Google Suggests…Ads

I haven’t seen this in my own browser yet, but MG Siegler at TechCrunch reports that Google Suggest has added advertising (see Google’s official post here). It also talks about personalization, but I’ve been seeing that for a while, so I don’t know that there’s anything new on that front.

In any case, here’s an example of a suggested ad, courtesy of TechCrunch:

I’m sure Firefox extensions like CustomizeGoogle will soon blog these ads, if they aren’t doing so already. Granted, I can hardly blame an ad-supported service for pushing more ads–and in this case the ad is actually a relevant result, independent of the fact that it’s sponsored. In fact, it’s the top-ranked organic search result for south park episodes. I imagine the feature will be considerably more annoying when the sponsored links are more typical ads, but probably not enough so to incite people to install ad blockers. Google seems to know how not to push people too far.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

14 replies on “Google Suggests…Ads”

Actually, I’ve noticed that Cuil had something really similar in their initial suggest bar; not necessarily sponsored results, but direct links to pages instead of to a search results page. Try searching for “stanford” and the first suggestion will be a direct link to As usual, Cuil’s interface is beautiful compared to Google’s (I’m not thrilled with Google’s design on this), but the actual search results still kinda suck.

I think it would be kind of cool to have something like “sponsored searches” instead of just embedded Google ads. Something like say a search for “debate” would suggest “cnn obama-mccain debate” with a prominent CNN ad on the landing page and normal search results after it. Or better yet, same idea, but for Twitter search.


Albert, that is cool, no pun intended. I’m sad that Cuil did itself so much damage in its launch hype, since it does have a fair amount going for it. But yeah, the recall kinda sucks–ironic for an engine that promised to be the biggest.

Sponsored searches are an intriguing concept. I have to stew on that one, and why CNN would want to sponsor that search rather than a link to


That is scammy. But of course that’s an issue of how Google performs quality control on advertisers. I don’t have a good sense of how well they do on that front, since I don’t see the ads.


but that quality control could/should automatically catch this. You should ban ads where the target URL ( with click tracking etc) does not resolve in a redirect to the URL displayed as text in the ads.


(Channeling Jeremy)

I too saw that blurb on the Google Blog, and wondered to my self if that ad is so relevant to the search, why is it not coming up as an organic result? Perhaps it’s even more relevant than the last place in that list. Why demote it?

(How did I do?)


Heh, you’re supposed to suggest more explicitly that Google is crippling its relevance ranking so as to maximize revenue. 🙂

Seriously, though, is anyone seeing the ads? I don’t even see them in my ad-blocker-free Internet Explorer.


Heh, you’re supposed to suggest more explicitly that Google is crippling its relevance ranking so as to maximize revenue.

Is there perhaps a difference between “crippling” the relevance ranking, and “not working as hard on improving it, or offering more intelligent, engaging, interactive options, because user interaction with those options might take away from time spent clicking ads”? See the subtle difference? Am I a tinfoil hat for even considering it?


Damn, I knew my Jeremy impersonation was off. Still, I maintain that most Googlers just don’t believe in interaction as much as we HCIR zealots do.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see Microsoft making a very HCIR-ish pitch with Bing, though the screenshots from people who have gotten early access (this time I don’t rate a beta) don’t quite deliver on the promise of their promotional video.


How can Googlers not believe in interaction? That boggles the mind. I thought it was one of the most common searcher behaviors to try a query, look at some results, hit the back button, and try another query. If that is not interaction, I don’t know what is. So given that the log evidence supports the hypothesis that searchers iterate on a single topic/information need, i.e. that users simulate interactivity with the search engine using the “back” button, I don’t see why Google would be against building in support for this behavior, directly into the interface and engine.

It really does make the tinfoil hypothesis all the more plausible.


Then again, I am operating under the assumption that Google does what’s best for the user. And it’s interesting to me that what the users think is best.. that is.. what the very first 3rd-party extension that got written for the Chrome Browser.. was an ad-blocker:

So if Google were really “following the user”, they would have built ad-blocking directly into the browser itself, for native ad-block support.

That’d be the day!


They may sincerely believe that the minimal interface they supply is what makes users happiest, and that any explicit support for refinement will cause more harm than good. In their defense, there have been a lot of examples of query refinement done wrong, including on some of Google’s properties. I understand how they might be sincerely hyper-reactionary on this issue–especially when they have a generally satisfied user base.

Yes, their attitude may have the happy side effect of being most compatible with their revenue model. But correlation is not causality, misquotes of Peter Norvig not withstanding.


Re ad blocking: I’d love for Google to have the stones to make ad-blocking opt-in–or at least opt-out–on the grounds that users will want to see ads because Google ensures that those ads are relevant.

That said, it’s a stretch to expect Google to help people block ads when the world overwhelmingly prefers ad-supported online services to for-pay services. Google surely expected than an ad blocker would be one of the first extensions written, given the popularity of ad blocking extensions on Firefox. By that logic, their building an open extension system was an enabler for ad blocking. They could have kept the extension system closed, or subject to a certification process that disallowed ad blockers.

Of course, they’d generate more publicity for ad blockers by blocking them than by allowing them. So their passive acceptance is probably a good strategy for them.


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