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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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Easy to block
By tayb on 10/27/2013 9:57:41 AM , Rating: 2
These ads are simple to block. There are many extensions that will block ALL advertising on search results. There is also Stylish which let's you basically hide content forever that you don't want to see.

I am not interested in viewing advertising in any format and will block and reject it wherever possible. I have no moral problem with this. It is Google's fault for not offering a paid ad free service.

Advertising works because people click the ads and then buy content wherever they end up. Another way I fight online advertising is by clicking every ad and then closing the tab. I've considered a script that does this automatically but it would probably slow down my browsing experience. If everyone clicked through and left the cost per click would plummit and it wouldn't be a worthwhile endeavor.

So, if you don't like ads block them or click them and leave. Either way you're hurting Google, which is good in this scenario. I would much rather have a paid ad free service.




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