Google’s $200m Colour Experiment?


How much is a colour worth and how important is it to a company’s success?

If McDonald’s famous arches weren’t so golden, and Coca Cola’s soda cans weren’t that distinctive red, would either company have become the global power house that they are today?

While people may scoff at the notion that colours are really that important in business decisions they should consider Google.

When Google decided to introduce adverts on Gmail several years ago, it famously ran a series of tests to pick between over 40 different shades of blue for its ads. As managing director Dan Cobley explained: “We saw which shades of blue people liked the most, demonstrated by how much they clicked on them. As a result, we learned that a slightly purpler shade of blue was more conducive to clicking than a slightly greener shade of blue, and gee whizz, we made a decision.

“But the implications of that for us, given the scale of our business, was that we made an extra $200m a year in ad revenue.”

Not bad!

Learning from this lucrative lesson, no doubt, Google has recently begun testing a change in the colour of its search result links from blue to black. On foot of this, previously visited links now turn light grey instead of purple. 

Google changing colour of search result links.png

Google changes search links from blue to black

Not everybody has seen the colour change, suggesting Google is simply conducting one of its famous A/B tests in certain regions. The Twitterverse was still duly appalled, though, immediately spawning the hashtag #BringBacktheBlue. The main gripe being that the change makes it harder to differentiate between which links users have clicked on and which ones they haven’t. But perhaps that’s the whole point?

Twitter reacts to Google's change of search result links

Twitter reacts unfavourably to the new colour scheme

However, if Google does decide to change colour, you can be sure there’s a good reason behind it and that there’s money to made, irrespective of how insignificant the change might seem.

There’s no official word yet from Google on whether the colour change is here to stay. But given the number of colours Google likes to test before making any final decision it does beg the question: if the black test is successful, will users be forced to suffer through 50 shades of (light) grey before a final decision is made!?