On Friday google changed the graphic on their homepage, as they now seem to do quite frequently, to represent an important anniversary within the styling of the word “google”. Last Friday it was particularly striking:
I could rant about google abandoning its principles of elegant simple clarity in favour of cutesy gimmicks, but let’s face it, they are kinda fun.
If you click on the image, it takes you to a google search on the topic, to reveal what the image is all about. In this case they were commemorating the invention of the first laser, and so you are taken to a search for “first laser”, which predictably enough brings up wikipedia’s Laser article as the first match, to provide a useful explanation “The first working laser was demonstrated on the 16th May 1960”.
With such a striking image on the homepage of google…. (that’s the homepage of google!) …presumably millions of bored of people click the image to see what it’s about. We’re talking a shed load of web traffic, but it’s all good clean fun…
…but wait! It’s also showing some sponsored links. Laser related websites? Well no actually. The topmost prominent sponsored link says “Forget the first laser… findcheapmobiles.com”. These bozos have registered a particularly sneaky ad word to direct a large slice of this web traffic onto their unrelated website.
Clever advertising, or an abuse of the system? Google obviously decided this was an abuse. A few hours after I took this screenshot, all the sponsored links disappeared from the “first laser” results. I’d be inclined to agree. The site is not related to the search, and actually in this case users aren’t even searching, they’re just wondering what the image is about. Also clever though, and an interesting of example of google having tricks played on it, not just by blackhat S£O sp@mdexing scam artists, but by their own customers.