The RKGBlog blog posted a screen shot of Bing testing search ads directly in the organic results. Honestly, I almost cannot believe it – but more on that later. Here is a cropped picture of the screen shot.
Why is this so shocking? Placing search ads inline with organic free listings is somewhat taboo for search companies.
Years ago, search engines had “paid inclusion” programs which guaranteed content to be indexed, but they had no ranking factors. In fact, Yahoo after much controversy dropped their paid inclusion program in 2009.
But to allow advertisers to inject ads with guaranteed rankings in the organic results seems unethical to me.
Danny scolded Google for doing a form of this within Google Product Search.
If you look at the ads here, they are almost completely blended into the organic results that they look to be completely unbiased, free, organic listings. The “ad” label all the way on the right can be completely missed.
I have emailed Microsoft for a statement on this and to confirm this is a real test. I will follow up as soon as I hear back.
Postscript: Microsoft has confirmed this is a test they are running. A Microsoft spokesperson said:
We’re constantly testing and experimenting on Bing, and with that, we carefully measure user engagement and reaction to these changes. We have nothing further to share at this time.