Insights

31st January 2020

58.1% of people don’t know which links on Google are ads: is Google making ads less clear?

Google began rolling out a desktop search redesign in 2019 after trailing this on mobile for several months, complete with changes to how ads are displayed. In our latest survey, just over 58% of users claimed that they didn’t know which links within the Google search pages were ads, leading us to wonder whether ads are continuing to become less clear.

In January 2019, we found that 5.5% of users who recognised ads on Google chose to click on them, whereas in our latest survey this has risen to 7.6% with those aged 25-34 being the most likely to click on ads. This may suggest that people are beginning to trust adverts on Google more, thanks to the way that Google scores the ads and the guidelines businesses must follow to ensure their products are shown.

However, since our first survey in 2016, the amount of people who are unable to identify adverts on Google hasn’t really changed. In fact, over the past few years, the percentage of those surveyed who are not aware of the paid adverts on Google has stayed around the 58% mark. This is hardly surprising, as it’s in 2016 that the Ad labelling really took a step away from those before it, and started its transformation to look more like regular Google listings.

Google’s latest redesign and what it means

The new update from Google has been constantly changing since its release as marketers give their opinion on the layout. Organic results initially had favicons displayed by the listing, which can be updated by the website owners to display brand icons but Google is now testing different options for this. So we are yet to see what the set design will be for 2020.

For paid search results, however, a black “Ad” label replaces the green outlined label that Google introduced in 2017. Google is right in the fact that the new ad labelling helps users to know where the information is coming from, as the URL for the site is now above the top of the listing as it is with organic results.

In their announcement in May 2019 Google told us, “When you search for a product or service and we have a useful ad to show, you’ll see a bolded ad label at the top of the card alongside the web address so you can quickly identify where the information is coming from.”

Notice that Google states that you’ll be able to quickly identify where information is coming from and added that there is now a black bolded ad symbol. But the key thing here is that they use the phrase, “where information is coming from” rather than “quickly identify ads”.

With the web address being displayed the same way in all search results ads now look remarkably like their organic counterparts, perhaps more so than ever before. So now we are beginning to pose the question: is Google really making ads easily identifiable, or do they just want people to click on the ads?

The answer? Well, of course Google wants us to click on ads. After all, that is one of its revenue streams.

However, Google has always wanted to help users and to provide them with relevant and useful information, which is why SEO is so important for your website to ensure you rank highly for organic listings. Whilst ads are less clear than they were in 2013, for example, the key point here is that users can easily identify the site that is providing the ad and can base their decision of whether to click on that based on that information.

Some users might see the URL and notice a brand that they use frequently, and which has an ad that is relevant to their search, prompting them to click. So it becomes less about the fears consumers harbour around ads, and more about the products and the information being displayed.

 

For more information on pay-per-click marketing, or to find out more about how to improve your organic rankings, get in touch with the team at Varn today.

Article by: Tilly, Digital Marketing Executive More articles by Tilly

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