Does Google’s New Ad Display violate FTC best practices?

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by Brafton Editorial
Google's experimenting with the way it displays paid content in SERPs, and marketers want to know:  Do the changes mean less transparency?

Hi! Lauren Kaye, here, with this week’s Content and Coffee. Today I want to address the balance of organic and paid content in search results. Click play to watch the full video, or read the transcript below!

 

When it comes to SEO, most campaigns live or die by their positions in SERPs, and for good reason. The top result cannibalizes about one-third of all clicks for that search term, and content that falls below fold receives a tiny fraction of search traffic. This hierarchy is a lot of what motivates publishers, brands or anyone with a website to improve their pages.

But what would happen if all that prime SERP real estate was bought up before marketers had a chance to earn it? That’s what some people are afraid of.

Google has been experimenting with changes to the way it displays paid ads, and some members of the search marketing community are asking questions. In some results, Google has done away with the orangey-pink boxes that have always been used to signal when content is sponsored, and it’s instead displaying ads in front of a white background with a small orange label that reads, “ads.”

Not only that, but it’s also been showing sponsored retail products in a separate section above organic results. This means there’s even less space for natural content, and marketers must become more competitive to score it.

Although one of Google’s outspoken hallmarks is transparency, I can’t help but question if these updates make it harder for internet users to discriminate what’s paid and organic on the site. The Federal Trade Commission has been cracking down on websites that display sponsored content in a way that’s at all misleading. A warning issued last summer even discussed the importance of sticking to a standard once it’s been set to avoid any confusion.

Customers should know when they’re viewing advertisements and when they’re seeing information that’s truly the best match for their queries.

It will be interesting to see how Google’s ad displays and SEO guidance evolve over time. For now, the best thing marketers can do is to continue producing top-notch web content and optimizing for excellent on-site experiences.

Catch you next week, and happy content marketing!

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