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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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RE: Bing?
By kyuuketsuki on 10/25/2013 12:27:15 PM , Rating: 3
Oh Reclaimer, sometimes I don't know about you.

1) If these ads are served directly from Google, you won't be able to block them (at least not without blocking, y'know, the entire site).

2) People who put up with smaller, mostly unobtrusive ads because ads are how Google and other sites monetize their "free" services are not somehow obligated to put up with GIGANTIC, OBSTRUSIVE, FULL-SCREEN ads.

3) No one is saying Congress should pass a law forbidding Google from doing this. They are calling out Google for betraying a principle that was explicitly stated in no uncertain terms. Are you so wrapped up in your private-enterprise-can-do-no-wrong mentality that it's not just about government intervention anymore, but people aren't allowed to not like something a company does and express their dislike and move to another service?

I really don't understand why you seem to be taking this so personally. Do you own Google stock or something?

RE: Bing?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2013 3:19:30 PM , Rating: 1
No I'm actually not affiliated with Google in any way.

However on Daily Tech there's a decidedly anti-Google slant in the articles and comments section that I do not understand. I just honestly don't understand the Google hate. Can someone explain it to me? What, exactly, have they done to you people that was so terrible?

but people aren't allowed to not like something a company does and express their dislike and move to another service?

Where are you getting that? People can whine all they want, but I'm well within my rights to point out that they are, in fact, whining.

Sorry but I think I made some good points. I know it doesn't jive with the Google is evil mantra here on Daily Tech, but I happen to think they have vastly improved the Internet as a whole. And contribute to our information technology in viable ways.

Do you guys even remember what the web was like before Google? I sure don't want to go back to that.

RE: Bing?
By troysavary on 10/26/2013 3:21:15 AM , Rating: 1
You are right you don't get it. No one is saying Google is evil here. They are saying that the value of the search results is lowering as more and more ads are replacing actual search results. That is not whining, that is simply pointing out facts. If you took off your Google blinders, you might see that. Google got to where it is now on the strength of their search, and they can screw that up if they are not careful how hard they push in monetizing that search.

No one is denying Google's right to serve ads or to monetize their search. That is a strawman you are fighting. What people don't want is for the ads to detract from the reason they use Google, the search results.

but people aren't allowed to not like something a company does and express their dislike and move to another service?

Where are you getting that?

Just stop the childish whining for fuks sake!! Nobody is asking you to accept a goddamn thing.

I don't know, where could anyone get that?

RE: Bing?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2013 7:00:11 AM , Rating: 2
No one is saying Google is evil here.

That's a straight up lie. People have said that, quite often. Not on this particular discussion, granted.

That is not whining, that is simply pointing out facts.

It is whining, sorry. The tone is quite childish.

What people don't want is for the ads to detract from the reason they use Google, the search results.

In the one example we're given, which isn't even a final version as we have NO idea what that will look like, the banner enhances the search immeasurably. That's why I do NOT understand all the whining.

Instead of searching for Southwest, clicking to their site, then muddling around for the link I want, Google has put nearly every relevant link right there on the search page. How much more convenient can you get! And the banner is 100% relevant to my search!

That's why, again, I DO NOT understand all this negativity!

RE: Bing?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2013 7:19:56 AM , Rating: 2
To expand, people are saying they don't want a large portion of the page taken up by extremely relevant and convenient banners apparently. Okay fine.

However in my experience most of the page is wasted space anyway. Usually the result I want is on the upper third of the links. Rarely do I need to scroll further to find what I want, and I almost NEVER have to go beyond the first page of results.

I'm sure Google has internal data that backs this up as well.

I see this as a win-win. My search experience is enhanced, so what do I care if they make money?

And if banners are the problem, and Adblock wont deal with this as some people are suggesting, you can just set your browser to show no graphics at all while on

RE: Bing?
By mindless1 on 10/26/2013 4:30:39 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yes you will be able to block them. I'm already blocking tons of google ads on the internet but use their search service.

Two methods:

1) What page element is it?
2) What's the URL path?

RE: Bing?
By mindless1 on 10/26/2013 4:32:05 PM , Rating: 2
3) They'll probably have dedicated servers for that. Block the IPs. There may be a ton of them but there's still going to be a way to formulate a strategy and even if it doesn't block ALL of them, some is better than none.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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