Google’s New Look on Desktop and the Impact on Paid Search

google search desktop

Have you noticed a change in the search engine results page? We have. That’s because last spring  Google announced they were changing the format and information available in the search results for mobile. In an effort to improve the search results page to help you discover the type of information you need and quickly determine what is useful, you now see the URL above the actual title and a clickable link to the website.

With this new design, the website’s branding is now “front and center” and allows users to immediately see from where the information comes. The name of the website and its icon appear at the top of the results card, acting as anchor for each result.

Now, it lists link, page title, and then description. Google has been rolling out tests to lucky users over the past several months as part of the 3,000 Google tests it conducts every year. However, it looks like it has now been rolled out to all users for both desktop and mobile.

Google says it is hopeful “this new design allows us to add more action buttons and helpful previews to search results cards, all while giving you a better sense of the web page’s content with clear attribution back to the source.”

google search desktop

How Does Google’s New Search Format Affect Online Advertising?

So how does this affect advertisers?

It’s too early to tell the effect on some paid media campaigns – but that doesn’t mean we can’t recommend some revised best practices based on the update.

Ads Function the Same but Look Different

  • Previously, ads were signified using a green “AD” icon next to a green link. After a user completed a search, the first 1-4 options would all be these green options. With this new redesign, the line between ads and organic results is a bit more blurred. No longer does the green color act as an instant visual cue that differentiates between ads and organic. Now, ads will simply have a black “AD” icon next to the link. Not only is this more subtle, but the ad card format will look much more similar to an organic search card.
  • However, since this change has happened simultaneously with the new redesign that changed the top element to be the link, users will still need time recalibrated to this new design. Optimistically, this might see users more open to click ads or at least less unopposed to not clicking it.

google paid ad

Google Ad Extensions Change for Advertisers

  • Even the ad extensions have been streamlined in some instances. That means they take up the same visual space as the organic entries. This would possibly be the biggest change to the new format for advertisers. It is still possible to get a large ad that stands out, but that seems to be rarer now with the new layout.

Advertisers Must Emphasize URL and Brand within Ads

  • This new layout gives weight to the brand by showing its website icon next to the URL as well as the URL domain, which has a newly prominent position. This means, users are seeing WHERE the source of information is before WHAT the source of information is. This can make a big impact on user behavior. If you are advertising for a brand name school, then congrats, you’ve got a new icon right up top that gives users that message. Also, it means that the URL can do more. Foremost, it should carry the brand of the school; sometimes with landing pages and subdomains this can be lost. Also, it’s another chance to use custom URLs to your advantage. Custom URLs like can get in a separate CTA that users might not have viewed as much before.

SEO Trustworthiness Gains Importance

  • Another interesting side effect of this will be for SEO. With SEO, you are trying to write the most optimized page title possible that captures the user’s desire. In fact, it would be of more noteworthiness than the source. However, now, with these elements switched – users are first seeing if you are a trustworthy source and then choosing to believe that your nicely written page title has the answer to your question.


Do you want to see how your online advertisements fit into the new Google search layout? Contact the paid media experts at ESM Digital.