Most saavy Google users are aware that the 1st 3 results which are so slightly shaded pink and the results on the right hand side are paid search from Adwords. There is also a small and I mean small text written from Google letting you know that those results are advertisements. Well the FTC has decided that the practice of blending advertisements with organic results is just not going to cut it anymore. Please note that Google search is just being used as an example all search engines have been blending the search and paid results so the FTC is not by any means singling out Google.
The new guidance just put out from the FTC which was originally published in 2002 notes that over the last decade paid search and organic search results are starting to become difficult to distinguish. The updated brief clearly considers the practice deceptive to internet users of search engines. The guidance also “emphasizes the need for visual cues, labels, or other techniques to effectively distinguish advertisements, in order to avoid misleading consumers, and it makes recommendations for ensuring that disclosures commonly used to identify advertising are noticeable and understandable to consumers.”
This decision will have an interesting impact on Pay Per Click campaigns. Once the search engines comply with this guidance I wonder how much traffic will flow from traditional PPC to organic SEO results. Keep in mind that Pay Per Click advertising is the major component of Google’s gross revenue and as the clicks go down so does the annual earnings. To see the full guidance go to http://ftc.gov/opa/2013/06/searchengine.shtm.