Google reverses promise made in 2005 not to use banner ads in searches

After a few Google search users noticed that for certain web searches oddly large and unfamiliar banner ads were popping up on the results page, the Internet giant has now confirmed it is testing these ads with a small percent of its user base. A spokesperson for Google calls it "a small experiment."

The screenshot above of one of the brands being advertised was tweeted by @SynrgyHQ, which later learned from Google that approximately 30 brands are signed up for this advertising test. However, the percentage of users who are currently seeing these ads is currently at less than 5 percent. Additionally, they only show up when you are searching for something specifically relevant to the brand, as seen above.

What's interesting about all of this is just under 8 years ago, Google pretty clearly promised that something like this would never happen. On the official Google blog, none other than Marissa Mayer wrote in 2005, "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."

Mayer has since left Google to become the president and CEO of Yahoo! It's also worth noting that Eric Schmidt was CEO at the time the blog post was published but stepped down in 2011.

So if these banner ads get out of the testing and made standard, Google will essentially have broken its promise. While the company is far from unfamiliar with advertising in search results, this marks the first time it is considering image-based ads in searches. Lately it seems like Google is willing to put ads just about anywhere.

Source: Search Engine LandImage via Search Engine Land

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No problem here, haven't used Google in quite some time now. In fact I block all their known IP addresses from my P.C's. same with Bing and Yahoo. Using Startpage/Ixquick exclusively now.

Looks like the 1996 version of the Southwest site embedded in Google as if Google were Mosaic/Netscape. It's just history repeating, except this go round businesses pay for the privilege of the most popular "browser" rendering thier site instead of someone else's.

Large data-driven companies are always conducting experiments like these on segments of their audience. Many experiments are small things you might not notice, like the precise size, shape, or color of a button. This one happens to be more obvious.

I'm not sure anyone is saying they shouldn't test things. The story here is that they are testing something that they explciable said they would never do

Pitchforks and torches aside, is this really the sort of thing people call a "banner ad" these days? Maybe I'm confused, but a user searched for "Southwest Airlines" and got a result for the company that included the company's logo.

Maybe it's just me, but 100% in-context visuals never really fell into the "advertisement" category in my book. It's not even a *related* visual--like neck pillows or whatever--it's actual the actual company searched for by name.

I just don't get the outrage. *shrug*

Joshie said,
Pitchforks and torches aside, is this really the sort of thing people call a "banner ad" these days? Maybe I'm confused, but a user searched for "Southwest Airlines" and got a result for the company that included the company's logo.

Maybe it's just me, but 100% in-context visuals never really fell into the "advertisement" category in my book. It's not even a *related* visual--like neck pillows or whatever--it's actual the actual company searched for by name.

I just don't get the outrage. *shrug*

Whens the last time you searched for a company name? Its more like searching "Cheap flights" and they come up.. or "CPU review" and INTEL comes at the top..

Joshie said,
Pitchforks and torches aside, is this really the sort of thing people call a "banner ad" these days? Maybe I'm confused, but a user searched for "Southwest Airlines" and got a result for the company that included the company's logo.

What's interesting is that Google could have easily made this point and chose not to. The spokesperson basically said "yep, the ads are an experiment."

Joshie said,
Pitchforks and torches aside, is this really the sort of thing people call a "banner ad" these days? Maybe I'm confused, but a user searched for "Southwest Airlines" and got a result for the company that included the company's logo.

Maybe it's just me, but 100% in-context visuals never really fell into the "advertisement" category in my book. It's not even a *related* visual--like neck pillows or whatever--it's actual the actual company searched for by name.

I just don't get the outrage. *shrug*

That's how these things start. Eventually the rules will be releaxed after everyone has become used to seeing them, and before you know it there will be one on every page regardless of what you search for

DomZ said,

That's how these things start. Eventually the rules will be releaxed after everyone has become used to seeing them, and before you know it there will be one on every page regardless of what you search for

So you're saying that, in this particular case, slippery slope is a valid argument?

Just double checking, because it's the sort of logical fallacy people love to criticize when an opponent uses it. As long as we're clear that your position is to hold one behavior responsible for separate, later behaviors that may or may not ever actually happen.

Lachlan said,

Whens the last time you searched for a company name? Its more like searching "Cheap flights" and they come up.. or "CPU review" and INTEL comes at the top..

So you're complaining about behavior that isn't even evidenced by the screenshot? You're taking a screenshot of a search for a company name and getting angry about what your imagination tells you will happen for a totally different search for which there is no evidence for any of this behavior?

