Google barely (corrected from “not”) shading search advertising links!

Google is no longer narily, barely shading the advertisements that appear at the top of the organic listings on the left of the search web page. This may be a regional thing or experimental (I’m in Oregon on Charter ISP), but it’s very conspicuous and frankly it makes it very difficult to distinguish between ads and real content.

Although I’ve always held that Google has a right to do this type of thing, I’ve always been frustrated with the pretense that they always take the high road and “don’t do opportunistic things”. This is a huge departure from Google’s previous approach and claims, which suggested how critical it is to separate organic and commercial listings. As this screen shows it is now *impossible* for the user to make that determination. Good for advertisers but bad for users and somewhat misleading.

The FCC actually claims to object to this approach, telling search engines some time ago that they need to make a clear distinction between commercial content and non-commercial.

I’m assuming they are testing the affect on clicks and revenue, and clearly it will be enormously profitable to do things this way as smart users typically look first to organic listings and last to advertising. However, in the long run it challenges the idea that Google’s primary interest is providing “unblemished” results. At the very least Google owes people an explanation here, and if it does not include the fact they’ll make a lot more money this way, and that that was a prime motivation, clear thinkers are going to call foul on this new practice.