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March 02, 2007

Google AdWords testing yellow background on ads above the search results

Since I am handling the paid search side of things for Seodays, Dave & I were discussing the keyword topic areas for screenshots and examples. Ironically, while discussing that, Dave stumbled upon an AdWords test that Google is doing on their AdWords ads. Instead of the usual blue background you usually see with AdWords above the search results, these ads had a yellow background. Screenshot is below, click on the image for the full-sized version.


It was only seen once for that query, additional queries reverted back to the usual blue background. Google has always been known to do plenty of testing on a variety of site designs, particularly when it comes to how their ads are displayed, and we have seen plenty of changes made to how AdWords ads are displayed in the search results as a result of these little tests.

I think this background likely will perform better than the blue, as I suspect the AdWords team is testing this color as a test to see if "banner blindless" has begun to take place with the blue, and as you can see in the screenshot, yellow looks dramatically different from the blue, and I am pretty sure it draws more eyeballs when it is seen.

Personally, I like the change. Anyone else?

Posted by Jenstar at March 2, 2007 09:56 AM


I like it quite a bit. Helps separate the search results from paid results more.

If it goes live, I wonder how it will affect the CTR of the serps...


Posted by: G-Man at March 2, 2007 11:25 AM

I've seen them testing red as well - wasn't sure if it had some other meaning because I haven't seen it since.

Posted by: Vic at March 2, 2007 11:43 AM

From adverstiser point of view it's a nice change. Ads will be more visible. But the anit google community will complain again.

Posted by: CaTTiusha at March 2, 2007 12:15 PM

Another positive distinction is the numbering of non-sponsored results. Currently, Google's paid and non-paid results differ by a slight amount of indentation and background color...

Yahoo already numbers non-paid results. Though, I have doubts that such a tiny difference could prevent accidental clicks.

Posted by: Kev at March 2, 2007 03:46 PM

The numbers on the serps are actually from a Firefox plugin... you'd need to ask Dave to find out specifically which one that is, I know he has a collection ;)

Posted by: Jenstar at March 2, 2007 06:16 PM

Personally, I'd love to see results circled in red, mock hand-writing style, with an arrow pointing to it and the message: "These guys paid to be here!"

Maybe on April 1st?

Posted by: Bulbboy at March 2, 2007 09:08 PM

Am I color blind? I see it kinda pale red here...

I agree with you that such a move made periodically will help in maintaining the CTRs.

But there is one more aspect. Still a majority of the internet users do not know the difference between the organic listings and the sponsored ones, and that is one reason why Google still is successful in making good money. Such moves now start highlighting the presence of the ads on the search pages, and if these 'bright' colors make people notice that these are ads and not actual search listings, chances are that Google might actually start seeing reduced CTRs.

Posted by: Anand at March 3, 2007 06:22 AM

Definitely , the light yellow background will help searcher to recongize sponsored results than organic results. Also this strong is very strong and show the ads clearly. Maybe this will help Google to increase their paid search CTR since the user trained his/her eyes for long time to ignore that blue area, and with this new color background will open-up user eyes again to sponsored results.

Posted by: Qais Sami at March 4, 2007 05:45 AM

Definitely interesting, I like it.

Posted by: Esrun at March 4, 2007 11:06 AM

Definitely interesting. I like it.

Posted by: Esrun at March 4, 2007 11:07 AM

MMmm... i hate it.

Looks wrong...!!

Posted by: PPCBlogger at March 5, 2007 06:38 AM

I actually saw a pink background a few months ago and no one seemed to care when I posted about it in the TechCrunch forums.

Posted by: Steve at March 5, 2007 11:38 AM

I have seen something familiar exactly one month ago, but a little orange-ish instead of yellow.

I don't like it that much...

Posted by: Haochi at March 5, 2007 11:58 AM

I would expect this to work.
With AJAX becoming more popular, more people will become used to seeing the flash of yellow indicating 'change you need to look at', so a yellow background of the same colour should work (for a while) to draw people's attention.
Of course, its somewhat unethical as you are usurping a reaction developed for a different meaning. Ah, well.
(I'm assuming its the same yellow typically found in AJAX, of course - can't really tell... the screenshot looks kinda orange here)

Posted by: Lea de Groot at March 5, 2007 03:37 PM

Sounds like Google are doing random testing of a wide variety of colours. If I had their traffic this is exactly what I'd do.

Posted by: Rob Haswell at March 7, 2007 01:17 AM

yellow does mean caution, it would work well for distress type of ads.. i.e. debt relief, bacnkruptcy, pregnancy, lol...

I thought the light day glo green ones were ok. With those, I tended to look at the ppc ads instead of just skipping down to the first organic result as usual..

Posted by: paisley at March 7, 2007 09:32 PM