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Brand owners are likely to be unimpressed by Google’s latest update to its AdWords program, which gives purchasers of third party trademarks increased prominence for their ads. The change, which is already in operation, means “organic” search results will be pushed further out of view by sponsored ads, whose format now looks like some categories of organic results.

As reported on Search Engine Land, Google will now allow ads above the organic search results to contain up to six lines of links.  This will not only move the organic results down the page, but, according to the SEL article:

Generally speaking, the multi-line AdSitelinks are only displayed when the ad is deemed an ideal match for the user’s search query, and is usually triggered by a query that includes a brand name [my emphasis].

To demonstrate the point, SEL shows the results for a search for “TITLE NINE”:

TITLE NINE search results, from searchengineland.com

TITLE NINE search results, from searchengineland.com

Note that the sponsored link is for Title Nine.  No complaints there.

However, I found a similar result with a search for “ROLEX” which not only displays ads for third party purchasers of the ROLEX keyword, and includes the keyword ROLEX in the ad, but also includes images from resellers of Rolex watches in the side bar:

ROLEX - Google's new augmented ads

Google's new results include more prominent ads for third party purchasers of keywords including ROLEX

Here, the first two results, each with their multiple lines, more closely mimic the multi-tiered organic result which can be seen at the bottom of the screenshot, with a primary result immediately above its indented secondary results.  So there is some similarity, though of course generalizations about the look of ads should be avoided.

While brand owners may not like this new layout, and while there is certainly scope to argue that consumers will be confused by certain ad layouts dictated by Google, it is likely that their only remedies will be against the advertisers.  The law in this area is not yet settled, however, so it will be interesting to see – especially after Bing having also tested new ad layouts recently –  how practice develops in the interim.