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Google backtracks on design that made ads look like organic results

"Molly Rockwell" (2020-08-13)


Google will change course on a new design choice that made ads look eerily similar to search results after widespread backlash. 

'Last week we updated the look of Search on desktop to mirror what's been on mobile for months,' said Google in a tweet on Friday. 

'We've heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we're going to experiment with new placements for favicons….'

It's not entirely clear how Google will tweak its method of highlighting which results are ads, but it says it will begin 'experimenting' immediately.

'Our experimenting will begin today. Over the coming weeks, while we test, some might not see favicons while some might see them in different placements as we look to bring a modern look to desktop….,' it wrote in a Twitter thread.

Last week we updated the look of Search on desktop to mirror what's been on mobile for months. We've heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we're going to experiment with new placements for favicons….

— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) Google's change, which placed a small icon called a 'favicon' next to ads inside was rolled out last week.While the icon, which is two bold black letters that spell out 'Ad', clearly signifies where the result comes from, many pointed out that with the addition of icons next to every single search result, the promoted results end up visually blending with the rest of the results. According to new research, the method of flagging ads in search results may indeed be blurring the line between organic and paid placements and having a measurable effect on the likelihood that users will click-through promoted results.  ‹ Slide me › On the left is an example of what Google's current search results look like. An 'Ad' favicon can be seen next to results that have been promoted. On the right is an older design with a clearer delineation of what is an ad and what isn't For Google, the accusation of attempting to blur lines between ads and organic results may come with slightly tricky time as it battles anti-trust allegations related to its behemoth role in the online ad world.Last year Google was fined $1.7 billion by the European Union for 'abusive practices in online advertising.'Likewise, in November last year, Google became the subject of a lawsuit by advertising company, Inform, which claims that that same anti-competitive behavior undermined the ad agency's business between 2014 and 2016.  


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