Posted October 5, 2007 8:28 am by with 4 comments

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The Australian consumer watchdog has broadened its case against Google—while they have dropped the case against Google Australia and Google Ireland, they are going full steam ahead on the parent company Google Inc.

The ACCC claims that sponsored links are not clearly distinguished from organic results, alleging Google’s practices are misleading. The shaded area at the top of results was their original complaint, but now they have broadened the accusations to include the right-hand links too, claiming that they look the same as the organic listings.

The ‘sponsored links’ text is barely visible, they claim, and the shaded area is too subtle, and dependent on the screen angle. I tried this out, and it’s true – at certain angles the shaded area pretty much disappears.

I, for one, have always been grateful that Google has kept with their practice of text-only ads, keeping a clean look and staying away from potentially annoying and distracting banner ads. I can’t speak for Joe Average, however, about how clear it is that the sponsored links are ads.

The other complaint the ACCC has made is about the way companies are allowed to bid for competitors’ names as keywords – for example, a searcher clicking on a sponsored link for ‘Playstation 2’ may land on a page selling Xboxes.

This is a case to keep an eye on. Google remains confident that the ACCC don’t have a case against them, but as the Google parent company is targeted, and all search engines follow similar practices, the potential ripple effect is huge. The Australian reported that ‘any decision here could have global implications,’ not just for Google but for search marketing in general.

  • actually they are somewhat right,
    many of my friends, who are students of top university in Turkey think that links on the right are also results, but for some reason are placed on the side, and some who know internet stuff little bit more say that if u pay Google they will put your site into the results page, i think more than half of people using google think the same.

  • some of my non internet savvy friends can’t really differentiate google sponsored link to a non-one. that’s why google ads are doing so well, it blends in

    yeah this area is still ‘shady’

  • yeah, and because they are related to the search query no one complains about it.

  • Gronk

    well they are a business…..