Google Grovels After Blurring Paid & Organic Results
Just two weeks after Google announced a major 2020 redesign for desktop search results, the search giant is scampering with its tail between its legs, following withering criticism from users, marketer and policymakers alike.
As per the above screenshot, Google’s most recent desktop search redesign centres on a change in design and layout for how advertisements are displayed.
The design update involved a visual overhaul, making it more difficult to differentiate between paid and unpaid search results.
It follows the removal of colour overlays and the introduction of small branded iconography (i.e. favicons), next to non-ad results.
The desktop design change is one of the biggest in the company’s history, with Google search ads never looking more like organic listings before. As illustrated by this handy 2007 – 2019 search design timeline.
An Ad favicon now appears at the top of the ad, along with the display URL, also in black text, above the ad headline. The latest design update replaced the green Ad label, introduced in 2017.
Organic results now have a corresponding favicon, which brands can tailor.
January’s search update mimics a corresponding update which was launched on mobile search results back in mid-2019.
While the 2019 mobile search launch didn’t attract too much attention, the desktop equivalent has brought the ruckus for Mountain View’s finest.
Sorry, Not Sorry
Over the weekend, Google issued a statement announcing a period of experimentation for search engine results, as it aims to appease users, while still growing its ad business.
Google Search Liaison via Twitter
“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….
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….”
While keeping users sweet is important, Google’s major priority will no doubt be to milk its search engine advertising cash-cow as hard, and for as long, as possible. Given the expected slowdown in its core ad business.
Despite a sometimes trillion dollar market capitalisation, Google’s future struggles are not a secret, with worrying headwinds mounting courtesy of government regulation, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. To name a few.
Marketing Impacts Of Google’s SERPs Redesign
Any changes to how ads or organic listings are displayed in search engine results pages naturally impacts click through rate, and therefore broader marketing performance.
Following the 2019 mobile favicon update, noted previously, there was a 15% increase in the number of clicks on mobile ads, according to Jumpshot and Sparktoro.
The growing importance of visual search is well documented. In fact, studies show users no longer scan search engine results pages sequentially, but rather “pinball” around pages drawn by visual prompts.
Therefore, not only does making the most of favicons make sense for marketers, but thinking about the wider role of imagery in search is advisable.
For example, if you are running Google Ads, it is a smart move to take advantage of more visual Google ad extensions, such as Product, Promotion and Lead Gen extensions. Whilst capitalising on visual search ads, such as shoppable ads on Google Images or Showcase Shopping ads and similar, as and when they launch.
Likewise, on the organic search front, a corresponding example could be related to if you have video assets. It is worth considering also housing on your website and then marking up appropriately so that Google can surface more visually in search engine results.
All of the above are quick to action, little extra effort, generate greater visual standout for searchers and will drive more clicks and outcomes for marketers.
As for Google's latest design announcements, marketers would be wise to monitor Google paid and organic performance over the coming weeks, expecting potential disruption of some form or other.