Link: FALSE ORACLES: Consumer Reaction to Learning the Truth About How Search Engines Work
There were some very interesting results:
Some other nuggets:
• Most participants had little understanding of how search engines retrieve Web pages or how they rank or prioritize links on a results page.
• The majority of participants never clicked beyond the first page of search results. They trusted search engines to present only the best or most accurate, unbiased results on the first page. As a result, two-in-five links (or 41%) selected by our participants during the assigned search sessions were paid search results.
• Once enlightened about pay-for-placement, each participant expressed surprise about this search engine marketing practice. Some had negative, emotional reactions.
• All participants said paid search links on search and navigation sites were often too difficult to recognize or find on many sites, and the disclosure information available was clearly written for the advertiser, not the consumer. Search engine sites that were perceived to be less transparent about these related disclosures lost credibility amongst the group.
The majority of participants never clicked beyond the first page of search results as they had trust in the search engine to present only the best or most accurate results on the first page, making it unnecessary to review later results pages.
When shown the paid placement disclosure links (which none of them had noticed)reactions included:
When we visited the disclosure links she was somewhat stunned. She seems to be a very, very trusting person that thinks the best of everyone and everything, so she was shocked. She felt extremely betrayed. She expressed a slight bit of disappointment with herself because she said she should have visited the disclosure link sooner, but then brought the site to task for not disclosing it in a more explicit manner.
No participant stopped using a favored search engine after learning about pay-for-placement practices, although they reviewed search results with a more critical eye.
After learning about pay-for-placement she intends to now look at the second half of the results page. “I would never go beyond the Top Ten so I’m [most likely] only getting biased information.” She looks forward to her future Web searches and knows she will look at the search results with a more critical eye. She is sure to check the unsponsored links before she makes her first click.
The participants unanimously believed paid search links were too tough to recognize on many sites, and the related disclosure information was clearly written for the advertiser, not the consumer.
The participants disliked sites that did not clearly label the paid listings, but in at least one case:
“I like that it's so clear on Google. It actually highlights [paid links] so I can ignore them completely.”
As an advertiser, this would not be the best attitude for a consumer to have
Once they were aware of pay-for-placement, the majority of participants had lowered trust in search engines in general. Some even distrusted the accuracy or the credibility of links on the first page of results.
I'd like to open up this for discussion: All of the searchers changed their way of approaching searches once they learned about paid placement. It's impossible for the SE industry to keep this a secret (not that I'm accusing them of this, but it appears it's a secret at the moment). Eventually, consumers are going to catch on as a whole, and search methodology will likely be affected.
What would be the effect of this on the SEO and Search Engine industry? If everyone began searching differently, would it be useful to pay for placement? Would it affect how much you would pay?
This should be interesting