Google Says Recent Report Alleging People can’t Tell the Difference between Organic and Paid Search Listings is Flawed

Google paid search results and organic results aren’t discernible in difference to over half of people, according to a recent study…

A recent article published on Medium points to a study which alleges more than half of people can’t tell the difference between organic and paid search listings:

“More than 50 percent of people between the ages of 18–34 can’t differentiate between an ad and an organic result on Google. For those over 35, that percentage grows proportionally higher.”

This is a bold allegation and after it was shared on Twitter, a Google engineer, Paul Haahr, responded. Haahr outright refutes the claim.

Google Contradicts Report Stating People can’t Differentiate Paid Search and Organic Results

Haahr unequivocally responds, stating this simply isn’t true from his inside experience within the search engine:


In a follow-up to his initial reaction, Haahr went on to state the following:

“Up to 4 [search results are paid advertisements]. May be none, which it is on most searches, because most are non-commercial. And all ads are labeled as such.”

Not surprisingly, others responded to the tweets, some who agree with the study and others who believe Haahr’s take. However, the take-away from the discussion is Google has significantly changed its look of search ads to appear more similar to organic results.

Ashley Lipman

Ashley Lipman is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.