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More than half of internet users can’t identify paid search ads

Screenshot (78)For those of us working in the digital marketing sector, spotting paid search ads is easy: they display above and below organic search results with small “Ad” labels beside them. But recent research suggests that most internet users are far less aware of sponsored listings on search engine results pages (SERPs).

This week, Search Engine Watch’s Graham Charlton presented some interesting findings that might surprise veterans of the paid search industry. Varn, a Wiltshire, England-based research firm, recently found that 55 per cent of UK internet users were unable to identify paid ads on Google SERPs.

Intriguingly, a survey Varn produced this February found that just over 50 per cent of respondents couldn’t identify paid advertisements, meaning awareness of paid ads has fallen approximately five per cent over the last few months.

Varn’s data doesn’t explain this tumbling awareness, but Charlton suggests that Google’s decision to remove ads along the right side of SERPs could contribute, as could changes to the “Ad” labels.

“While they used to be shaded to distinguish them from organic results, ads now look less like ads than ever,” Charlton writes. “Of course, the text is a clue, but it does seem that around 50% of users simply aren’t noticing that label.”

While unaware users may not be thrilled with Google’s increasingly subtle ad labelling, the changes may be positive for businesses hoping to attract more customers to their website.

As a Google Partner All Star Agency with access to insights on Google’s preferred practices, GrowthEngine Media can manage all aspects of your paid search efforts to ensure you’re found by your desired audience.