The US Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Protection Bureau last week ordered that Google, Bing, and other search engines that display paid ads, do so in a manner that clearly tells the user “this is a paid ad, not an organic search result”. According to the FTC Press Release,
The updated guidance has been sent to the general-purpose search engines AOL, Ask.com, Bing, Blekko, DuckDuckGo, Google, and Yahoo!, as well as 17 of the most heavily trafficked search engines that specialize in the areas of shopping, travel, and local business, and that display advertisements to consumers.
The FTC’s letter to search engines with updated guidance concludes,
. . . . consumers should be able to easily distinguish natural search results from advertising that search engines deliver. Accordingly, we encourage you to review your websites or other methods of displaying search results, including your use of specialized search, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure you clearly and prominently disclose any advertising. In addition, as your business may change in response to consumers’ search demands, the disclosure techniques you use for advertising should keep pace with innovations in how and where you deliver information to consumers.
Until now, Google has displayed its advertisers’ paid ads on a pale yellow or pale pink background at the top, bottom, and right margin of its search engine result pages. Users may confuse the paid ads (which are selected by the user’s search phrase) with organic search results. Google calls this system AdWords. It’s their cash cow. Will clear designation of ads affect Google’s ad revenue (99% of its income)?
Zdnet article: FTC issues new edict to search engines over ads
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