29th February 2016
VARN Original Research: 50% Of People Don’t Know Which Are The Paid Ads On Google
Incredibly, one in two of us do not know the difference between an Ad and an organically found result. Over 50% of people using Google search don’t recognise Ads according to the latest Varn survey. It’s surprising because that means many of us will be effectively clicking on what could be considered spam.
Update: read our Jan 2019 research HERE).
Front And Centre Ads
The survey conducted in February 2016 comprised of 1,010 respondents, who were men and women living in the UK. Ads are an important revenue stream for Google and they traditionally occupy the right hand side of the results page and the top, above the organic results. Google has just announced they are phasing out the Ads on the side and favouring the Ads on the top of the page. They will add to the number of Ads in front of you as the first choices. This will be increased to four from three which pushes organic results down the screen – even below the fold. When you consider 42% of people click on the first option and half of us don’t even realise they are adverts, this is a big deal.
Blind To The Obvious?
So are people misled or just being blind to the obvious? There is an Ad or Ads symbol next to the links that are advertising but they are small and arguably easy to miss. In fact – in 2014 Google removed the background colour that differentiated adverts, to blend them in more naturally to the organic result. With the new move to increase the number of advertisements into the main area of the screen on the results pages, this might further make the differences less obvious.
We have to take into consideration that Google is not a charity and is first and foremost a commercial business. The changes they are making are not a crime – not for the useful service they provide. There is a question that has to be asked though: Are we setting down a path where Ads are indistinguishable from organic results? The truth is that for half of the users of Google, according to this survey, this scenario has already happened.
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