Google usually likes to keep things consistent, but the search giant over the weekend started A/B testing a new design for its search results page that has some users wondering if Google has lost its mind. As anyone who has used Google over the past 17 years can attest, search results are always returned in blue. Recently, though, some users are finding that their search results are showing up in black. Notably, the black links are showing up both on desktop and mobile searches.
First Google rebrands itself as Alphabet, and now this?! There is, of course, a method to Google’s madness.
While we’re certainly used to Google engaging in some A/B testing in order to land on the correct shade of blue, a jump from blue to black seems bizarre to say the least. Not only that, but a screenshot of what search results in black looks like is, in my opinion, an aesthetic step backwards.
That aside, the impetus for Google’s interesting A/B test is, of course, a desire to increase clicks and make more money. As a 2009 New York Times article observed, “As trivial as color choices might seem, clicks are a key part of Google’s revenue stream, and anything that enhances clicks means more money.”
Indeed, Google in 2009 famously tested 41 different shades of blue to see which ones tended to generate the most clicks. And while cynics might scoff at the notion that varying shades of blue would have any discernible impact on click-through rates, it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of Google’s revenue (~95%) comes from search-based advertising.
That being the case, it makes sense for Google to do everything in its power, no matter how absurd it may seem, in order to keep that ad revenue flowing. That notwithstanding, I thin it’s fair to say that we won’t be seeing black links overtake blue links anytime soon.