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How ads are sneaking ever more neatly into the Google results

If you’ve used Google on an iPhone or iPad over the past week or two, you may have seen a completely new results display, “optimised for mobile devices”. Gone is the yellow panel (indicating ads) at the top, and different types of results are now grouped in their own (white) panels. AdWords ads are now denoted by a small yellow “Ad” flag, which many commentators think is the clearest labelling yet of what’s paid-for and what isn’t. I’m not sure I agree, but what is certainly the case is that the dominance of ads in the Google results is now very clear indeed.

Here’s a screenshot of a technical search on an iPhone: only three results in the first views, and two of them ads. They may be clearly labelled as such, but I doubt many users will care, so long as they’re relevant (and – as in the example below – they usually are).

How ads are sneaking in

What would you do when confronted with that screen? Click on the very relevant first result (so what if it’s an ad?) or scan down and maybe start scrolling into the “natural” results? I’m guessing that most of us would go straight for that top advert, because it appears to deliver everything we want. Especially now that it doesn’t have that slightly disconcerting yellow background.

Those who say that “SEO is dead” may still be a bit ahead of the game, especially when it comes to highly specific, “long tail” searches. But one thing’s for sure: if there are only a limited number of searches in your market, and “being there every time” counts for your company, you need to be investing more and more in Google AdWords advertising.

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