Google responds to backlash against updated Google Search Results design

Joanna Estrada
January 25, 2020

Google will change course on a new design choice that made ads look eerily similar to search results after widespread backlash.

Google LLC said today that it will revisit a controversial recent redesign of its search engine that has been criticized as deceptive.

'We've heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we're going to experiment with new placements for favicons....' However, Google makes most of its money from ads.

'Our experimenting will begin today.

This isn't the first time Google has faced criticism over the design of its ads.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Rolfe Winkler said the Federal Trade Commission sent letters in 2013 to Google and other search engines saying the distinction between ads and organic search results had become "less noticeable to consumers".

Going on, the survey finds that 75 per cent of consumers regularly feel misled by search results, and that nearly everyone has ended up somewhere they do not intend by clicking a search link. An "Ad" favicon can be seen next to results that have been promoted. It is obvious that Google could do better if it tried; but it is an advertising business and in practice treads the line between having good enough organic search to keep people loyal, while also making it as easy as possible to click the ads.

We reported 2 weeks ago that Google is tweaking Google Search, to bring the design already present on the mobile search site to desktop users. So as Google continues to experiment and change the way the snippets are displayed, your traffic may be impacted in some way.

The latest example blurs the line nearly completely by adding a "fav" icon to the organic results, and including the link above the result, both of which make them look far closer to the ads above. But, in the long run, it will also benefit Google'.

In a Twitter thread by Guardian journalist Alex Hurn, users seemed to agree that the new design has made it more hard to actually suss out the difference between a real result and a paid one.

What do our readers think of the new look?

Others say they believe the design was intentional on Google's part.

A recent Brand Verity survey of 1000 USA consumers showed that most people have little idea about how search results are ranked - opinion were split between "relevance", "who pays the most", a combination, and simply "don't know".

"The design has been well received by users on mobile screens, as it helps people more quickly see where information is coming from and they can see a prominent bolded ad label at the top". In fact, Google is the largest advertising platform in the world.

As The Verge points out one of these tests involves removing the favicons altogether, making Google Search results just a plain collection of blue links again. You can see an example of old Google Ad styles in the tweet below.

Link colors and general text appearance have also evolved to more closely mirror regular search results. For instance, a favicon in 2016 is the same green color as the link and a notable change from the previous yellow icon.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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