You will no doubt have noticed Google’s changing search engine results pages over the years, but it’s gotten to a point where many people don’t know the difference between paid results and unpaid results. This month, we explore this a little further.
Over 50% Of People Don’t Recognise Google’s Ads
Do you usually spot the difference between Google’s paid adverts and the free search results? Google’s ad labelling has grown increasingly subtle over the years, leading to over 50% of people not recognising the difference. A UK company, Varn, surveyed just over 1,000 people in both February and July this year and noticed the results went from 50% to 55% after Google removed the right-hand side ads. There will be country and regional differences in the statistical percentages, but it highlights that there’s a very interesting phenomenon going on here.
Why Can’t People See The Ads?
Distinguishing paid ads from organic search results in Google isn’t as easy as it used to be, Google has made numerous ad format changes over the years. The removal of the right hand side ad box lead to all paid ads being included in the same list as the organic search results, changes in the colour of the background shading have progressively occurred with Google moving from long-time favourite blue, through to yellow, green and pink until finally removing the shading altogether in 2013. The “Ad” label was introduced in 2014, originally a yellow colour and more recently appearing in the same green colour as the URL link text, said to be prompted by the need to “simplify the colorscape on mobile devices”. The Ad label is currently the only instantly recognisable difference between the paid ads and organic search results.
Is It Transparent?
Keeping in mind that search engines are required to “clearly differentiate paid advertisements from organic listings”, one could argue if over 50 % of adults can’t make that distinction, then are they effectively meeting those obligations? Search engines, like Google, are motivated to maximise profits but they need to be careful not to overstep the issue of transparency or it may land them with additional legal wrangles.
What Does This Mean For Businesses Doing SEM And SEO?
Quickly recognising the difference at a glance is not always easy. This means businesses paying for AdWords (SEM) may receive increased traffic and unsuspecting search engine users may be clicking on paid ads instead of organic search results; which may or may not be of use to them. This can lead to AdWords advertisers paying for user clicks that are not relevant. For websites focussed on SEO, it will likely already be reducing SEO traffic volumes and it’ll be fascinating to see how far Google can keep pushing users towards paid ad results over free search results.
In conclusion, if you’re paying for Google AdWords you’ll need to vigilantly review your campaigns to make sure you’re not paying for wasted clicks. For businesses wanting better SEO results, then you’ll have to take it on the chin that it’s likely there are more people clicking on the ads than last year, so you’ll lose some Google search traffic.
Top Value Pick
Keyword Finder. Most people use the Google Keyword Planner to find keywords related to their website. If you’re wanting to get an idea of what people are searching on in your niche without logging into Google, then Keyword Finder is well worth a look.
Keyword Research Mistakes To Avoid. While we’re on the topic of keywords, here’s a useful article about keywords.
Into Jupiter’s Clouds. Stand by for some exciting announcements and new close up photos of Jupiter over the next few weeks as NASA processes and releases the data from this week’s close fly by.
Sites Of Interest
Here are a few sites we’ve been working on recently.
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