Is Google Intentionally Trying to Minimize the Fact that These are Ads?

Like many people, I have a less expensive, older LCD display at home that works just fine. With one exception. It makes Google Ads look just like a genuine search result. Obviously a screen shot doesn’t capture the “failings” of my typical display so I took a shot of the screen using my iPhone where you too can experience the lack of contrast. There is absolutely no distinction between the Adwords Express Ad and the local result. And the Adwords advertiser has the temerity to fake their reviews to boot.

But even when the yellow highlighting is visible, it might not really convey the fact that these are ads. My daughter, 19 and a reasonably savvy consumer of technology, asked me last week what the yellow meant. One assumes, in a company that tests things so much the decision is not accidental.

Do you think that Google makes the ads obvious enough?

(Click to view my bad photo of my LCD screen larger)

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Is Google Intentionally Trying to Minimize the Fact that These are Ads? by

60 thoughts on “Is Google Intentionally Trying to Minimize the Fact that These are Ads?”

  1. Just last week I was sitting with a client showing him his website at position 1. Felt a little lame demonstrating that it was actually in fact halfway down the page, only just above the fold on his PC screen. ‘well how can you tell that those are ads he said?’. Obvious to me, not so to him. I tilted his monitor and explained that they have a yellow tinge to them…

  2. @Chris

    You could have avoided tilting the clients monitor by pointing out the blurb that says, “Ads – Why these ads?”

  3. Because when you can’t see the yellow, that small disclaimer, if seen, could look like it is related to the line of ads running down the right hand side of the page?

  4. @Bob

    After several attempts at calibration I finally found a combination that works. It uses unusual settings and my take away was that most Mac users with 3rd party monitors would be likely to experience this issue.

    It required that I turn the contrast and brightness up to 100% (that’s not unusual) but it also required that I use the built in Mac calibration tool and set the color temperature to 9500k and set the gamma at the PC setting. That is not a normal Mac setting, is never the default and and it is at the very blue white end of the color spectrum. Thus it is likely that any Mac users would not be aware that they would need to set the Kelvin temperature that high.

  5. This morning I had a laptop screen on and there was not color/shading distinction at all between ads and organic results. NONE.

    About one half later I turned it on again…and there was a faint distinction, versus a significant distinction at other times on that laptop.

    I’d say we are all guinea pigs in the world’s largest data collection experiment on user behavior.

    Its all done without our acknowledgement and basically without our knowledge. The only people who know about it is google.

    I suspect they share it with very very large advertisers.

    The world is google’s lab and the rest of the world is pretty much in the dark about it. tsk tsk

  6. Hi Mike,
    I agree completely with this complaint.
    FYI, I added a chrome add-on called “stylish” which allowed me to change the user stylesheet associated with the internet. In it I added a style which I named “make ads more obvious” and in it I added the css code “#tads { background-color:orange;}. Now the ads are very orange and obvious. I think there are other ways to do it on IE or the others. The css code selects the element with all the ads (#tads) in it and overwrites the background-color to be whatever you want.
    Best, Keith.

  7. I use monitors on PC’s with the occasionally query on a laptop screen to search, laptops seem especially difficult but often I can’t tell where the ads end even on a monitor.

    In the mid to long term I suggest this is not good for Google as it reduces the quality of their results and can also annoy visitors. A short term gain I hope that leads to a long term loss!

  8. I found this thread after observing the same thing. I’m a graphic designer and know how to calibrate a monitor. The fact is that my 27″ IPS LCD iMac shows a yellow background, and my older 24″ LCD iMac barely shows any hint of a background color. It doesn’t even vary when you change the viewing angle.

    I believe this is absolutely intentional since Google gets paid through ad clicks. It’s to their advantage to disguise ads as content. They’re literally blurring the line between paid ads and organic search results.

  9. @Paul

    Yes the more I have tested on various LCD and non LCD monitors I too am convinced on the intentionality.

    Recently the FTC asked more obvious ads. Whether due to that or some other reason google is now highlighting ads in mobile with a bright flag. Definitely an improvement.

  10. I can confirm my inability to distinguish between ads and search results on my smartphone LG P509.

    Google. Don’t be evil.

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