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Image-sharing site Pinterest has been testing search ads with select advertisers for the past several months. The Wall Street Journal reports that the site will expand its new advertising program to a larger number of marketers in the near future. Initially, the ads will be sold directly, but the company plans to switch to an auction format similar to Google’s.

Are search ads what users want?

More than 2 billion searches are conducted on Pinterest each month. According to John Kaplan, the company’s global head of partnerships, many Pinterest users use the site to search for ideas and inspiration; while some browse, many have a targeted idea of what they’re looking for, such as a particular recipe or DIY project.

Currently, ads are displayed among query-relevant content. The new search ads will appear directly following a user query, similar to the way Google displays search ads. It’s too early to speculate how users will react to the new ad format, but it’s safe to say advertisers are eager to get on board.

Pinterest search ads could offer alternative to Google

The search advertising market is clearly dominated by Google; however, it’s possible that Pinterest’s search ad rollout could give Google a run for its money. With 150 million unique users per month, the new ads could create a boom — not just for marketers looking to diversify to an image-based ad format but also for the site itself.

Like Google ads, Pinterest search ads will eventually be available to purchase using a self-serve auction format. To accelerate the launch, Pinterest paired up with Kenshoo, an ad-buying software company that lets retailers create highly targeted search ads in real time.

As SODP recently reported, Pinterest page views are on the rise. In fact, Pinterest is gaining views while social media giant Facebook is losing them. With the site’s growing popularity, it appears the new search ad launch is happening at just the right time.

The new search ads could make Pinterest a lot of money. IgnitionOne chief executive Will Margiloff estimates that ad revenue could reach “tens of billions” if the program is properly designed and integrated. One way to do that is by automating the ad-buying process to make it convenient for marketers to participate.

Do you think search ads will improve the Pinterest user experience? We want to hear from you.

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