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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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People learn...
By HoosierEngineer5 on 10/25/2013 7:16:19 AM , Rating: 2
that the 'promoted' or 'advertized' results rarely have anything to do with what they are searching for, and therefore avoid clicking on them.

Isn't Google aware of this?

RE: People learn...
By LRonaldHubbs on 10/25/2013 8:35:03 AM , Rating: 2
Did you not notice in the picture above that the 'promoted' result is EXACTLY what was searched for? They searched for Southwest Airlines, and the result was a banner image for Southwest Airlines and a link to their home page. This isn't the only example either; lots of other news sites have reported on this change, and every single example has shown that the banner results ARE relevant to the search.

So what exactly is the issue here?

RE: People learn...
By HoosierEngineer5 on 10/25/2013 8:52:04 AM , Rating: 3
I can just type into the URL bar to get to southwest airlines. Not suprising that Google can get me there by typing it into the Google search box.

Usually the non-promoted search results are more relevant (in most cases) than the promoted ones.

RE: People learn...
By HoosierEngineer5 on 10/25/2013 9:01:16 AM , Rating: 2
Example: Say I need replacement cells for my HP 15C calculator. Type "hp 15c cell", and the promoted result wants me to buy an ink cartridge.

Clearly one example is not a proof, but from my experience it's best to just skip the promoted results because they are much less relevant.

RE: People learn...
By bigboxes on 10/26/2013 8:44:25 AM , Rating: 2
I know you are just using it as an example of Google's search results, but do you really still use that or is it a museum piece?

RE: People learn...
By HoosierEngineer5 on 10/26/2013 5:33:28 PM , Rating: 3
Best calculator I have ever owned, a real quality piece. Still works great. No need to replace something just because a new, more sparkly thing came out.

Plus, it's a piece of HP technology that was built when HP really meant something special.

RE: People learn...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2013 9:11:32 AM , Rating: 2
The issue is people have decided providing free services isn't enough. Google needs to do it without making a profit.

When it comes to Google sadly the the outspoken minority makes the tech community look like selfish loudmouthed entitled idiots. Complaining about adds on free services, a first world problem if there ever was.

RE: People learn...
By kyuuketsuki on 10/25/2013 12:31:40 PM , Rating: 2
They've been making profits just fine without this. This offers no benefit to the end user, and in fact is obtrusive and obscures non-promoted search results. Why SHOULD anyone except Google's executives or ad agencies like this, exactly?

RE: People learn...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2013 1:16:34 PM , Rating: 2
You don't contribute any of your income to Google, you have little right to complain about their profits.

If its that big of a deal, use something else. Just stop the childish whining for fuks sake!! Nobody is asking you to accept a goddamn thing.

RE: People learn...
By troysavary on 10/25/13, Rating: -1
RE: People learn...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2013 3:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
Once again showing you have the intellect of a snail.

RE: People learn...
By troysavary on 10/26/13, Rating: -1
RE: People learn...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2013 6:54:01 AM , Rating: 2
You're attaching WAY more emotion to my posts than I ever truly conveyed. Emotional breakdown? That's just nonsense.

It takes just as much "emotional attachment" to bash Google as to point out reality. But you don't have a problem with the bashers. Oh unless it's against Windows Phone or a Microsoft product.

Maybe we're more alike than you think? I know, shudder the thought!

RE: People learn...
By mindless1 on 10/26/2013 4:19:09 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I do. I bear the cost of company advertising when I buy products. Google makes money off advertising to ME if I use their service.

As a consumer of their service that they get paid to show ads to, I have monetary value to them the same as if I was a direct revenue stream instead.

RE: People learn...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2013 1:22:09 PM , Rating: 2
Oh and Bing costs Microsoft about a billion a year in losses. So no, I don't think Google would be just fine if you whiners had your way.

RE: People learn...
By DT_Reader on 10/25/2013 11:36:54 AM , Rating: 3
The issue is that in this example one banner ad for Southwest Airlines should be enough; we don't need the top 3/4 of the page covered with Southwest Airlines ads.

RE: People learn...
By kyuuketsuki on 10/25/2013 12:30:09 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, there were "promoted" results before. The difference is that this "promoted" result now takes up 90% of the screen and obscures other results. It doesn't add anything useful for the end user, and just forces more scrolling to get to the other results in the (not unlikely) instance that the person wasn't looking specifically for the Southwest AIrlines website just because that was the search term.

Google is free to do this if they like, but people are also free not to like gigantic, obtrusive, full-screen ads with their search results and complain and use other services.

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.

By Abeauvais on 10/25/2013 8:14:50 AM , Rating: 2
Well I enjoy using google but with ads like that I may just stick to bing... BING BING BING say it!! bing?

RE: Bing?
By ShieTar on 10/25/2013 8:58:06 AM , Rating: 2
Bing? Sounds like a bad plan if you want to get rid of excessive commercial interests. Why not go for Ixquick?

RE: Bing?
By jeepga on 10/25/2013 9:01:20 AM , Rating: 3
Y'all can say what you want about it. But, I've gotten better results out of Bing for a long time now. So much so that I stopped using Google search quite a while ago. Every once in a while I get a search that I have to try on Google. But, it's few and far between.

What really annoys me recently about Google is that they are trying to artificially increase their social numbers. They're doing that by forcing people into Google+ in order to rate apps and to like or comment on YouTube. I chose the other option, and I'm now in the process of de-Googling my web presence as much as possible.

RE: Bing?
By retrospooty on 10/25/2013 10:44:46 AM , Rating: 2
"Well I enjoy using google but with ads like that I may just stick to bing... BING BING BING say it!! bing?"

The problem with that logic is you are stuck using Bing. LOL. I do like saying it. BING! But using it kind of sucks.

If they so this and the ad is directly related to the search (see above, the search was for southwest airlines nad hte banner ad is for southwest airlines and its a link dorectly to southwest airlines, then the only real change is the pic. I dont mind that at all. Especially for the great free service.

RE: Bing?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2013 11:15:45 AM , Rating: 1
I don't understand people who draw a line when it comes to ads, but who obviously don't use an ad blocker. Are you stupid?

Have you LOOKED at the web lately? Ads aren't just on, they're everywhere! What do you think pays for all this free stuff we're provided?

If you don't run an ad blocker, you have ZERO right to condemn someone for using them. Its the height of hubris.

Maybe Google should adopt the iTunes model and charge 99¢ a search, would you prefer that?

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.

By Moriicon on 10/25/2013 8:30:16 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if Adblock will block these :)

RE: Adblock
By DiscoWade on 10/25/2013 8:37:46 AM , Rating: 2
If not, Ghostery will.

Declining search quality
By ThomasDM on 10/25/2013 7:11:58 AM , Rating: 3
Yet another slide downwards on the slippery slope of declining search result quality. To me it seems that with most of the algo changes and most of the new features that were introduced in the last handful of years the quality of Google's search engine result pages went down.

Often there's so much junk or irrelevant stuff ranking that I have to dig deep to find what I'm looking. It wasn't always like that.

By piroroadkill on 10/25/2013 11:31:58 AM , Rating: 2
Eh, I use DuckDuckGo.

Firefox extensions shaft ads up the arse anyway, Ghostery, NoScript, Adblock Plus...

Good one Jason
By sprockkets on 10/25/2013 1:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
Hey Jason, did you notice Casey Johnson's flamebait article on yesterday and decided to write your own version here? Cause the people who read that article tore her a new one about that top banner being an ad. Cause all it is is a picture.

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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