Google has been testing.
With the recent move to take away ads from the right rail and include up two four ads at the top of the search results, Google has been working toward ad products that appear more native. The right rail ads have become a blindspot for many users. A quick search for “right rail ad blindness,” turns up mostly results from 2013, as this is not a new theory. The other contributing factor to the death of the right rail is that it has no place on mobile devices.
Just last week I came across green “Ad” labels in search results. Search Engine Land went in depth into the numerous reports of the green labels and Google’s response. My first thought was that the green labels made the ads stand out less. This fits right in line with the hypothesis that Google is attempting to make the ads appear more native and less discernible from organic search results.
Another Search Engine Land articles references the testing of local results filters. We also saw the addition of review snippets and gas prices being tested in the local pack this month. While these tests don’t show a native approach to ads, it does show that Google is attempting to update the local pack.
More Native Looking Results in Google Maps Ads
When doing a search for “ge appliances springfield mo” and then clicking the More Places (shown below), I was able to find some ads that look more native than before.
You see two ads that look exactly like the organic results, except for the small “Ad” tag.
I could only find one person who has written anything about this change. Spencer Chang shows that these ads are different than the formatting of ads on Google Maps in his article. He also points back to the mobile ad format Google rolled out last year. These “Nearby Business” ads also appear eerily native.
The best result I could get to work for the location-related mobile ad format was “oil change.” The Midas ad could easily be confused for an organic result. When more than one ad is returned on mobile, they look even less like ads.
Google wants to improve the quality of it’s ad platform for both marketers and searchers. A more native looking ad definitely helps marketers, but only time will tell if searchers push back if they feel they are being manipulated.
I do think that Google search ads are more valuable now than they were this time last year due to some of the recent updates to the SERPs.
It sure is fun to try to keep up with this industry.