Can you spot the ads?

There are lots of practical reasons to utilize paid search ads to promote your business on Google – it’s economical, produces quick results, and you can serve your ads to targeted audiences. Another potential benefit could be that many people don’t recognized the paid ads as advertisements at all.

Google’s Shift to Native Advertising Tactics

Not too long ago, Google removed the right column ads. Over the years, Google has modified the way their paid ads display in search results. Here’s an illustration from Ginny Marvin on Search Engine Land of how it’s changed from 2007 to 2016.

As you can see the highlights have disappeared and the bright yellow Ad has been replaced with green to match the URL. Google confirmed the switch in June, but users in some countries started seeing green ads last April. If you haven’t noticed them yet, you will soon!

A recent OfCom survey reported that nearly 55% of adults couldn’t distinguish between paid ads and organic results. Even more interesting, the age of the participant seemed to matter. The younger they were, the better they were at distinguishing the difference. However, 50% of that group STILL couldn’t recognized paid from organic results!

How can this benefit your business?

Maybe these color changes are a reaction to consumers’ increased annoyance with other, more intrusive forms of online advertising such as pop up ads or self-playing videos (yuck). People learn to ignore ads when they stand out. Or they use ad blocking features to stop them all together. Shifting to a native advertising approach, where sponsored ads blend in with organic results seems like a good way to avoid irritating your audiences. Newspapers have been doing it for decades.

Overall, if your sponsored ads look less like an ad and appear near the top of search results, you’ve got a much better chance of getting that click!