There’s been considerable reaction in the search world to the appearance of what amount to display ads or “brand image” ads in Google search results. The NY Times Claire Miller reminded readers this morning of Marissa Mayer’s famous 2005 statement that there will be “no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages.”
That was then; this is now.
Below is an example of one but there are apparently about 30 advertisers participating in the test. I haven’t seen any myself “in the wild.”
Google’s search results are a veritable cornucopia of images these days. With product ads, universal search, authorship and Knowledge Graph, images are bursting out all over the SERPs.
Visual information can be extremely helpful to users in getting them to desired content or publishers quickly. The old Google model: lots of uniform, nondescript publisher links is dead or dying. What most users want is “answers” and structured information that can help them make a decision or answer a question.
One of the main problems from a brand or publisher perspective with the 2005 Google SERP is that it was effectively a “brand killer” — flattening and implying that almost all content was of equivalent value. In numerous cases brands mean something to consumers and can be a shortcut or proxy for quality or savings, etc.
I’m much more interested in reading articles on the government shutdown from the NY Times than I am most other sources. In that instance a company/publisher logo helps me get to my desired content source more quickly and saves all the clicking and scrolling.
By the same token there are times when one doesn’t know what one wants or have a favored source. In such circumstances brand information, images, logos may not be as helpful.
The challenge for Google is how to judiciously use brand imagery so that it supports user objectives and doesn’t wind up creating visual clutter or some Las Vegas-like atmosphere on the homepage.
What do you think about it? Do you like it? Do you hate it?