Have you noticed anything different about Google results recently? They have redesigned their search results page (SERP). The look is cleaner with links no longer underlined and there is also a change to the way that ads are displayed.
Previously ads were in two blocks. The first block contained three ads and was located above the organic results. This ad block had a pinkish background that was similar yet different to the main page background. Many users did not realise that these were ads. Only a couple of days ago I was talking with a client on the phone about pay per click (PPC) advertising and the difference between organic results and paid results. The client had never noticed that the three top most results on a SERP were actually ads. The other block contains up to eight ads in a column on the right of the page. This block had the word “ads” written in grey text at the top of the column.
The positioning of both ad blocks has remained the same but now the background of the ads above the organic results is white, like the rest of the page, but each of these ads has a little orange box to the left of the web address that says “ad”. There is also a thin grey line beneath the ad block before the organic results begin. While the grey word “ads” above the right hand column is now in an orange box of the same type as those above the organic results.
The cleaner look with links no longer underlined has been used on mobile devices for a while now and the changes being rolled out to desktop users of Google help to unify the user experience across multiple platforms.
Web developers are able to choose the colours of their text and the links that they contain. They have also always been able to use different colours to denote pages that you have previously visited from those that you have never been to. Nowadays most sites tend to use the same colour for all link text (it may change if you hover your mouse over it). I first saw the World Wide Web 20 years ago and back in those days web pages were all pretty similar, usually with grey backgrounds, black text, new links were in blue and visited links were in purple. Google still adheres to this and it makes sense for them to differentiate between sites you have previously visited. It acts as a visual cue to your brain that may make you think “Ah, that’s a good resource for what I’m looking for” or conversely “I’m not visiting there again!”
Google has always been famed for its clean and simple design. This redesign has been being trialled here in the UK since the end of last year but it looks as though it is now being rolled out to everybody.