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You're reduced to arguing that, since you offer a good product, it's okay to use the same dishonest tactics that the bad guys use.

I suppose you're right. Better that a user is tricked into clicking onto Bingo Card Creator than a herbal Viagra affiliate. It's just not a very high moral position to take.

Can we just note again here that in your construction, "the bad guys" include Google themselves? The tactic we're talking about is, as Patrick notes at the very start of his post, the same one Google uses at the top of every SERP.

No. Only if Google included barely distinguishable paid placements in their organic results would it be a fair comparison.

I'll concede that some minority of users might not be able to distinguish paid results from organic on Google, but no one could do it with these "blended" ads -- that's why he's getting such a high CTR. Users are being tricked.

The Google ad that I note-for-note copied has a CTR in excess of 20%. It should - it is exactly what the user was looking for, presented in a way that makes that obvious.

[Edit to add: I thought I might have been exaggerating, so I looked it up. Nope, 21.3% this year for [bingo card creator]. For [bingo creator], which is not a brand term, it is 18.5%. [printable valentine's bingo card]? 8.7%. Do people get the picture?]

Ugh. Can we get some intellectual honesty here? Of course you have a high CTR to bingocardcreator.com when people search for "bingo card creator".

Yes, but look at the other terms he mentioned, which are not at all brand specific. What that tells me is that many of Google's users take that ad to be Google's suggested best result.

Do you know what a "high CTR" is? Did you read the sentence that followed the one you're citing? Why are you so eager to jump on everything he says? I wish you'd stop. Please. You're sucking the oxygen out of the room.

No, it's not "presented in a way that makes it obvious [that this is what the user is looking for]". It is pretending to be curated and endorsed by the site where the ad is shown, and it is displaying a fake rating pretending to be from the users of this site.

For comparison, Google ads are displayed in a right column by default, and you can't simply buy your way to the search results column. Google displays the ad there only when it considers the ad as relevant as a search result, and relevance judgement is something you already trusted Google for.

You are supposed to know this, aren't you a SEO / AdWords expert?

In Google's case it's also much more obvious that they are displaying an ad and not a regular search result. If you claim otherwise, why don't you copy the yellow background and "Ad - Why this ad?" text in your advertisement and tell us where the CTR goes?

I've seen you say that Google is evil and claim a moral high ground a number of times, and now you are justifying something with "but look, Google does it too"? Even if you were correct, which I've shown you aren't and you know it, this would means you are just as evil as Google.

Did you read the article? Was maybe Patrick too subtle about the point that many (probably most) of Google's users perceive the paid placement at the top of every SERP as a search result?

These "blended" ads are labeled as sponsored results as well.

Ironically, I view the paid placements atop Google's SERPs as legitimate search results. I find myself doing Google searches just to click on the ads and see what kinds of products my web-enabled colleagues are explicitly advertising to people with my needs.

And I don't think it's at all foolish that people subconsciously believe that those highlighted results at the top of SERPs are "the high-quality results". They often are! They lead directly to well-designed product pages that tell you just what you are looking for and that have refreshingly direct BUY NOW buttons.

Whereas the top non-paid search results are, as often as not, either duplicates of the paid content at the top (by no coincidence, companies with great SEO often know about AdWords as well) or passive-aggressive advertisements-in-disguise. (Give me a straight sales pitch instead of all that tiptoeing around.)

Google is basically the equivalent of all those trade magazines: If you're in the optics business and you need to know who sells lenses, you subscribe to Laser Focus World specifically for the ads and the product reviews. Or the local alternative newsweekly: I leaf through those to look for new restaurants or clubs. Or a coupon book. I can afford to laugh at coupon books, but people do read and use those things.

Ok sure if Google is now supposed to be the equivalent of an ad-stuffed trade magazine or a coupon book then yeah, I can't disagree.

To bad though, remember when it used to be a pretty good Search Engine?

