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Google's Approach to Ads

Some search engines sell their search results, in addition to showing ads. A sold result means that a link to the buyer's page is put at or near the top of the results page, just as if the search engine thought it was one of the best results. Usually, there is no indication that the page's result location was bought and paid for.

Google never sells its search results. If a web page appears in Google's search results, it's because Google thought it was a relevant result for your search, not because someone paid Google to put it there.

Google's approach to ads is similar to its approach to search results: the ads must deliver useful links, or the ads are removed.

You can distinguish ads by their format and the label "Sponsored Link." Ads contain a title, a short description, and a web address (URL).

A screen shot showing how Google's ads are identified and kept separate from search results

Advertisers decide which queries their ads should match, and then Google decides on placement, i.e., which ads to show and in what order. Google determines placement by an auction; the auction not only considers what the advertiser will pay for the ad, but also its click-through rate, i.e., how often users click on the ad. If users often click on an ad, Google will likely place the ad higher up on the results page. If the click-through rate of an ad falls below a certain level, indicating an ad isn't relevant to the query, Google removes the ad.

For the most part, you'll find advertisements pertinent to your query. However, Google's automatic matching to words on a page sometimes places an ad inappropriately. For example, in September of 2003, adjacent to a New York Post article about a gruesome murder in which the victim's body parts were stashed in a suitcase, Google listed an ad for suitcases. Since that incident, Google has improved its filters and automatically pulls ads from pages with disturbing content. So Google is unlikely to make another faux pas on a par with this one.

For why Google sells advertising and not search results, visit
For more information on Google's advertising programs, visit
For tips on advertising, visit
For what to do if you find a pop-up ad on Google, visit


For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. How many sponsored links (ads) appear on the first search-results page with the answer to the following questions?

    1. Where can you stay in central London at a moderate price?

    2. What's going on with NASA's Mars Exploration Program?

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