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Google testing giant search banner ads, breaking its 2005 promise

Google banner ad
Southwest Airlines is getting some airplay today

Google is conducting a "small experiment" that could lead to a very big intrusion on your search results page.

An image posted by @SynrgyHQ, a Dallas-based company behind an unreleased web app aimed at local businesses, shows a massive banner ad right underneath the search bar.

"Google testing sponsored cover photos in SERPs," its caption read.

Google later confirmed that it was running the experiment (again, "small") in the US to Search Engine Land.

Here's the ad in full so you see how far it reaches on the page:

Google Banner ad

Appears targeted to the search result (credit: Twitter/@SynrgyHQ)

But you promised...

Those with long enough memories may recall that in 2005, then-VP of Search Products & User Experience Marissa Mayer wrote: "There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages.

"There will not be crazy flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever."

Never say never - or ever, in this case.

Mayer was writing to assuage concerns following a Google partnership with AOL to create a global online advertising partnership. Times change, and while the banner ads may never see a full roll out, Google seems prepared to do what it takes to roll in that advertiser dough.

Update: Syngery has apparently confirmed with a source that Google has about 30 advertising partners for its "brand image experiment." Ads are reportedly appearing in less than 5% of search queries. Crate & Barrel and Virgin America are said to be among the advertising partners.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle is a Senior Content Writer at 8x8. She was previously an editor at TechRadar, a leading consumer tech news and reviews website. Now she’s focused on helping small businesses reach their goals.