Google Web Story Ads are here, via the Display Network. But will anyone use them?

So, Search Engine Land has an interesting find: the Google Display network will now allow you to take out ads via Google Web Stories.

Let’s step back: whoa, what are Google Web Stories? In short, it’s Google’s answer to Snapchat and Instagram Stories: short images, meant to be shared, that are only available on a web interface. Google first called them AMP Stories but has rebranded them Google Web Stories more lately. They appear on the Discover feed, image results, and standard search results.

So there are a bunch of pieces of good news about these. Let’s look at them.

First, this is a sign that Google is investing in, and expanding the scope of, the Google Display Network. Some people have been worried that Google will let it rot away, but by growing the scope in this way, it’s a sign that they are at least somewhat serious about the future of the display network.

Secondly, it is also a sign that is adapting to the all-mobile, all-the-time world. While there are hints of that–and declarations of that–in the non-PPC universe (remember when Google Search announced it was making the search index mobile-first, a few years ago?)–we don’t get many messages of this sort from the Adwords team directly and strongly. So this is a good reminder: go mobile first.

Third, the expansion of ad formats is always useful and important for us, as PPC-s. It makes the platform increasingly complex and sophisticated to use–which makes our role ever-more important. My father was an accountant and he used to argue that tax code complexity wasn’t good for the average American but was good for the accountants, and a similar principle applies here.

But there’s also some bad news here:

Fourth, does anyone actually even use Google Web Stories? Has anyone ever heard of it? It’s a new ad format and platform but with zero users, from Google? It may not be worth anyone’s effort.

Fifth, Google has a long and well-established history of starting and abandoning projects. Will this be one? Why should we get up to speed on a new ad type that may just disappear tomorrow? Sorry, Google, you’ve lost a lot of our trust over these last years!

Sixth, yes, it is only a beta being rolled out and tested–but it still feels half-hearted. It’s mobile-only (As opposed to the Instagram version, which is available on the desktop as well, although a bit crippled there.) There are no clear guidelines or standards yet. How can we create ads that don’t have any guidelines yet for them?

All in all, this is a very Google roll-out. The permanent “beta.” The little guidance and direction. The likelihood they’ll pull the switch any time. Accentuating one decaying network (platform) with another half-thought-out platform (Google Web Stories). Google, make up your mind!

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