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Digital Marketing July 9, 2013 Last Updated: July 9, 2013

Heads up! The SEO and PPC environment that you have become accustomed to may undergo a series of changes due to action taken by the by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The department released a letter to a number of the top search engines conveying their concern that the failure to adequately distinguish between advertising from natural search results could potentially deceive consumers, a violation of section 5 of the FTC Act. The updated guidance has been sent to the general-purpose search engines AOL,, Bing, Blekko, DuckDuckGo, Google, and Yahoo!, as well as 17 of other highly visited search engines.


In order to fix the situation, the FTC is seeking to refine its guidelines for search engines on distinguishing paid advertising from natural search results, which were published in 2002. The updated guidelines are intended to emphasize the need for “visual cues labels, or other techniques” to distinguish between ads and organic results. Updates will mandate that distinguishing characteristics be noticeable and understandable to consumers. They contend that background shading is not currently obvious and suggest that companies incorporate more prominent shading that has a clear outline, a prominent border or a combination of both. The FTC will also target text labels saying that these are often misleading and not in positions for customers to identify.

What does that mean for the SEO and PPC environment for you?

Considering the banner blindness of consumers today, aggressive designation of the ad blocks run the risk of becoming a block of space that consumers are trained to ignore. However, the ad block may serve as a more efficient means for customers to locate their desired service. Whatever the result, you should stay tuned to the coming changes to update your search engine marketing strategy as needed.

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