Google Goes Green

Take a close look at the screen shot above that shows the top result I got when I searched for Springsteen and Philadelphia. Do you notice anything new or different in this Google sponsored ad?

Well today Google announced that it was changing the color of its ad tag that appears in search results, indicating that a particular search result is a paid ad.

Look again at that ad – do you see the little green “ad” tag at the beginning of the search result? That tag used to be yellow.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that domestic digital advertising revenue surged to a record-breaking $59.6 billion for the 2015 calendar year, a 20% uptick over last year.

A primary beneficiary of all that revenue is Google, so I am sure it puts a great deal of thought into any decision that may affect that revenue. Even a small change in clickthrough rates on its ads could mean millions of dollars of revenue for Google.

Google tested the new color on 5% of its user base back in April.  Surprisingly, the color change showed “absolutely no difference” in clickthrough rates.

So why would Google change the color if it made no difference?

According to a spokesman for Google, “We regularly test ways to improve the look and feel of our search results page. We’ve been experimenting with a green search ad label and have decided to roll it out based on positive feedback from users and advertisers.”

I’m not sure I would have even noticed the change if I hadn’t read this story, and if someone had asked me last week what the color of Google’s ad tag was, I would have had no idea.

But I’m guessing Google, with all of its analytics power, has some solid user data to support such a move. I’m also sure there will be a team of Google analysts monitoring the effect of this change very closely for the next several months, and if the team notices a drop in clickthrough rates, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the color changed back to yellow.

It will be interesting to keep tabs on this move by Google, and if the tag stays green for the foreseeable future, we can assume that it was the right move.

So I don’t think Google’s “going green” in this case is going to have any impact on climate change, but it could add some green to its bottom line.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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