Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Not evil, but a pinch of deliberate confusion

I don't have any scientific evidence to back up a full-fledged assertion, but I have always suspected that a key success factor behind the simple text ads that comprise search marketing is their subtleness. They look just like natural search results, and I don't think most consumers actually understand the difference.

I run Google ads on my blog, and last month I received this note from Google:
We're writing to let you know about a coming change to the appearance of your Google ads. Your ads currently display the default Google color palette, Seaside (formerly known as Mother Earth). In the near future, we plan to update the default palette to Open Air, a new palette containing the same set of colors, but without the blue border. We've found that many publishers prefer the cleaner look of this palette and have also seen that a blended color palette performs better for them -- attracting user interest while still maintaining the distinction between ads and content with the 'Ads by Google' label.
Big deal, they changed the default colors. Actually it is a big deal -- they eliminated the blue border. Is it me or is this an attempt to further blur the line between content and advertisements? If we polled 1,000 random Internet users, how many really understand that text links are ads?

Evil? Probably not.

Deliberately confusing? Definitely.


rafer said...

Hi Jeremy,
Certain of that research has been done and came out exactly as you anticipated:

Stephen L. McKay said...

This is really not so different from product placement in films and TV, or on the tacky side, info- mercials that attempt to appear as news broadcasts or talk show interviews.
I Think most people get it if not when they see "Ads by Google" up top, or at least after they click through. The ability to get ones ad noticed on the internet is not an easy task for those on a tight budget.
Additionaly, I like the streamlined, more professional appearance. I used to hate it when the internet was full of blinking, buzzing, carnival (or Las Vegas)type ads.

Joe G said...

yup, for me it was the day they announced that ads on search results would now be in the same font as the natural results.

Been wondering recently: what percentage of businesses fundamentally rely on people NOT doing what they would consciously choose to do based on either laziness and/or confusion? Presumably the rest rely on actually having superior product and/or at least superior brands or marketing or something. Is it more than 50%?