Google has denied suggestions that organic search results and paid ads are difficult to differentiate from each other after a survey found that the majority of young people believe that they are.
An article published by Medium referenced original research by Varn showing that 60% of people do not recognise paid ads on the Google platform when they are served up in search results. Just 7.7% said that they recognise paid ads and choose not to click on the links.
The survey said: “More than 50 percent of people between the ages of 18–34 can’t differentiate between an ad and an organic result on Google. For those over 35, that percentage grows proportionally higher.”
Google engineer Paul Haahr responded on Twitter by claiming that the findings were not entirely true based on everything that the tech giant has seen on search. Haahr also said that Google works hard to ensure that the majority of searches do not contain any ads at all, and that they are clearly labelled when they are surfaced.
He added: “Up to 4 [search results are paid advertisements]. Maybe none, which it is on most searches, because most are non-commercial. And all ads are labelled as such.”
While Haahr was adamant that paid and organic search results do not look entirely similar from a visual design standpoint, other users chimed in on Twitter by claiming the contrary. Google has updated its design for search ads in recent years and it appears that those who are less familiar with search engines are struggling to tell the difference.