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Bing is testing a new format of advertising inter-mingled with their organic search results. This could have serious implications in the search market across the board.

A blog post on the RKGBlog contained a screenshot of ads being displayed within the organic search results.

The ads have been placed along with the organic (unpaid) listing results. The word “Ad” is placed on the right hand side of the sponsored result. However, it is not very prominent and can easily be missed.

Image courtesy RKG: Bing displaying ads within organic search engine results

In the past, Yahoo! and a handful of second-tier search engines had tried a service called “paid inclusion”, whereby ads were included in the search results, but there were no ranking factors. Yahoo! withdrew the service in 2009, due to its controversial nature.

Popular blogger Danny Sullivan had also voiced disapproval of Google using paid inclusion in their search results.

Currently, Google does include ads within their organic search results, but they are highlighted in a different colour above the organic results, differentiating them from the organic results and making the fact that they’re ads more obvious than the marking that Bing is using.

This format is currently in the testing stage and is shown only to a few users. A Microsoft spokesperson has said, “We’re constantly testing and experimenting on Bing, and with that, we carefully measure user engagement and reaction to these changes. We have nothing further to share at this time.”

If Microsoft does choose to go forward and roll this format out worldwide, it could have serious ramifications. For one, click-through rates on Bing ads are likely to rise. If Google feels the pressure and chooses to do something similar, AdWords advertisers could benefit greatly while the value of SEO could fall.