Google Continues Blurring the Lines Between Paid and Organic Listings

By February 24, 2020Uncategorized

Did you notice a recent change in how Google displays its search ads? You’re not the only one. 

Starting in mid-January, Google began tweaking the appearance of ads within search results. On January 13, Google rolled out the new-look ads, which still featured a tiny “ad” callout next to the ad; importantly, however, organic search results also featured tiny icons next to these results as well, making them nearly indistinguishable from ads.

As you might expect, there was a considerable debate in the SEO and digital media world immediately following the changes. Some journalists noted the increasing blurring of the lines between ads and organic results, with TechCrunch calling them “deceptive changes” and other journalists highlighting the gradual shift towards ads becoming increasingly similar to organic results. Digiday shared initial results showing that CTRs had increased on desktop immediately following the changes. Google consistently refused requests for comments, leaving many users and digital marketers wondering what was going on.

But wait! On January 24, Google backtracked, saying it would begin experimenting with different designs for its search ads, apparently in response to the public backlash. Since then, some organic results have dropped the confusing icon look, helping provide more of a visual difference between paid and organic listings.

You might be asking yourself, “So what’s next?”

At Futurety we like to say, “It’s Google’s world, and we just live in it.” No one outside of the four walls of Google can say for sure. If history is any indication, Google will likely continue blurring the lines between paid and organic results. 

For now, we recommend ensuring that traffic to your site is tagged and tracked appropriately so that if and when new changes come, you can be aware of how any updates may be impacting your goals, cost, and ROI.