Why is the difference between search results and paid ads important?

People search things in Google (and other search engines too) to find results. When someone searches their aim is to find the most relevant page based on what they are looking for.


Some people are aware (but not everyone) that Google splits its search results into two. Firstly, there are organic search results where someone ‘earns’ the right to be ranked where they are based on their website authority. Secondly there are paid ads which is quite simply, paying to appear on the search results.


A recent report published investigated the dynamic of search and paid adverts on search engine results pages, and found some quite interesting statistics. Before we take a look at that it is necessary to preface this by considering what Google has done recently.

In the last few years alone, Google has made many changes, adjustments and modifications to its search results pages – especially the pinnacle ‘page 1’ that everyone strives to achieve. Some of the discontent from these changes has been that it makes it become confusing for users with them not being able to differentiate which is which.  On this the main question is should Google take notice of the representations that search results and paid ads are becoming more blended? Indeed, there is an argument by some that paid ads are taking over page 1 rather than anything else, leaving some to question what relevance Google places on organic.


The recent report found that as many of 60% of people aged 18 to 34 can’t tell the difference between paid ads and ‘pure’ organic search results. Further statistics from this research showed that of the people asked in this survey, around 35% know what paid ads are but do not click on them and under 10% know how to spot paid ads and actually click on them.

Google has responded by saying that it is always trying to enhance it’s interface to make it as user friendly as purposive as possible, but figures from this report would seem to suggest otherwise.

Infact it could be argued that the report is rather worrying for Google as it shows that people are not interacting with the search engine (A) the way they want to and (B) the way they have geared the platform for.


What does it matter anyway?

Some would argue that an accurate search result is all that counts and that anything else is irrelevant anyway. The problem is Google wants its platform to be unbiased and results generated in an ethical way. If results are being blended (and perhaps geared more towards paid?) than it can cause concern and confusion for searchers and webmasters. On this, it would be more likely that people would view Google as biased and unethical, which is exactly the opposite of what it wants!


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