January 24

Google Search is the company’s best-known product — it’s what made Google a household name. Over time, though, the search engine has evolved functionally and visually. Recently, Google changed search results to show icons on different sites, and everyone seems to have a different opinion about it.

What’s changed here? Earlier this month, Google announced that it would be tweaking the look of search results for everyone using a desktop browser. The tweak wouldn’t impact search results, but it would use a site’s favicon — that icon you see in your browser tab — alongside the site’s title in results.

This followed a change from 2019 where Google did the same thing on mobile devices.

Google explained that this change would help put a website’s branding “front and center” and help users “better see where the information is coming from.” In the days since, that changed has rolled out widely and been met with a surprising amount of criticism.

The Verge spoke up in an article on Thursday stating that this update “blurs the line between organic search results and the ads.” TechCrunch called this update a “homogenous sea of blue text links and favicons that, on such a large expanse of screen, come across as one block of background noise,” criticizing Google for the “visual trickery” that will cause users to click on more ads. Search Engine Land also posted an interesting infographic showing how the appearance of ads in Google Search has changed over the years, including today’s icon look.

google search icons ads timeline searchengineland

If getting users to click on more ads was the goal — and let’s be honest, it probably was — it sure looks like Google has succeeded. Early data captured by Digiday found a considerable jump in ad click-through rates in Search.

While many view this change as Google being greedy, that’s not the only take here. Google Search ads, after all, are designed to surface results for what you’re actually looking for, icons or not. Review Geek posted an editorial on the subject asking the question: “Does it really matter if it still takes you where you need to go?”

What’s your opinion on the subject? Are Google’s new ad-blurring search results with icons a bad thing? Do the icons provide a benefit to you? Do you dislike the idea of potentially clicking on more ads? Vote in the poll below and, if you’ve got more to say on the subject, our comments section is open to discussion!

If you aren’t a fan, Google is tweaking the design as a result of this backlash.

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