The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has a message for Google, Yahoo. and other Internet companies: make sure online ads are clearly distinguished from regular Web-search results to avoid misleading customers.
The FTC, updating recommendations in place for more than a decade, said search sites are displaying advertising more prominently on pages while doing less to highlight it. That has made it difficult for users to distinguish ads from results that aren't backed by ad dollars, the FTC said. The regulator lamented a "decline in compliance" with guidelines from 2002.
"In recent years, the features traditional search engines use to differentiate advertising from natural search results have become less noticeable to consumers," the FTC wrote in a sample letter posted on its website, dated June 24. "We encourage you to review your websites or other methods of displaying search results, including your use of specialized search, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure you clearly and prominently disclose any advertising."