71% of people are unaware of how Internet search engine results are compiled – thats the figure that has come from a study from Fasthosts called “Online Search Matters.”. Interesting for many search marketeers particularly those actively employing SEO or PPC campaigns.
The study went on to say that the majority of UK browsers either have no idea or an inaccurate view of how online search results are generated perhaps indicative of the level of understanding regarding SEO within the general public. Of the 97 percent of respondants who said that they frequently use search engines, only 29 percent are aware that search results are generated based on the search terms and optimisation techniques used by the individual website owners.
Further to this 24 percent of respondents believe that the search results cannot be affected, while 22 percent suspect that results are ordered entirely according to how much has been paid by the websites listed. The report also stated that:
- 19% say they have no idea at all how results are compiled
- 5% believe that search listings are arranged completely at random.
Further to this, browsers continued to favour organic search rankings over that of its sponsored partners – with 38% of respondants saying they typically ignore sponsored listings. I personally would caveat such a statement by suggesting this figure is likely to change significantly the more brand or product focussed the search term is – and you would typically see clickthroughs on PPC increase significantly in these circumstances.
However the survery highlighted that 33% of respondents believe the sponsored listings to be ‘less worthy’ and ‘less useful’ than main search results, whilst to other 66% report that they always pay attention first to main results. In terms of demographic breakdown, there was also a significant slant with:
- 40% of women vs 34 % of men will ignore sponsored links whenever they appear as standard
- East England seemed to be the most sceptical towards sponsored listings with 45% of Norwich residents and 43% of Nottingham residents not clicking on them – compared against just 12% from Northern Ireland.
Whilst it should be highlighted this was quite a small study, with only 1636 people surveyed – it does give us an indication as to the level of awareness out there in relation to search – and in particular the importance of an integrated search marketing approach comprising both SEO and Paid Search.