Confirmed: Bing Tests Ads Within Organic Search Results

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.

Related Articles:

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Microsoft: Bing | Microsoft: Bing Ads | Search Ads: General | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • brianfosse

    Good catch RKG! You could make the argument that the most relevant results should come first and that may not always be a PPC ad. Perhaps a PPC ad for a new product should only come first when an intent to buy is present in the query.

  • mark.asciak

    For shame! Personally Brian I don’t think paid ads have any business among the organic listings at all and still don’t like the fact Google place three at the top of the page, highlighted or not.

  • Joe Youngblood

    the biggest hyprocrisy i think is when google tells publishing websites that they can’t place images near the ads that could mislead users into clicking the ads, when they test misleading forms of ads all the time. Bing is just playing catchup at this point, which is unfortunate since i’ve personally been binging a lot more lately than i’ve been googling.

  • Joe Youngblood

    bah, facebook has me trained. i’ve spend the last 10 seconds looking for a ‘like’ link on brianfosse’s comment

    Brian: maybe that is Bing’s intention? move the top position ads down into the organic a bit, let the most relevant be on top and let the advertisers fight for it via titles and description text? This would be inline with old print advertising strategy where the advertisers preferred to be below content so the reader would see their ad as they read.

  • Eric Westerman

    Eh – I don’t like it, but it’s not that different from Google. Google’s shading is unnoticeable on many screen resolutions and they know darn well that many users have no idea that those ads aren’t ads, and do little to make that designation more prominent.

  • TimmyTime

    If they have no ads on top it still not as bad as Googlesoft with three overinflated ads on top (almost hidden as ads), products, Book results, YouTube, Images, Local, what Larry had for breakfast, Matt Cutts’ latest 30 day challenge or whatever they fill their first page with…just to deny us any traffic.

    That said, this crosses a line. Almost as bad as Google favoring their advertisers in organic SERPS with the ‘brand’ advantage. When are you guys going to analyze that?

  • E.W.

    People now are learning basic SERP information.. with this particular ads for bing I think it would not materialized..

  • Hiren vaghela

    Well that generates unusual clicks for the PPC Campaign. I think it should be filter out in a proper way.

  • Johan Hedin

    Bing is not important anyways so I don’t really spend much time on that engine. When I look at clients traffic reports, about 1% is from Bing so if they are about to win the SE war, they need some major restructuring…

  • Tom Cash

    This has “Dark Pattern” written all over it…

    You would expect this of smaller SE’s and other small businesses. But Bing?!

  • Bart Gibby

    So long as Search Engines want to keep customers and make money, I don’t care what they do their listings. If searches like and keep using it that’s the key to making a great search engine. If users don’t it like they will go somewhere else.

    As for unethical? One could argue that any algorithm for search is unethical. its not like we pay for search, its a free service. I really wish people stopped taking free services for granted and expecting them to be worth as much as paid services. I would say that calling any search algorithm “organic” is unethical is it is misleading.

    I personally do not see anything wrong with the adds, as a user I noticed they are ads and I notice that they are a different listing type due to the layout of the listing. I often find Ads to me be more useful for certain searches than I do “organic” listings.

  • Nikola Petrov

    Another thing that Microsoft will turn into a pile of money. Sorry but somehow ,I think this is a great idea.

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