Color fade: A visual history of Google ad labeling in search results

A look back at how Google has treated ads in search results from blue shading to the green label of today.

google-green-ad-button-1920[1]

The debut of Google’s green “Ad” label on text ads in the search results marked yet another change to the way Google treats ads from organic content. It also marked the first time the color of an ad demarcation is the same color as an element in both the ads and organic listings: the display URL.

Below is a look at the major updates to the treatment Google text ads. In 2007, there was the shift from the long-standing blue to yellow. In 2008, Google briefly tested green before reverting back to yellow. Google tested variations including bright blue and a light pinkish-purple in 2010, and the pinkish-purple replaced the yellow, but that only lasted about a year before yellow reappeared in 2011. In 2013, Google tweaked the yellow to a paler shade. At the end of 2013, Google begantesting a yellow ad label next to each text ad in the mainline and removed the background shading. The yellow “Ad” label rolled out globally in 2014 in a much smaller size than first appeared in the initial testing. That label size is now seen in green today.

history-google-ad-backgrounds-labels[1]

Google labels text ads nearly the same way across mobile and desktop, including mobile web and Google iOS and Android search apps. The one difference is that Google displays the “i” (more information) icon that explains why those ads are showing is included next to each text ad in mobile web and app results. It does not show at all with text ads on desktop.

More above-the-fold monetization

Trying to see how the ad labeling helps distinguish ads from organic content isn’t as easy as it used to be. On desktop, there is typically a small amount of space visible above the fold below the four ads, but that real estate sometimes shows a map (as in the first example below) or image results. For results with ads on mobile, three of the four text ads, or one text ad and product listing ads, are typically all that’s visible above the fold.

serp-google-devices-carrentalncy[1]