The ads on Google are increasingly confused with normal results

– January 24, 2020 – Business

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Distinguishing normal results from sponsored links is becoming a difficult exercise on Google, as the design choices have brought them closer together.

On Google, it is now difficult to tell at a glance what is an advertising link and what is a classic result in response to a user’s query. The Mountain View firm does display an “Advertisement” mention in front of each advertising URL, but it is the only visual element, which is relatively discreet, that still makes it possible to sort through what the search engine displays.

In this matter, a picture is probably better than a long speech. Below, for the “mutual” query, Google first displays no less than four sponsored links. No normal links appear on the screen: you have to go down the elevator to see the first classic links, whose position is the result of Google’s algorithms. The gluing of the two screens gives a good measure of the visual approximation that has taken place.

The ads on Google are increasingly confused with normal results

On the left, advertising results on the “mutual” request. On the right, standard results. The difference is not obvious.

A change announced in 2019

This graphical update is not entirely new. It was announced almost a year ago, especially in mobile search. At the time, the company had tried hard to promote this change, explaining that it “gives a better idea of the page’s content with clear attribution to the source”, thanks to a “bold advertising label” to allow everyone to “quickly identify the source of the information“.

It is true that a simple term in bold and written in black “gives a better idea of the content of the page” than the use of green and a box of the same colour around the word “Advertisement”, which was the norm not so long ago. In the past, Google had even chosen to color the entire advertising area in pale orange, as opposed to white for the classic results, as The Verge reminds us.

Google, a company that derives its income from advertising, claims that it helps the Internet user to quickly know what type of link it is.

Nor can the reasons behind this choice be due to the fact that Alphabet, Google’s parent company, derives most of its revenue from online advertising. In 2017, 88% of the company’s turnover came from this sector. It is of course the only comfort of the Internet user … which has guided the visual choices of the company … by gradually erasing everything that could separate the two types of links … [it’s good to reread that paragraph in the most sarcastic tone possible.]

The explanation, put forward at the time by Google, nevertheless convinced no one but himself. You only have to look at a few headlines in the press, such as The Verge (“Google’s ads now look like search results”) or TechCrunch (“Google’s latest design change, hostile to users, makes ads and search results look the same“), to realize this.

Alex Hern, a journalist with The Guardian, agrees: “I would say that there is no longer a visual distinction between ads and results. And, to push the nail in, it publishes a summary concocted by Search Engine Land showing how Google, by small touches, has gradually brought sponsored links closer to the results that Internet users really want to see.

A great timeline from https://t.co/MZvT5SOP53 of the slow dismantling of Google’s clear advertisement labels, from shaded and coloured backgrounds to a small black “ad” tag pic.twitter.com/FX4RmAgrRH

– hern (@alexhern) January 23, 2020

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