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Google AdWords Forum

google premium listings dancing the fine line
Are premium listings looking too much like "real" listings?

 6:12 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

I know its been discussed before but has something changed to make the premium listings at the top look more like regular listings daily. I know the color set up my laptop makes the pastel shades very hard (well almost impossible) to detect, but how about other people's displays.

Im increasinly feeling that people will mistake paid listings for real listings. The disclaimed that they are sponsored is way over on the right where people rarely look, expecially when they have been trained to look at the results on the left!

We do have adwords, and have been sometimes, as recent as today. "promoted" to the premium spots, so we are gaining more often than not, (though i sure hope people would click on our regular listings at 1 to 3 rather than the expensive one!), so I feel Im being fairly objective - but i do wonder how fine a line google is treading with the FTC on this?

Is the labelling clear enough these days for premium ads, especially when adwords seem to be getting much more popular?



 6:35 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey Chiyo.

Conversely, I believe Google has separated their premium listings better than some of the other major search engines.

Perhaps it is just the colour settings on your laptop, but the pastel shaded premium area stands out well enough for me to acknowledge them from the regular listings.

Mind you, I have noticed that several other SEs have taken a more "stealthy" approach to their SERPs. Take a look at MSN or Yahoo. It seems that MSN has designed their sponsored matches to slip in under the radar, so to speak. They look EXACTLY like the regular results. It's quite suspect, IMHO.


- Chad


 6:39 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi Chad, Yes i agree with you.. Google still looks better than others on this,, yet.. maybe we expect better from google...

And yes I agree that the problem may be with my laptop, but how many others also have the same problem. The real question of course is what puter does the head of the FTC or the beak use? ;)


 6:51 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Now what do YOU want Chiyo? Do you want premium ads to look like the search results? ;)


 6:57 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ok - ya caught me vib!

my "promoted" adwords today resulted in 5% clickthoughs and our best day of qualified leads for months..

..mind you our adwords bill went up!


 7:00 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think the colouration is distinct enough, but is bordering on the thin edge of the wedge ... so to speak.

I don't think Joe surfer makes a distinction between a sponsored "premium listing" and the regular serps though. Friends of mine who have a PR0 site have bought adwords and are getting a reasonable repsonse. When Google placed their ad in the premium listing area (for no additional fee), their sales went up considerably.

I take that as proof that the surfer doesn't know the difference. Although Google is better at making the distinction than any of the other engines, they also know darned well that there is a big advantage to that space or else they wouldn't charge more for it!


 7:03 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

..mind you our adwords bill went up!

Aha! That explains your concern! ;)


 7:22 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)


I have to agree with you about the colorization. I have looked at the listings from both my laptop and desktop and the pastels are pretty light on both machines.

I definitly agree with Liane about the average surfer not making a distinction between the premium and regular listing. I too have a friend who is using adwords and the site was fortunate enough to be moved to the premium listing and the CTR went up considerably!


 11:39 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

color aside, it says "Sponsored Link".


 1:17 am on Jan 7, 2003 (gmt 0)


Yes but you have to admit that the sponsored listing is non descript and on the right hand side where most people are not going to look


 1:58 am on Jan 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

and on the right hand side where most people are not going to look

That's an interesting statement. (Yes, I know, I took it slightly out of context, but bear with me.)

Isn't that where the rest of the adwords appear? So, is that a premium area, or not?


 2:44 am on Jan 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think, in most ways, the average internet user doesn't understand (nor care) that the listing is sponsored. I could be wrong. I am going off my experience with friends and family who use the net. I try to explain that what I do on google and I am met time and again with "those are paid for?" remarks. If you look at some of google's (and overture's) partners, the distinction between what is regular and what is sponsored is VERY vauge. I think of all the SE, google is far better at pointing it out. Though, I am not quite sure that anyone notices.


 2:58 am on Jan 7, 2003 (gmt 0)


Yes adwords do appear on the right side, but if you look at where the premium sponsored listing is it is well above and to the right of adwords.


 1:07 pm on Jan 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

It is anexcruciatingly light toned background, and it may look even less visible in other circumstances, as the blue (#ECF8FF) is not a web-safe colour. The non-premium adwords to the right (salmon pink, baby!) are much more well defined, which is, I suspect, why they're not premium.


 4:29 pm on Jan 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi All

Just been reading this thread (I'm new here) I'm trying to decide whether to try adwords, we're in a highly competitive market with low margins. My partner is reluctant but I think we should try it. I have to agree that most people I've canvassed neither know nor seem to care if a listing is 'sponsored' or not. So it makes sense to me to try it. Anyone got any strong views for or against?


 7:40 pm on Jan 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld [webmasterworld.com], Jakester.

We moved our entire PPC budget to Adwords from Overture and have had positive results. Here is an older thread [webmasterworld.com] about others results.

- Chad


 12:03 am on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

When the ads are on Google I think they do a good job of distinguishing between paid and unpaid.

When you go into syndicated territory....... wow whole different ball game. Many of them use minute text to tell you that some of the listings are sponsored, so I am sure plenty of people click without knowing.


 12:45 am on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google has been toying with the color shading for quite awhile. (It isn't a problem with Chiyo's laptop)

There have been brief moments over the last couple of months when the shading is so faint, it is almost non-existant. Then, A little while later, the shading returns.

I'm sure they are tracking the difference in click-thrus with the various colors. And I'd be willing to bet the lighter they go, the more clicks they get. And I wouldn't be suprised to see the color dissapear completely by the end of 2003.


 6:24 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

And I'd be willing to bet the lighter they go, the more clicks they get. And I wouldn't be suprised to see the color dissapear completely by the end of 2003.

