The Federal Trade Commission sent letters to search engines regarding advertising practices on their websites. The FTC noted that they are having trouble telling the difference between search results and ads. As a result, the search engines need to comply with FTC rules. The letters update the previous guidance the FTC offered for digital advertisers.
In the letter, the FTC noted that consumers ordinarily expect that natural search results included and ranked based on relevance to a search query, not based on payment from a third party.
We will ignore the fact that these “consumers” are typically using a free service and get to the broad strokes of the FTC’s guidance. Basically, the FTC wants to make sure that advertising is sistinguishable from natural results. This applies regardless of the type of device the “customer” uses to access the search engine.
Among the lucky recipients of the letter are AOL, Ask.com, Bing, Blekko, DuckDuckGo, Google, and Yahoo!, as well as 17 of the most heavily trafficked search engines that specialize in the areas of shopping, travel, and local business, and that display advertisements to consumers.