I haven’t seen anything about it online, so I don’t know whether this is just a test, or if it’s the official replacement for the way that Search Network ads are displayed in the results pages, but this morning we noticed a fairly significant change. (A bit more experimenting has shown us both the old version and the new version, so I’m going to assume this is a test.)
Gone is the pale yellow/pink block around the top 3 sponsored results.
Instead, we’re seeing a small yellow label, (similar to labels in Gmail), next to each of the top 3 ads,and above the column of paid results on the right of the page.
Google Results Transparency
Now usually, you won’t find me being particularly complimentary about changes Google makes. I tend to be quite cynical about a lot of what they do. In this case though, I have to say that at first glance, I’m quite in favour of it.
To me, this is a clear and eye-catching way of differentiating between organic and paid results, something that we know from experience, users tend not to be very good at doing.
The old coloured block was a fairly subtle and unobtrusive indicator that many users didn’t really register. This one, to me at least, seems a much clearer (and therefore more honest) way of indicating a paid result.
Click Through Rates & Conversions
Given that, as mentioned above, this seems to be a test, I’ll be very interested to see whether or not they decide to go through with it. The Google Ads department is already upset, because at first glance, (and I agree with them), it would seem that this might decrease click through rates.
One of the plus factors for Google Ads (for the Google Ads guys anyway) has always been that people often can’t tell the difference between an ad and an organic result. Which meant they just clicked on the top result.
Given our increasing antipathy to advertising of all forms, clearly marking the ads like this might push people back to the natural results. And less clicks means less money for Google.
I’ll be impressed if they keep it, but unsurprised if they don’t. Watch this space to find out.