Criticism towards Google after changes around advertised links

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Instead of a clearly separated ‘ad’ in a box, Google Search has been displaying advertised links in search results with a different indication since the beginning of this month. An indication that, according to critics, makes it much harder to clearly see that it concerns a result for which money was paid to appear higher in the results.

The new version of the search results makes it seem as if the ‘ad’ for the URL of the site is nothing more than a logo: in the case of non-advertised links, the logo of the website itself appears in exactly the same place. According to critics, this has made the line between what is an advertisement and what is a ‘normal’ web page wafer-thin.

Lack of clarity

Not only would Google Search users be less likely to realise that it was an advertisement, the proof that they would click on the link more often was provided immediately. In a publication in Digiday, three major marketing consultancy companies were asked about the impact of Google’s adaptation. Two of the companies didn’t think they saw a big difference compared to before, one other company (NordicClick Interactive) admitted that there was an increase of between four and ten percent in the click rate with different customers.

The change in where and how a search result is classified as an advertisement is not new in itself. Last year, the change already came to the mobile version of Google Search, with the substantiation that the update ‘better reflected where the information came from’.