We’ve received several reports of people seeing four text ads in Google search results on desktop over the past couple of months. For example, the screen shot above was sent by Frederick Hyland of S360 in Denmark last month. In all cases we’ve seen, four ads are served at the top, and no ads appear along the right rail; most reports have come from outside the US.
The company is, of course, always testing the way it displays ads. Google actually first began experimenting with four text ads in 2010, as we reported then. We’ve been told that four ads are only showing on a small number of queries now and that the test is not permanent.
More ads, in turn, can mean less above-the-fold real estate for organic listings, though more and more, there isn’t much real estate available to organic to begin with. On mobile, we’ve seen two ads often take up the full screen, just as three ads do, depending on the number of ad extensions Google opts to show. In this cheeky tweet by Moz’s Pete Meyers, a screenshot shows that four ads and a mortgage calculator push all of the organic links below the fold.
While we’re on the topic of “mortgage calculator,” here’s a preview from Google.co.uk of what many Californians will be seeing with more frequency: a sponsored listing for Google Compare for Mortgages. That product launched in California last month and will follow in other states.
Here the sponsored Compare listing is displaying with two ads above it, though others have seen more top ads showing along with the Compare spot. On my laptop screen, just the title of the first organic listing is viewable above the fold.
From the sound of it, four ads won’t be rolling out more fully any time soon, yet how long this particular experiment will run is not clear. And if history is any gauge, it likely won’t be the last time we see this tested.
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