Study Finds Business Users Clueless About Paid Search
In fact, as many as 49 percent of the business users surveyed by WebAdvantage.net said they are unaware of those differences, according to a "Business User Search Engine Survey" released by the company on Thursday.
While the study's respondents were not necessarily Web-oriented to begin with, it is nonetheless surprising that half of the 475 survey respondents were unable to tell the difference between paid and organic search.
Conducted during the month of October 2003, the sample consisted of primarily small U.S. business owners, marketing and advertising specialists, and those in business management positions.
WebAdvantage analysts, however, found some significant differences among search players. While Google is clearly differentiated between paid and unpaid search results, MSN and Yahoo were not.
The data found that Google was by far the favored search engine among business Internet users. Google's share was 66.4 percent followed by Yahoo (15.3 percent), MSN (7.8 percent) and AOL/Netscape (4.2 percent).
Moreover, according to WebAdvantage, the Google-skewing business audience is vastly different from the general online community, for which Google is the search engine of choice for only 23 percent of users.
The study also found that 92 percent of the business community continues on past the first page in order to find the most relevant search results. Only 8 percent of respondents said they would quit if they didn't find what they were searching for on the first page.
Unlike business users, most consumers never click beyond the first page of search results, according to a Consumer Web Watch Survey, putting blind trust in the search engine 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 the survey's participants during assigned search sessions were paid results.
Aside from the astonishing finding that business users don't necessarily know the difference between paid and unpaid search, It also shows, however, that there is significant room for improvement in either how search engines deliver results to users or in how users go about the act of searching. It also may mean that companies can expand their interpretation of ideal search engine rankings to encompass more than just Page One listings, particularly if they cater to a business audience.