Organic SEO

Recognising Ads in Google’s Result

Recognising Ads in Google’s Result
According to Search Engine Watch, around half of adults are unable to recognise ads in Google’s search results, according to a survey. This surprising statistic comes from Ofcom’s Adults’ media use and attitudes report, released this month. While I’ve seen studies suggesting that many people don’t know the difference between paid and organic ads, that 50% could look at a set of results like those below and still not spot them seems bizarre.


For Ofcom’s study, ‘adults who use search engines’ were shown a picture of the SERPs for ‘walking boots’. This is what the SERP looks like now, but the study was carried out in 2015, so the shopping results were not there at that time. As the study says:

“Their attention was drawn to the first three results at the top of the list, which were distinguished by an orange box with the word ‘Ad’ written in it. They were then prompted with three options and asked whether any of these applied to these first three results.”

To clarify the results, 60% identified them as paid links, while 49% identified them only as paid ads, i.e. they selected only the correct answer. Ofcom also split the results out between newer and more established internet users. Newer users in this case are defined as those who first went online less than five years ago. There were 160 newer users surveyed, and 1,113 older users.

In a nutshell: newer users were less likely to identify that the results with the yellow ad label were indeed paid results. 34% of newer and 51% of established users gave only the correct answer.