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A "limted test in the US" is showing large picture adverts above search results

Google are experimenting with a new form of advertising, trialling large banners ads that run above search results. This is contrary to a statement made by the company in 2005 promising that they would never run “banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages”.

The search giant has confirmed that the ads are running only as a “very limited test in the US” with additional reports from SearchEngineLand claiming that for the 30 advertisers involved ads only appear on “less than five per cent of search queries”.

Many have noted that the ads’ introduction contravenes a promise made by Marissa Mayer in 2005 when the Yahoo CEO was then Google’s vice president of search products and user experience.

“There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.”

A Google spokeperson has described these “informative visual elements” as simply the latest progression in content-rich ads, building on services such as Image Extensions (first introduced in June 2013) that pairs text adverts with approved pictures.

The new banner ads, shown in the screenshot below, seem to directly match the user's search query – reducing the likelihood that customers will be annoyed by their introduction whilst allowing companies to reinforce their brand.

However, the experimental ads do push search results further down the page and Google’s reluctance to fully explain the tests may worry users about the ‘slow creep’ of intrusive advertising.

A banner ad first spotted by marketing app maker Synrgy.