In spite of a 2005 promise never to show banner ads on its search results pages, Google is currently testing exactly that in the US — but it's not as dire as it sounds.
Google is looking at introducing a new kind of sponsored link in its search results: a giant banner that takes up a large chunk of the search results page, Search Engine Land has reported.
The company has confirmed that it is running the ads as a small experiment with around 30 advertisers in the US.
The move comes in spite of a blog post made on 22 December 2005, in which Marissa Mayer, who was at that time still employed by Google, stated that Google would never have banner ads in its search results.
"There will be no banner ads on the Google home page or web search results pages," Mayer wrote. "There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever."
However, it seems that the banners, for the time being at least, are confined to searches for specific brands — to appear in the box with the group of links that appear for that brand's official website. This means that if you are searching for, say, Woolworths, you may in the future see a Woolworths banner, but if you perform a generic search, for example, for "groceries", you won't see a banner.
Google has not stated how long the trial will run for or when it will extend outside the US. The company told CNET Australia, "We're currently running a very limited, US-only test, in which advertisers can include an image as part of the search ads that show in response to certain branded queries. Advertisers have long been able to add informative visual elements to their search ads, with features like Media Ads, Product Listing Ads and Image Extensions."