Back in May 2019 Google announced it was redesigning its mobile search results, introducing a black ‘Ad’ label alongside search ads and favicons by the URL in the organic search results. Now Google has rolled out this redesign to its desktop search results, potentially changing the game forever.
Google announced this shift on Twitter:
Last year, our search results on mobile gained a new look. That’s now rolling out to desktop results this week, presenting site domain names and brand icons prominently, along with a bolded “Ad” label for ads. Here’s a mockup: pic.twitter.com/aM9UAbSKtv
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) January 13, 2020
What has changed?
The overall design of the page is the same with a few aesthetic changes. Those changes are:
- Green links in ads are now black and appear above the ad.
- Favicons now appear alongside organic search results.
- ‘Ad’ labels for paid search are now black.
With the majority of web traffic coming from mobile, a lot of users will be used to this design on the small screen. Google has been testing it on Desktop for several months, so some users will be familiar with this new design – but it’ll be a noticeable change for others.
Before – this is how the search results looked before the latest changes
After – the new look of the search results page with the favicons before the URL
What does this mean for paid search?
With this updated design, Google ads blend in more with organic search results. In theory, this means fewer clicks for organic and more for Google Ads. Since Google now shows a minimum of 4 ads per search query along with a featured snippet and ‘people who ask’ box this will further push organic search results down the page. From Google’s perspective, this makes good business sense – they make money from paid search. But there’s good news for organic search too, which we’ll get to in a minute.
From a Google Ads perspective, you’ll need to be wary of the click-through rate as this could increase or decrease during this period as users get used to the new redesign. As search results get filled with ads, users may become impatient with scrolling down the page to find what they are looking for, instead just clicking on the ads which can lead to invalid clicks.
It might be best to hold off on any optimisations for a week or two as users get used to the new design. Users have already complained about the new design, as they are having difficulties identifying organic results, due to the ‘Ad’ label & their corresponding ads being mistaken for a favicon from an organic search result.
And what does this mean for organic search?
For organic listings, the website favicon will now appear in the listing. It will appear alongside the URL snippet which has been moved above the page title. Once again, as with paid search, the link is now black instead of green.
Google says this change will help users identify the websites and blogs to help them know who is providing the information before clicking on the link.
“The format puts a site’s brand front & centre, helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results & decide what to explore.”
This will become a problem for brands who are not well known in their market, as people will now click on a link based on the favicon. Ultimately, they will trust buying or getting information from a source they already know and trust.
But this changes nothing in that the goals for a small brand remains the same – build trust and brand awareness in the pursuit of online dominance in their field.
It will be worth keeping an eye on the click-through rate to see if this is also impacted due to these changes. You can find out how to make your site eligible for a favicon in search results here.
The new layout on mobile also highlights AMP stories with the icon at the end of the URL.