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Marina Khazinsky
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How (and Why) Google is Blurring the Way SEO and AdWords Listings Appear

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Earlier this year, Ofcom released a report proposing that up to 50% of people who search on Google cannot easily differentiate between organic search listings and paid ads (AdWords).

The report also found that 1,010 UK internet users couldn’t readily identify which links were ads:

google-adverts

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The results were segmented by age to identify trends between the younger and older internet users: the implication being that the older generation would most likely be less educated in respect to digital marketing. However, the report found that almost 50% of 25-34 year olds aren’t identifying the difference between organic search listings and paid ads. See below:

age-groups

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To many of us in the digital marketing industry, these results can seem quite puzzling as Google has always implemented a noticeable (at least to us!) bright green box labelled “Ad” in the bottom left hand corner of paid ads to signify the difference.

serp

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It is also noteworthy that paid ads have undergone some recent major changes to help them blend in more with the organic search listings:

  • Paid search ads no longer remain available on the right-hand side of Google, ensuring that paid search blended in a lot better with the organic results.
adwords

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  • Labels have been amended from a bright yellow to a less noticeable green label, which reflect the URL labels of the search results and once again make the (paid) ads appear aligned to the organic results and less like a sponsored ad.
  • The label shading on paid ads has transitioned to completely white now, making the paid ads appear less noticeably different to organic listings.
google-shading-and-labelling

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So, in summary…

Internet users are finding it harder to spot the difference between organic listings and paid ads than before. This has been a result of Google amending the general appearance and ad positioning of the paid ads to more closely align and blend in with the look and feel of organic listings. Aside from the aesthetic of the paid ads offering a more custom description with extensions (call extensions, site links, call outs), Google has succeeded in attempting to blur the line between paid versus organic results for its audiences.

The implication here is that Google is trying to afford itself an increase in revenue by attempting to reposition the perception of paid ads as being money-hungry businesses who only care about branding.

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By Marina Khazinsky


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