Search Engine Users Getting Smarter
Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that only one in six users of Internet search engines knows the difference between organic search results and paid search ads.
A report out today from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that only one in six users of Internet search engines knows the difference between organic search results and paid search ads. While sponsored links (those paid for by advertisers) and search results are usually labeled as such, the fact that many Internet users don't know the difference between the two is a bit troubling. In fact, the report finds that Web searchers are incredibly naïve.
The Pew report finds that only 38 percent of Web searchers can tell the difference between relevant search findings and ads, and of those, 47 percent say they can always tell which links are paid. The report finds that 45 percent of Web searchers would stop using search engines if they thought the providers weren't being clear about results that are sponsored, (paid for by advertisers that seek top billing). Still, 92 percent of people who use search engines reported confidence about their searching abilities; over half (52 percent) were "very confident."
Here are a few findings from the Pew report:
• Eighty-four percent of Internet users have used search engines; 87 percent of searchers report successful search experiences; 68 percent of users say search engines offer a fair and unbiased source of information. The Pew report finds that most consumers can easily tell the difference between regular TV programming and infomercials and magazine editorial versus advertorial, but that little more than a third of search engine users can decipher the difference between paid or sponsored search results and unpaid or "organic" results.
• Thirty-eight percent of searchers are aware of the distinction between paid and unpaid results; 62 percent are not.
• Seventy percent of searchers are satisfied with the concept of paid or sponsored results Savvier searchers are more skeptical.
• Sixty-five percent of those with six or more years of online experience say search engines are a fair and unbiased source of information; 73 percent of others who have been online five years or less say so.
• Sixty-four percent of those who use search engines at least daily, say they're a fair and unbiased source of information.
• Sixty-three percent of those who use more than three search engines say they're a fair and unbiased source of information.
Now, for some gender differences, with regard to search:
• Men search more frequently than women and have a higher opinion of themselves as searchers than women do, despite being no more successful in finding what they're looking for!
• Eighty-eight percent of men who are Internet users have used search engines versus 79 percent of women.
• Forty percent of online men search at least daily and 28 percent search several times a day versus 27 percent of women who search daily and 16 percent who search several times a day. (The Minute would be in that 16 percent camp).
• Fifty-four percent of online men say they're very confident in their search abilities, while 40 percent of women say they're very confident.
• Forty-three percent of men have heard of the distinction between paid and unpaid results, while only 32 percent of women have heard of the difference.
And finally, search is popular among those under 30; some 89 percent of Internet users under 30 have used search engines versus 85 percent among those 30 to 49. Pew says that 108 million Americans, or 84 percent of adult Internet users, have used search engines. On an average day, about 68 million people or about 53 percent of Web users, will go online and more than half of them (more than 38 million) will use a search engine.
The Pew study was conducted over the phone from May 14 to June 17 and involved 2,200 adults, including 1,399 Internet users.