Google is continuing to run tests on making their Google AdWords ads in search results clearly look like ads. The “Ad” or “Ads” label, which many people have seen on mobile search results, is now making an appearance for desktop searches.
The labels are bright yellow with the word “Ad” in white letters beside each ad above the organic results, or the word “Ads” above the side paid search ads.
Here are a couple of examples. First a search for [black friday}:
And a search for [playstation 4]:
There’s been much controversy over search advertisements blending too much with organic non-paid search results, so that it is often hard to differentiate what is paid placements and what is simply algorithmic search results. This is something the FTC has been warning about, and the new yellow label clearly denotes these AdWords ads as being advertisements.
The interesting thing about these new yellow labels is that they make those particular AdWords search results stand out significantly more than the non-paid results. The bright yellow color draws the eye to those results, which could very likely lead to a higher ad click-through rate (CTR), despite them being labeled as ads. When scanning the page, those labeled ad results stand out incredibly well.
The other interesting thing about these ads is they no longer have the yellow background behind the top AdWords ads in the search results, so the yellow label is definitely a replacement for the background color.
There are people who are concerned, particularly pay-per-click advertisers, that labeled ads will have a lower CTR, but with it being a limited test, it will be extremely difficult for advertisers to determine if the new labels are increasing or decreasing CTR until it goes 100 percent live across all searches.
Considering Google analyzes the success of every test they do, I would be surprised if they rolled out the new labeling to more users if the CTR on the ads wasn’t higher. In other words, I would only expect that this change would be permanent if AdWords CTR goes up. I would expect if CTR decreases, we will go back to seeing the color background instead of the labels.
These new labels are still being tested, however this is definitely a wider spread test the sheer numbers of people commenting on seeing them. It could possibly be a test for Chrome users only, as most of the screenshots seem to show Chrome browser. I’m only seeing the yellow labels in Chrome, and not on Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer.