Google launches new look on its search interface to increase ad clicks
Last week, Google began introducing a new look for its search results on the desktop, blurring the line between natural search results and ads above them. In dark, seemingly purposeful, the only place to distinguish between ads and search results is the small black-and-white "advertisement" icon next to the former. It's similar in format to the new icon that now appears next to the search results you follow. Early data collected by Digiday suggest that these changes may have prompted people to click on more ads.
The Guardian's Alex Hern is one of the many commentators who point to the problem, noting that there is little visual difference between advertising and search results. He tweeted: "Technically, there are still hashtags, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that it's hard to see the end of the ad at a glance." "
It's especially shocking to think that Google has designed ads differently in the past. Until 2013, search engines offered completely different background colors to their ads, separating them from natural search results. But even after that, it continues to use unique colors, effectively allowing users to quickly see where the ad ends and natural results begin.
Google partially explained the change when it announced the new design in a blog post last year, involving mobile devices, saying that adding site icons to natural search results meant that "the site's brand can be central and core", meaning that "you can more easily scan the results page." However, it spends a little time talking about changes in its advertising design and now feels more important, especially when viewing results on a laptop or monitor.
In the past, Google's Sendip Jain sedidon concluded by saying that a simple design simplifies the company's advertising design "to make it easier for users to digest information," according to search engine Land. He added that the company was trying to reduce the number of different colors used on the page to make the layout more "harmonious."
It's hard not to feel that this "harmony" is not about providing a better user experience, but about helping Google's advertising revenue more. As Digiday reports, there are data that suggest it is. According to a digital marketing agency, the click-through rate for certain search ads on the desktop has increased, and some of its customers' mobile click-through rate has risen to 18 percent from 17 percent last year after a similar change to Google's mobile search layout.
Google is essentially an advertising company. In the third quarter of 2019, Alphabet, Google's parent company, generated nearly $34 billion in revenue from Google advertising, compared with $40 billion for Alphabet as a whole. At this scale, a small change in ad click-through rates could eventually have a huge impact on Alphabet's profits, even if it means deceiving users of cheap clicks.
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