The formatting and structure of the Google search results page may be one of the most user-tested websites in the history of the internet. So it comes as a bit of surprise that Google would tinker with its prized jewel in one small but noticeable fashion: turning the color of links black. When typing a word or phrase into Google, a majority of users see 10 links with the link name listed in blue and the URL in green. Some users, however, are seeing link names in black, as noted today by The Telegraph and a number of Twitter users who report seeing the experiment in action.
It's unclear if this is one giant A / B test to determine if users click black-colored search results more than blue-colored ones. The company has famously tested various colors of its search results page with hundreds of millions of web users in real time. Until last year, the current navigation tab you were looking at was highlighted with a small red line. Now it's blue. And around 2009, Google tested 41 different colors of blue for Gmail ads and search result links, a change that ultimately earned the company an extra $200 million a year in ad revenue.
When reached for comment, Google was characteristically cryptic. "We're always running many small-scale experiments with the design of the results page," a spokesperson told The Verge. "We're not quite sure that black is the new blue." Of course, it's all but certain the new link color is tracking click-through rates. We can't be sure if the company is simply testing the color, or if the color has something to do with the type of link being displayed, the type of user seeing the link, or what that user is searching. Still, if it does expand to more than a select few people, this could be one of the more radical changes to the relatively austere Google search results page we've seen in years.
Update at 4:55PM ET on Monday, May 9th: Added comment from Google.