At the end of January 2020, Google began implementing a new, simplified look for Google search ads and organic listings on desktops. The new look makes it more difficult to separate the paid ads from the organic results, as the only distinguishing item now is the same black-and-white “Ad” icon.
When Google announced these changes in May 2019, they wanted to “continue our ongoing efforts to improve Search and provide a modern and helpful experience,” and also highlighted a main reason for the change:
“With this new design, a website’s branding can be front and center, helping you better understand where the information is coming from and what pages have what you’re looking for. The name of the website and its icon appear at the top of the results card to help anchor each result, so you can more easily scan the page of results and decide what to explore next.”
What’s is particularly noticeable is the contrast the new design has to previous designs. As seen here in this example from 2013, the search ads had a different background color.
Previously, research showed that 70-80% of people ignore paid search results, choosing to only click on organic search results. Whether the new design is meant to help increase performance (clicks, impressions, etc.) on ad campaigns, it does provide an interesting topic to keep in mind.
Google has said early responses were positive and that they are continuing to incorporate feedback from users while experimenting with the design and other new features. Stay tuned for more updates as they are announced by Google!