If you type the names of some popular government services into search engines, some of your search results might be ads for sites that offer a service you could get for free (or for much less) on GOV.UK, the government’s own website.

GOV.UK is the best place to find government services and information online.

We know from users that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the adverts, that appear at the top of the search result pages, and the actual search results, which take you to the government service. We’re working with search engines to have the ads for misleading websites removed. We know there’s more to do.

We’re also working with the Advertising Standards Authority and the National Trading Standards Board to make it harder for these sites to run their business in this way.

In the meantime, we’re trying to raise awareness about how to avoid misleading websites. We’re working with consumer organisations like Which?, Citizens Advice Bureau and, just as importantly, directly with our users through the #StartAtGOVUK campaign.

Making sure you’re in the right place

Typing into your browser will take you to the GOV.UK landing page. If you start at the GOV.UK website, you can be confident that you’ll find the official government source.

Some of the pages you’ll arrive at through GOV.UK may have a slightly different look and feel to the landing page. That’s because we’re in the process of making everything consistent. The best way to know that you’re getting the government service is finding it through GOV.UK.

Report a misleading website to search engines

If you feel misled by such an advert, Google now has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts
Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts

We would encourage people to complain to Google if they feel aggrieved, since this may prove the swiftest and most effective way to fix this problem.

You can also report concerns about potentially misleading adverts appearing above Bing and Yahoo! search results.

On a related note, if you’re concerned about phishing emails, or other Internet scams, visit this page on GOV.UK.

You can learn more about how this problem is being tackled on the Advertising Standards Authority website.