Okay, so before we get our knickers in too much of a twist, it should be said that for now this is only a small test and applies solely to branded search queries, but on the surface Google have contradicted their explicit guarantee in 2005 that they would never “ever” show banner ads in search results.
“There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.”
Well times change and with it so do principles. Google have now confirmed to The Guardian that about 30 advertisers in the US are indeed running banner ads for their search queries. You can see the SouthWest Airlines example above.
“We’re currently running a very limited, US-only test, in which advertisers can include an image as part of the search ads that show in response to certain branded queries.”
For now it may well be limited and only apply to branded search queries but if this test is successful then the trend is only going to move in one direction.
Why does it matter?
Google was built on a clean, clutter-free search experience. Now, however, it seems other considerations, primarily financial, are compromising this founding principle. It’s the very nature of the tech industry that many promises will, eventually, have to be broken, but somehow the presence of banner ads in the search results feels like a big deal. In the unlikely event that they do ever lose their monopoly over the search industry, people may look back at this decision and feel it represented a small but symbolically significant milestone.