It’s been a busy year in Google news. Back in 2019, Google announced that the mobile search results design will get a new look. The redesign had the goal to make finding results easier and faster. In a helpful effort to modernize the way users see results, favicons were introduced as an additional identifier for brands and websites.
According to Google, these favicons were meant to help users better understand the source of the information and its credibility as a way to avoid fake news. The new mobile design was met with minimal complaint although users were savvy enough to see through the changes as a way to make ads more indistinguishable from organic results by making the icon smaller and black.
Google Rolls Out Its Promised Improvements to Search Display
Later that year, Google said that it will begin experimenting with the desktop search display with the design similar to that of the mobile design. Then in January of this year, users noticed the change on their desktop browsers and were not happy about it. Many went to voice their opinions on Twitter calling out Google for blending paid ad results with organic results to make it easier for users to click, generating the company revenue.
As more complaints followed the change over the week of the roll out, Google decided to take back its redesign to make adjustments in favor of user experience. But it wasn’t just because of users that Google made its decision to backtrack the search results change. Legislators also voiced their concerns over Google’s less than subtle intentions for the redesign. Senator Mark Warner, accused Google saying that the change was, “yet another example of a platform exploiting its bottleneck power for commercial gain, to the detriment of both consumers and also small businesses.”
The Albatross on Google’s Neck
Google defended its design after retracting the changes saying that they were made based off positive reviews from the mobile search results design, but due to the negative feedback of the desktop design, the company removed the favicons and will continue to experiment with the look of results. Though this step back quelled criticisms, the elephant in the room was that Google and its affiliate companies have the goal to increase clicks to generate as much revenue as possible.
It comes as no surprise these “subtle” changes were made due to the fact that ad revenue dropped during the first quarter of 2019 and declined further in the third quarter. Since the majority of the company’s revenue comes from ad clicks, blending ads with organic results generates more clicks, accidental or purposeful, to reverse the decline. And it worked, with a 17% increase in the number of ad clicks compared to the first half of January.
The Bottom Line for Google
The look of search results has been slowly but surely evolving over time to boost more clicks. From 2007 to 2013, ads were distinguished with color blocks that highlighted ads. Then the color blocks were removed altogether and the color of font used for ads changed.