Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz has made an interesting discovery: Google has stopped calling the ads in its search-engine results “sponsored results.” The new label is one that should be clear to just about everybody: It’s calling the advertisements “Ads.”
As a consumer of Web sites–and an editor who’s been involved in behind-the-scenes discussions of how to label the ads on Web sites I’ve worked at–I think Google’s move is fabulous. Business types at media companies sometimes advocate for labeling ads with words like “sponsored” and “promotion,” presumably because they fret that labeling an ad as an ad reduces the chance that a consumer will pay attention. But smart folks can see through labels that are intentionally oblique. If they think the goal is to be misleading, they might even be less inclined to check the ads out than they would have been in the first place.
I’m not arguing that every ad on the Web should be labeled at all: The best scenario is for advertising to be so obviously advertising that it doesn’t need to be identified as such. The majority of online marketing messages meet that standard. But when there’s any question, isn’t the best policy to be crystal-clear about it?
Bravo to Google for erring on the side of clarity rather than obfuscation. Other Web sites: Please take notice and imitate.