Slideshow of Changing Google Ad Formats:
In response, the three leading U.S. search engines have done little, making it difficult for users to distinguish ads from “natural” search results. Google earlier this year stopped placing colored shading around ads, and now displays a small yellow “Ad” label next to some paid links. The shading of ads on Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing search results is nearly imperceptible; both search engines label ads with a single line of light-gray text.
“Consumers are being tricked,” says Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a consumer-advocacy group whose complaints helped push the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2002 to first issue guidelines recommending that search engines clearly delineate listings that are ads.