Are you just looking for things to be angry about?

Blech. Results are too cramped in 8.1 compared to Win8.0 and Win7, and I don't need my search sent to Bing and the NSA every time I'm searching my drive for a tax return or family photo. I realize you can dig into a setting somewhere and disable it but most people won't bother and MS is banking on that which is kinda scummy.

Dilburt said,
I don't need my search sent to Bing and the NSA every time I'm searching my drive for a tax return or family photo.

That joke is pretty old. Anyway, if the NSA wanted to see your tax return, they wouldn't look on your computer, they'd ask the IRS, because you know, that's the government too. As for your family photos, yes those are a matter of national security. Absolutely.

Dilburt said,
Blech. Results are too cramped in 8.1 compared to Win8.0 and Win7, and I don't need my search sent to Bing and the NSA every time I'm searching my drive for a tax return or family photo. I realize you can dig into a setting somewhere and disable it but most people won't bother and MS is banking on that which is kinda scummy.

http://is.gd/CpFTne

Dilburt said,
Blech. Results are too cramped in 8.1 compared to Win8.0 and Win7, and I don't need my search sent to Bing and the NSA every time I'm searching my drive for a tax return or family photo. I realize you can dig into a setting somewhere and disable it but most people won't bother and MS is banking on that which is kinda scummy.

Moving past the angry old person tone of your response, let me add a bit of information for readers...

You don't have to search 'Everything' - you can narrow your search to Files, Apps, Settings or even use a Search Box in a Folder on the desktop.

WinKey+F is the paranoid person's shortcut instead of just typing on the Start Screen, as it only searches your files locally.

With all the 'path' and CLI features of Windows 8's Start Screen, you can even just start typing C:\Users and press enter. This will open the c:\User folder on the desktop, and if you want to search the folder, hit Ctrl-F and start typing.

That way you can live in the Desktop and treat the Start Screen EXACTLY like the Start Menu in Windows 7 and stay away from the 'new fangled Modern UI search'.

Of course people that don't want to notice that Windows 8 can do everything like Windows 7's search, but with a lot more 'keyboard' features, will complain like an old crazy person.

(Now I will gladly get off your lawn.)

winrez said,
Is it just me or over the last year is Google becoming the very kind of company it hated a few years back?

They've been the kind of company they 'claimed' to hate for YEARS now...

winrez said,
Is it just me or over the last year is Google becoming the very kind of company it hated a few years back?

Its just like how apple is the kind of company they advertised against years ago.. Talking about how no one should have a monopoly.. now they are the biggest of all

Lachlan said,

Its just like how apple is the kind of company they advertised against years ago.. Talking about how no one should have a monopoly.. now they are the biggest of all

As much as I dislike Apple's products, you can't call them a monopoly. They are anything but.

ZipZapRap said,

As much as I dislike Apple's products, you can't call them a monopoly. They are anything but.


I think that depends on the industry being discussed... Lol

I can't think of any industries that Apple are a monopoly in?

The closest thing I'd say is digital music sales, where they have anywhere between 60-75% of the sales, but arguably that market was severely broken before they entered it and since creating the iTunes store there is now more consumer choice, the opposite of a monopoly.

Apple own close to the entire market when it creates new categories, but that quickly diminishes once competitors catch up

M_Lyons10 said,

They've been the kind of company they 'claimed' to hate for YEARS now...

Not for years, but FOREVER!

I have NEVER liked Google.

It seems like the things most people here on Neowin like, I don't. Guess that's where the word "fanboy favorites" come from! I usually never follow the same path as every other Joe Blow does as I like to be different. It's what makes the world go 'round!!

cork1958 said,

I usually never follow the same path as every other Joe Blow does as I like to be different.

This just makes you a hipster... like all the other hipsters.

I dislike disliking the things people like; I'm a hipster-hipster. I like the things people like, because I like to be difference. It's what makes the world go 'round.

Will they soon include "shoot the duck" flashing animated banner ads as well, or ones of people dancing for no discernible reason? Or what about telling me how an area mom lost 500lbs by using a secret old ancient trick?

Pupik said,
Only if you ever went hunting with friends and wrote one of their fat mothers about it in an e-mail.

Don't forget the 60 year old who has skin like a 20 year old who had doctors furious. ;-)

Congratulations! You've just won 2 free iPod Nanos!
Congratulations! You've just won 2 free iPod Nanos!
Congratulations! You've just won 2 free iPod Nanos!

Yay, time to not believe anything good they ever promised before now! I'll just block it whenever I use it, like I do with almost all intrusive ads.