FTC reissues warnings to search engines over paid results

By on June 26, 2013, 7:00 AM

The Federal Trade Commission has reissued guidelines to search engines that highlight the importance of making it clear which results are genuine and which are cleverly placed advertisements. The original notices were delivered way back in 2002 but as the years have ticked away, compliance has fallen by the wayside.

The FTC sent letters to AOL, Bing, Google, Yahoo and others with revised guidelines to address the growing problem. The letter points out that it has become more difficult to distinguish paid search results from legit ones. Naturally, the group is urging those in the industry to make sure the distinction is clear.

A press release on the matter points out the need for visual cues, labels or other techniques to effectively distinguish advertisements as to not mislead consumers.

What’s more, the letters issued to search engines note that the principles of the original guidance still apply despite the fact that search and the business of search continue to evolve. Consumers ordinarily expect that natural search results are included and ranked based on relevance to a query – not based on payment from a third party.

A Google spokesperson told CNET that clear labeling and disclosure of paid results is important and they always strived to do that as their products have evolved. As of writing, Microsoft and Yahoo had not returned requests for a comment. Whether or not the FTC’s warning will have a visible impact on search results moving forward remains to be seen.




User Comments: 5

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Guest said:

I have actually noticed over the years that the paid advertisement links have dissolved from a clearly labeled box, into the normal search results more and more. Do I care, not really.

The only people that might, would be small businesses who are overshadowed by paid search results. For everyone else, the paid results are usually what they are looking for anyway I.e. facebook,twitter,etc.

wiyosaya said:

Personally, I've noted that search results these days are very often oriented toward places you can buy what you search for. Do I care? Yes. Many times, I'm looking for information about what I search for, and not for a place to buy it. In that context, how many of the results are paid, all of them?

Seems to me that search engines are just getting more oriented towards OR search results. With an OR search, you get a ton of crap that you still have to sift through and is often not relevant to what you are searching for.

And yes, I know, you can put in stupid symbols like +, -, etc., to narrow down the results; that, in my opinion, makes the process far more complicated than it needs to be.

Tygerstrike said:

Wasnt there a time when you could search for something then activly find it on the first page?? I seem to recall looking up something a few years ago and seeing what I was looking for. Not 5 pages of ppl trying to sell me something. If I wanted to buy a product I would put in a keyword such as "Buy" or "purchase". As it stands when I have to look something up on the web for some elderly relative it takes awhile. Mainly because you have to dig through and find the INFORMATION.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Wasnt there a time when you could search for something then activly find it on the first page?? I seem to recall looking up something a few years ago and seeing what I was looking for. Not 5 pages of ppl trying to sell me something. If I wanted to buy a product I would put in a keyword such as "Buy" or "purchase". As it stands when I have to look something up on the web for some elderly relative it takes awhile. Mainly because you have to dig through and find the INFORMATION.
TBH, you can fight back by using keywords designed to net informative results, instead of commercial results.

For example, type in "Holy Grail Wiki", instead of "Holy Grail". Then, when you get the Wiki page for "Holy Grail", you can use the resource citations, as the search engine from there on.

In spite of SEO charlatans and parasites trying to herd you to the store, you can still get valid results if you type more keywords in, and ignore Google's suggestions in the meantime. Because quite frankly, they just give you the same s*** ads,in a different order.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

For example, type in "Holy Grail Wiki"
lol

Including "wiki" in the search parameter is a tactic, I use quite often.

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