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Google Breaks Promise from 2005 to Never Ever Show Banner Ads in Search Results

Promises are made to be broken but in the open, high profile world of corporate promises, you’d at least think one of the biggest, Google, would keep its promises.

First seen reported on the guardian.com, Google searches for “southwest airlines” are returning searches with big, Southwest themed large banners at the very top of the SERP.

Google has secretly recently started testing showing banner ads above organic and paid search results, allegedly breaking its 2005 promise to “never show banner ads in search results”. First reports of these Google banner ads started trickling in on the 24th and the ads reportedly take up the entire width of the browser screen. I tried repeatedly to find the banner ads myself, but to no avail.

Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products at Google in then, 2005 made an announcement on the Google’s corporate blog that banner ads will never appear in search. “There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages.”, she wrote. Looks like that promise is in the testing phases of being broken.

My contact at Google said the testing is isolated and appears to have been temporarily taken offline, meaning its doubtful that right now anyone is seeing these banner ads in search results. However, I highly doubt this new “feature” of Google search will be thrown out. Most likely, it’s just being tweaked and we will soon see banner ads like the one from a recent Southwest Airlines search performed below.

Here’s the deal with these banner ads. It appears they will likely only show for branded search results. Seeing a Southwest themed banner ad like the one above on random and generic search queries like “cheap airfare” would be a huge issue for both airline companies and consumers alike. In other words, it is highly doubtful banner ads will ever appear for anything other than branded searches.

Google is constantly turning into a big one page advertisement for branded search results. Want to search for Delta flights? Soon you’ll likely see a search results page with Wiki-esque info on the right, Delta’s banner ad at the top, recent news, images, social activity, etc. Most likely future searches will return only a single URL above the fold…if not just the single URL on the first page results at all.

In reality, 2005 was a long time ago and Marissa Mayer likely took her promises to Yahoo with her when she left Google. Google’s job is to increase its profits and since search result ads make up more than 95% of it’s revenue, it’s likely you’ll continue to see changes and optimizations from Google that are designed to increase revenue from ads and protect big brands.

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