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  • Writer's pictureBen Lake

Phony Search Results

Most search engine companies make at least some of their revenue through advertising. But the advertising that hits our eyeballs is getting less and less like the banner ads of old. Now, advertisements are sprinkled within our search results and it’s getting difficult to tell them apart. Why does this matter? For one, I believe it’s important to know when a link you’re clicking on was put there as part of a financial arrangement. Secondly, the ads could be misleading about what they really offer. For example, a search for “HP printer support” may show a paid result for a third-party company that will charge for in-warranty support; or worse, apply malware on your computer after you grant remote access for the ‘repair’. Several of my clients have fallen for this scam recently, so it’s not a hypothetical! So be alert for which search results are paid ads – they usually are the first few at the top. The image below gives you a graphic of how to tell what’s an ad on four of the biggest search engines.

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