“You can tell which of the results are Ads in search because of the green Ad label next to the url” – you, probably.
Guess again, idiot.
Google rolled out a subtle-to-some-but-not-to-others change to its desktop search results which included a big, bold Ad stamp next to paid results and a favicon (or ‘logo’ to you filthy casuals) next to the organic ones.
Google’s green Ad label
The Ad label changed from yellow to green a couple of years ago, and because it matched the green used in urls in both paid and organic results, it could be interpreted as the first move toward the two results types beginning to look more similar.
… Then the solid label became a box:
… but now the look of the Ad label has changed again.
Favicons in organic search results
In May last year, Google started including websites’ names and logos in its mobile search results “to better guide you through the information available on the web”. And now it’s rolled it out on desktop:
However, it seems there was quite the backlash against these changes…
thanks i hate it
— Kou-chan (@Kougeru) January 14, 2020
With accusations of cloaking, distracting, and UI trickery, many users pointed out that it’s even more difficult to distinguish between an Ad and an organic result now. And Google’s had to respond:
Last week we updated the look of Search on desktop to mirror what’s been on mobile for months. We’ve heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we’re going to experiment with new placements for favicons….
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) January 24, 2020
Google Search Results, User Testing, and the Favicon
There are now reports that people are seeing lots of different versions of search results. Some with bold Ad labels and favicons included, some with bold Ad labels and favicons not included, and some are seeing the old desktop design with green Ad labels and green urls in organic results.
Google’s on that UX train, y’all.
Lots and lots of testing would have gone into such a visual overhaul in the first place. Google makes its money through advertising, and so making a change to its search results that makes it harder to differentiate between Ads and organic listings, although morally questionable, is fully unsurprising. It’s business. And according to NordicClick’s Brooke Osmundson, as a result of this “blurring”, their clients’ Ads click-through rates have reportedly increased.
I’ve always stood by the idea that User Testing and CRO are the less aggressive side of marketing because it’s about asking users what they want instead of telling them what they need. But make no mistake; every tweak and every ‘refinement’ Google’s making to its search results is about generating more Ad revenue.