Print 47 comment(s) - last by tayb.. on Oct 27 at 9:57 AM

Google insists that it hasn't made up its mind yet about this "small experiment"

Twitter users began buzzing yesterday about something strange they had encountered.  They had gone to search on the world's most used search engine -- Google Inc. (GOOG) -- only to be greeted with glaring visual banner ads.  

A Google spokesperson confirmed to Search Engine Land later in the day that the company was testing "a small experiment", pushing out large banner ads that filled up most of the initial screen real estate, when users completed a search.  Search Engine Land speculates that Google is pushing the ads in response to very specific searches (e.g. the name of a company or product) and is testing the click-through response to try to decide whether they're worth broadly rolling out.  The ads are reportedly reaching about 5 percent of users who search on a selected terms from the 30 brands who have partnered with Google in the trial.

Partner brands include Southwest Airlines Comp. (LUV) (see below), Otto GmbH subsidiary Crate & Barrel, and Virgin Group Ltd.'s subsidiary Virgin America.

The ads don't resort to some of the most extreme advertising tactics (e.g. popups upon mouse-over), but they are a jarring site amidst Google's traditionally minimalist search page.  While Google's chief U.S. search rival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) (whose mined data also powers Yahoo! Inc.'s (YHOO) search engine) has gone all out with a search results page layout rich in media, Google typically only shows text, which a majority of users seem to prefer (as it makes for faster filtering of undesirable hits).
Former Google VP Marissa Mayer -- now Yahoo! Inc.'s CEO -- wrote in 2005:

There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.

Now users are calling new CEO Larry Page (who replaced Eric Schmidt last year) and Google in general for breaking its promise almost a decade later:

Broken promises

Google is enjoying record profits, but having seen its stock recently cross the $1,000 USD/share threshold it is eyeing more aggressive advertising tactics to try leverage its dominant market share in the mobile, email, and search markets.  It already recently stirred up controversy by stuffing Gmail users' inboxes with fake advertising emails designed to look like normal messages, a change which it rolled out to Android, albeit in slightly less offensive form (by pushing the messages to a special "promotional" folder).

Larry Page
Google's new CEO Larry Page seems more concerned about profits than his predecessors promises, which is pleasing to shareholders but could hurt Google's image. [Image Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Now Google has yet another controversy on its hands.  The real question, though, is whether these banner ads -- potentially a lucrative moneymaker -- are a dealbreaker for users of Google Search.  If the public will put up with them, Google appears intent on pushing the envelope, so don't be surprised to see this "experiment" evolve into a full fledged marketing strategy.

Sources: SynrgyHQ on Twitter, Google [2005 promise], Search Engine Land

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By StevoLincolnite on 10/25/2013 5:25:28 AM , Rating: 5
If this does occur, then I'll probably start looking at alternative search engines.

Google search used to be downright fantastic, you could search for even the most obscure piece of hardware and find information/drivers for it.
Today I just get shopping website upon shopping website.

Bing and Yahoo search isn't that much better.

RE: .
By marvdmartian on 10/25/2013 7:19:57 AM , Rating: 2
Therein lies the problem: I doubt you'll find a search engine with a better BS filter (though that's not to say someone couldn't match Google's). The problem lies with the fact that Google can't tweek their search metrics enough to weed out the sites that have figured out how to gain the top spot in the search results.

Me, I'm just annoyed with Google's new approach to offering their other services, like shopping, mail, etc, by using a little dotted icon (upper right corner of the screen), that I now have to click on, in order to choose the "app" I want. Yeah, because that's so much easier than choosing the g-mail text link at the top of the page, right Google??

RE: .
By hughlle on 10/25/2013 7:52:50 AM , Rating: 4
I agree. People should not be given the information on how to get up the rankings. Like every business in the Yellow Pages changing their name to have as many 'a's at the beginning as possible so they are on page one.

I'm also annoyed with googles new approach. Why would they go out of their way to complicate things? Whether it is as you say, having to go to my apps (since when was a website displaying the news an app?), or filtering for large pictures in image search, or selecting 720p on youtube. Right across the board they have decided that single click just isn't good enough and everything must now be hidden in menu's and drop downs etc.

RE: .
By Samus on 10/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: .
By Souka on 10/25/2013 11:33:15 AM , Rating: 2
I was curious of the percentage.... did a search on 2013 Search engine market share... yep, google rules...

RE: .
By TSS on 10/26/2013 4:48:28 PM , Rating: 2
The bottom of the innovation cycle. Google has grown too big, has been infiltrated by too many "managers" who think they know better, and is now sliding downhill like the previous companies that google took over from and why they got to grow so big today.

In other words, if google didn't start sucking, the "new google", another company who can do what google did in ~2000, wouldn't be able to rise up. Now, we just have to wait for that company to arrive. It can be annoying, but the more google starts to suck, the better chance a company like that will rise up.

RE: .
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2013 9:05:35 AM , Rating: 1
If this does occur most of us will never know it. Learn to use Adblock :)

RE: .
By DT_Reader on 10/25/2013 11:32:42 AM , Rating: 2
Adblock won't work, as Google itself serves these ads. Block the ads, block all of Google.

RE: .
By mindless1 on 10/26/2013 4:25:13 PM , Rating: 2
Yes it will work but you may need a helper app that allows Adblock+ to block particular page elements. For example one is "Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus".

It does a marvelous job of hiding crap now on Amazon, Newegg. et al. Main downside is it gobbles up memory like crazy.

I have a bunch of add-ons so I can't directly measure the memory amount but currently with only two tabs open after an hour of surfing, Firefox is taking half a gig of memory. If I'd been heavily surfing the net that figure would exceed 1.5GB.

Memory is cheap though, I don't mind.

RE: .
By AntiM on 10/25/2013 10:05:18 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, The ONLY reason I have as my homepage is because it is sparse and loads quickly. I usually get good results from my searches. Having intrusive ads in my search results would be very annoying and I would look for an alternative.

Is Google not making enough money? Why would they dare change what has brought them so much success? Just like Facebook, it's heading down the crapper.

It's as if they're saying, "People like what we do, we've been successful, let's change things and screw it up."

RE: .
By DT_Reader on 10/25/2013 11:34:36 AM , Rating: 2
Try Duck Duck Go.

RE: .
By ianweck on 10/25/2013 4:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
I use DuckDuckGo. I get acceptable results and no ads, plus supposedly no tracking.

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