Seriously, if that's what Google wants to be, or apparently is, then that's fine I'll just not go there anymore since 99% of the time I'm looking for information, you know, researching things on the Internet, not trade magazine ads or coupons.

(actually personally it's not the ads but the fact that their real search results have been increasingly inaccurate over the past few months, that I'm actually starting to use other SEs like DuckDuckGo and Yandex as my first choice, more often. That DDG doesn't have sponsored results and makes user privacy a priority is a nice bonus)

He wasn't too subtle, he was just wrong. The comparison between Google's separate/distinct paid results and these ads inserted into organic results is completely absurd.

Notice that he didn't have to write "Spot it yet? Hint: it’s the row without the Facebook button." when referencing the Google paid ads -- only the "blended" ones.

Please stop grinding this axe. You're not even bothering to respond to comments anymore; you're just repeating the same point over and over again. "Completely absurd"? It's the exact same tactic.

I couldn't possibly think any less of you after these comments. What do you think you're accomplishing by writing this way?

It's not personal -- I'm a fan of Patrick's. My only problem is with this obvious intellectual dishonesty, on display in his post and both of your comments.

These ads are dishonest and pretending they're not is really absurd. I don't think he even truly believes that, hence the signification rationalization in the post.

I'm doing what I would to any friend of mine: calling them on their bullshit. You may want to consider whether you're impulsively defending a friend or actually agree with him.

I will stop commenting on this though. I don't have anything more to say and I'm not trying to be negative. I don't think Patrick is a bad guy or anything -- just wrong on this.

That's why I find advertising such a ridiculous business model for a search engine. Let's spend all this time and money and invent the most amazing technology to find the best results for any search and then... let's sell the top spot to the highest bidder.

I don't have a better business model to offer, but I do think the world would be better off if Google were more honest about ads and made it more obvious that they were ads.

I don't get it: the ads I see on Google have a clearly different background color. How are they not obvious?

They're barely distinguishable on my screen.

Without those ads the amazing search technology wouldn't exist.

Google's search engine predates the ads by quite a few years, actually. You'd be correct to say, "without those ads, Google would necessarily look very different than how it does today," but then, that's nearly a vacuous statement.

True, but it's constantly evolving, the technology as we know it today would have been given nowhere near the resources without a large source of income attached. Given that as it stands it is an arms race with ever evolving SEO strategies I don't think it's to big of a leap to suggest that Google Search without the resources it has would be less equipped to keep up.

> No. Only if Google included barely distinguishable paid placements in their organic results would it be a fair comparison.

Well that is what they are.

The only distinction is the 8px letters that say "Why this ad?" which are hard to read and widely ignored.

> I'll concede that some minority of users might not be able to distinguish paid results from organic on Google, but no one could do it with these "blended" ads -- that's why he's getting such a high CTR. Users are being tricked.

Let's call it the majority of users except for programmers hackers and other computer-savvy folk, and I'd say you got it about right.

Have you ever seen a kid use Google? An elderly person? Your parents? Shoulder-surf a random non-coder in a coffeeshop or a library? These are the kind of people that type "google" into the browser search box to go to google. I work with 8-12y kids that come specifically to learn about websites and computers, and among those already savvy interested kids there's only about half of them that understands what the difference is between a paid ad on Google and a search result. They'll just click it if it appears to lead them to whatever they were looking for.

I agree that these ads are "blended" way more than Google's paid highlighted top search results/ads, more deceiving, but it really is the same thing. The "blended" ad also clearly mentions in a very tiny font that it's a sponsored result.

I would also think the only way that we're able to more easily recognize the Google paid highlighted top search result/ad is because we use Google every day, we expect it's there, and from previous usage we know that search results that look a bit different are probably sponsored. The "busyteacher" website is only different in the sense that its users have no known expectations about the site because they only use it rarely.

How about twitters new advertising that places promoted tweets directly into the feed? I had to double take a few times before I realized they weren't regular tweets from those I follow.


Hint: it’s the ones without the Facebook button.


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