Recently, Google made a change to its search results that led to an outcry from some sectors of the internet. The company added favicons to organic search results, and the word “ad” in bold to any ad generated results. For some, the change felt like an effort to “trick users into clicking ads.” Now Google has heard those complaints and test changes to address the issue.
What’s Wrong With Search Results Now?
Google’s recent changes to desktop search results seemed innocent enough at first glance. The company simply added favicons, the little icons websites stick in your URL bar, to organic results. The idea is that favicons would help you identify the site associated with a particular search result. And ads would display clearly and in bold that they are, in fact, ads. It’s actually a change that mirrors Google’s mobile search look.
While some people think the change is confusing, we still don’t see the big deal. Under the new system, you don’t always have to scroll past a mountain of ads to get to organic results. And while ads aren’t colored differently, they are labeled clearly. And the worst-case scenario is, you might end up clicking on an ad that takes you exactly where you want to go anyway.
Frankly, it seems like a fair trade for Google to provide us with free services (like Maps, Search, etc.) by making money from ads. And why shouldn’t a business have to pay for our attention?
But, sometimes, the loudest voices are the ones that get heard, and the outcry on the new search look was certainly thundering. So Google is promising to experiment with some changes.
Testing For a New Look
In a series of tweets outlined by Google’s official Search account, the company explained that it heard the complaints and took them seriously. Then it outlined a series of A/B tests that will start in the coming weeks.
Some users won’t see favicons anymore when searching on the desktop. Other users will see them but in various locations in the search results. Google didn’t specify what those potential placements might be, however.
Here’s our full statement on why we’re going to experiment further. Our early tests of the design for desktop were positive. But we appreciate the feedback, the trust people place in Google, and we’re dedicating to improving the experience. pic.twitter.com/gy9PwcLqHj
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) January 24, 2020
The company also didn’t say it would change how ads look during this test, suggesting they’ll remain the same. So, in theory, if the Ad marker is to the left of the search result (as it now), and the favicon is to the right of the search result, they’ll have more differentiation.
That might be enough change to satisfy critics while still benefiting websites that would like their favicons to be visible and eye-catching. But, depending on the final look, it might not be enough to satisfy the complaints, after all, only time will tell.
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Plenty of people don't like Google's search result changes. The company hears you, and it has more changes on the way. Starting with an experiment for what works better.
— Review Geek (@reviewgeeksite) January 24, 2020