Well Guerilla, I'm bookmarking this thread so we can see if you are correct at the end of the year.


 7:55 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don't think we will need to wait that long. I'm looking at premium ads right now that are using a background color of #FFEBFF.

Now if you put text on a white background using that color, you would probably be at risk for an infamous hidden text penalty....


 8:03 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

And I wouldn't be suprised to see the color dissapear completely by the end of 2003.

Comments like this from WebGuerilla put a smile on my face,



 8:19 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

On a serious note, can you remember the last time you saw the bright aqua color shown here? [google.com]

jeremy goodrich

 8:40 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Good point, WG - can't remember the last time those links looked that way.

>>>>>End of 2003

My money says, the day they go public, the color is GONE. And if that rumor is right about the IPO being in Q1 2003, it'll be white background much sooner than the end of the year.

Course, I think they'll prolly keep that nifty table clicking - so they can get maximum CTR.


 12:37 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Sponsored links also have the effect of pushing Adwords ads DOWN and out of the initial view of the surfer, depending on browser setting... I prefer it when SE's don't muddle things up too much. :(


 1:47 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

"(though i sure hope people would click on our regular listings at 1 to 3 rather than the expensive one!)"

And how do Google make money from your regular listings? They just want to make sure that their advertisers get clicks so you can get free listings. Somebody have to pay the bills here not everything is free.


 3:52 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)


>>And how do Google make money from your regular listings?

By them being part of their major service, which brings people to google who may also click on the ads, spread the word of google, and many other things.

Google would have almost nil users if they didnt have that "free" index that made them famous. People dont go to google to read the ads. They go for the free index, and as a result sometimes click on the ads.

The key is getting their mix right without compromising the integrity of their main "free" index. This forum is awah with people who try to make their free listings higher in the main index, and Google's free index is indeed a key part of "how Google makes money"


 2:36 pm on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

A majority of the background colours look deeper again now. But the blue is still really faint. Odd, really.


 11:28 pm on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi Jakester,

I am new here myself but here are my thoughts on Adwords based on my history using it.

Overall, Adwords has worked wonderfully for me and shown an above average clickthrough and order rate. However, I am running a few thousand terms so keeping tabs on my spending can be complex and time consuming.

Adword bids are not as simple to look at as say, Overture bids are. In both, you put in your max bid but Overture tells you what the person next to you is willing to bid so you pretty much know your rank. It took me an hour or more on the phone with my Google rep to get a real understanding of how Adwords ranks its listings and I think by the end of the conversation my rep was even confused. When you enter your max bid, Google estimates where your listing will rank, don't count on this to be extremely accurate.

Most importantly, I find that it is easy for cost to get out of hand on Adwords so be sure to set your daily spend to match your budget or else don't be surprised if you go over your budget.

Setting up my account was one of the worst experiences in my years of working in search, but I think mainly because I had so many terms and I didn't get a rep until after it was set-up. If you think you'll be spending a lot, see about getting a rep to set up your account seeing as it can then be done a lot faster than one entry at a time :)

Well, that was a little long-winded but I hope it helped.


 2:47 am on Jan 11, 2003 (gmt 0)


No clicks on the ads no free index and not the other way around

So what's more importent to Google, ads or free index?

Most of the "free index" listings are sold by SEO companies

Users know nothing about "free index" or paid listings or care. How is your "free listing" more targted them my paid listing?


 4:04 am on Jan 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Powdork,, will have to respectfully continue to disagree with this...

>>No clicks on the ads no free index and not the other way around<<

Nope, the "free indexing" database is the killer pull for Google. No content information rich index.. no more reason for people to visit Google. Degrade the main index and page views will plummet as there would be less difference between Google, ATW, Teoma and others... They would be brought back to the competitive pack even faster than they are now.

Google also makes their money of licensing that "free index", agreements with portals to use it, boxes, future "paid" services like premium news and premium search, as well as Adwords and premium listing.

Its no different a model from your daily newspaper, where the cover price covers a very small part of revenue, most comes from advertising and sometime syndication. But if there were no objective reports and news items in that paper, nobody would buy it, and therefore nobody would see the ads. Bye bye newspaper; Bye Bye advertisers, Bye Bye Google; Bye Bye Adwords advertisers and click rates. Its up to the owners to get the mix right between what will sell newspapers and how they make their revenue.

With respect, I still think its you thats got it the wrong way around.

>>How is your "free listing" more targted them my paid listing?<<

Because it had to earn its way up to the top by creating original, timely information and recognition and respect of other web sites who link to it. Agreed that SEO is just another way of paying, but continuing imporvement of the algo means SEO, while never dying out substantially, has far less options now. Eventually it can help give a boost to already highly informative sites, but it already cannot make something out of nothing (like it could a couple of years ago) in 99% of cases, but its percentage of the mix will decline. Personally i do our own SEO after hours, we do not hire a SEO company, and frankly i think most WebmasterWorld members are the same as me.. enthusiatic amateurs as far as SEO goes, working on our own sites, and yes, we still need to count the "time cost" as a expense.

With Adwords I can make any of our sites appear at the top of listings of targeted keywords in 5 minutes by creating a keyword based entry page and handing over the dosh. Ranking in Adwords is primarily payment based. Ranking in the main index is primarily relevance based.

Thats why my free links are more targeted and useful to the surfer than your Adwords (or my Adwords).

As time moves on, IMHO I think we will find the main index being known as the place to find information and objective non-commercial content, and Adwords and premium listings will be known as the place to look when you are wanting to buy. A great mix as far as I am concerned, and we have both information and selling sites and promote each differently.

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