. The company has claimed that the program has boosted its share of commercial search queries significantly and has boosted advertiser return on investment.