Google debuts new mobile search result that uses favicons

The new mobile search result blurs the line between paid and organic results, irking many SEOs.

New Google Mobile Search Result Design
The old (left) and new (right) design for mobile search results on Google.

Google refreshed its search results on mobile devices by relocating the URL and breadcrumb from the bottom of a search snippet to the top. In addition to moving it to the top, they also added the favicon or logo for the site. The announcement stated that it was done for branding and UX.

With this new design, a website’s branding can be front and center, helping you better understand where the information is coming from and what pages have what you’re looking for.

– Jamie Leach, Senior Interaction Designer, Google Search

The redesign also affected how ads are displayed. Ads look even more similar to organic results and they are only distinguished by an Ad label. Several well-known SEOs on Twitter liked the idea of adding favicons to the results but they weren’t happy with the ad snippet getting the same treatment as an organic result. They saw it as diluting the differences and an attempt to trick the searcher.

My question is – how the hell are their practices legal? They change the labels once users start to detect / get used to them. No idea how FTC doesn’t see this as blatant attempts at deception.

– Jon Cooper, Senior Interaction Designer, Twitter

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Search Liason, was quick to respond to the criticism by essentially saying it was one many changes that happen all of the time.

It’s a formatting change. Screenshot illustrates how it looks. Results change all the time, so what you see will often change.

– Danny Sullivan, Public Search Liason, Google, Twitter

Coywolf’s Take

Google’s primary source of revenue continues to be from advertising. What’s interesting is to see Google start to practice what marketers were doing early on with AdSense – making the ads blend in with the content. For a period of time, publishers got in trouble for that practice, but over time Google has changed their position. They currently assist publishers in creating native-looking ads and based on this announcement, they are testing out a similar approach with their mobile search results. Will the continued blurring of paid versus organic results result in legal trouble for Google? Only time will tell.

Jon is the founder and Managing Editor of Coywolf. He is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in web development, SaaS, internet strategy, and digital marketing. Follow @henshaw

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