Last month, with the help of Dr Pete Meyers from Moz, we looked at how PPC ads are changing and what they will look like next year.
Some of these predictions have already happened, such as the yellow 'ad' labels and less obvious background shading.
One of the themes of that article was Google's efforts to make ads blend in more on results pages, something Dr Meyers referred to as 'ads in sheep's clothing'.
This is now happening in Google's UK results, with the top PPC ads on some brand searches resembling results more than ads.
For example, a search for 'Schuh' brings up this huge PPC ad:
This one, for Disney, dominates the page thanks to images and expanded site links.
What are the effects?
Well, the most obvious is that these links are likely to attract more clicks than 'standard' PPC ads as they look less like ads, and more closely resemble Google search listings and expanded site links.
This is obviously welcome news for Google, as this means more ad income, but what's in it for the advertisers?
Well, you might think that this budget is wasted on branded searches, as they would rank top for those anyway, and are essentially paying for clicks that would otherwise have been free.
However, these ads allow the brands in question to dominate their own search results, pushing those leading elsewhere further down the page, and perhaps ensuring that more clicks go to them.
For example, if we look below the fold for the Disney search shown above, these are the results that would show if there were no PPC ads present:
Of the results pushed below the fold, most will go to an alternative website, some, such as eBay, where people can find the products from alternative retailers.
Does this justify the extra PPC spend on branded search? That's the question...