Google’s latest search results change further blurs what’s an ad

Digiday 23 Jan 2020 05:00

Users of Google search on desktops may have noticed a slight change over the last week and that change is affecting what they perceive as an ad. This represents a further blurring of the lines between ads and organic sources in search.

Beginning Jan. 13, Google redesigned its desktop search experience to feature favicons, or preferred icons. For organic results, users will see favicons, or a brand’s icon next to the url. For ads, they will see a bolded black ad label next to the url that looks similar to a favicon.

This redesign first appeared in May on Google search for mobile devices. At the time, Google said the move was prompted by a desire to help users “better understand where the information is coming from and what pages have what [they’re] looking for.” Bringing that same design to desktops this month adds to the consistency of the search experience, regardless of the device, according to Google.

This isn’t the first time Google has changed the look of ads in search.

“What an ad looks like has gotten more subtle over the years,” said Brooke Osmundson, associate director of paid search for NordicClick, a pay-per-click agency. “It’s started to blur the lines between what users thought was an ad or wasn’t.”

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