Search Again or Click On the Second Page of Search Results?

Consumer Search Insights.

If you use a search engine but don't find what you are looking for, which are you more likely to do?

People are more likely to search again with a new keyword than they are to click onto the second page of search results.

Vote All (1189) 
search again with a different word 55.7% (+3.2 / -3.3)
go to the second page of the results 44.3% (+3.3 / -3.2)

The split is fairly consistent among men and women.

Vote Men (651)  Women (538) 
search again with a different word 55.4% (+4.0 / -4.1) 56.1% (+5.0 / -5.1)
go to the second page of the results 44.6% (+4.1 / -4.0) 43.9% (+5.1 / -5.0)

There isn't an obvious pattern among age either.

Vote 18-24 year-olds (284)  25-34 year-olds (309)  35-44 year-olds (144)  45-54 year-olds (195)  55-64 year-olds (150)  65+ year-olds (107) 
search again with a different word 52.1% (+5.7 / -5.8) 56.7% (+5.7 / -5.9) 51.7% (+8.0 / -8.1) 57.5% (+6.7 / -7.0) 61.4% (+7.7 / -8.4) 54.2% (+9.4 / -9.8)
go to the second page of the results 47.9% (+5.8 / -5.7) 43.3% (+5.9 / -5.7) 48.3% (+8.1 / -8.0) 42.5% (+7.0 / -6.7) 38.6% (+8.4 / -7.7) 45.8% (+9.8 / -9.4)

People in the west & midwest are more likely to change keywords, whereas people in the north east & south are roughly equally likely to change keywords or go to page 2 of the search results.

Vote The US Midwest (244)  The US Northeast (320)  The US South (363)  The US West (262) 
search again with a different word 58.6% (+6.6 / -6.9) 52.2% (+6.3 / -6.4) 51.7% (+6.0 / -6.1) 61.8% (+6.2 / -6.6)
go to the second page of the results 41.4% (+6.9 / -6.6) 47.8% (+6.4 / -6.3) 48.3% (+6.1 / -6.0) 38.2% (+6.6 / -6.2)

Suburban people are more likely to change keywords than to click on to page 2.

Vote Urban areas (590)  Rural areas (109)  Suburban areas (468) 
search again with a different word 51.8% (+4.6 / -4.6) 48.0% (+9.3 / -9.1) 61.1% (+4.8 / -5.0)
go to the second page of the results 48.2% (+4.6 / -4.6) 52.0% (+9.1 / -9.3) 38.9% (+5.0 / -4.8)

There isn't much of an income correlation either.

Vote People earning $0-24K (123)  People earning $25-49K (638)  People earning $50-74K (319)  People earning $75-99K (88)  People earning $100-149K (22) 
search again with a different word 57.9% (+9.3 / -9.9) 55.9% (+4.4 / -4.5) 58.8% (+5.8 / -6.1) 54.5% (+9.3 / -9.6) 50.0% (+21.4 / -21.4)
go to the second page of the results 42.1% (+9.9 / -9.3) 44.1% (+4.5 / -4.4) 41.2% (+6.1 / -5.8) 45.5% (+9.6 / -9.3) 50.0% (+21.4 / -21.4)

It would also be interesting to run this question again & include the option of trying another search engine as an answer.

General Consumer Awareness of SEM & SEO

Consumer Search Insights.

Which of the following have you heard of?

More people have heard of paid search / AdWords than have SEO / link building. One of the big issues with this question is that since it had numerous check boxes it had a lower response rate (roughly 10% vs an average of closer to 16% to 18%) & took longer for the answers to come in. In the future I can see Google adding quality score styled factors to quizes where pricing is in part based on response rate & they charge premiums for quicker responses. Anyhow, on to the results...

Vote All (1501) 
Pay Per Click 45.8% (+2.5 / -2.5)
AdWords 32.7% (+2.4 / -2.3)
SEO 21.3% (+2.1 / -2.0)
Link Building 15.9% (+1.9 / -1.8)
Ad Retargeting 14.9% (+1.9 / -1.7)

Men tend to have slightly greater awareness of SEO than women. That sort of makes sense given that most SEO conferences are heavily dominated by male attendees.

Vote Men (755)  Women (543)  Gender unknown (203) 
Pay Per Click 45.2% (+3.6 / -3.5) 45.7% (+4.2 / -4.1) 48.3% (+6.8 / -6.8)
AdWords 33.4% (+3.4 / -3.3) 32.2% (+4.0 / -3.8) 31.5% (+6.7 / -6.0)
SEO 24.8% (+3.2 / -2.9) 18.6% (+3.5 / -3.0) 15.3% (+5.6 / -4.3)
Link Building 18.9% (+2.9 / -2.6) 12.2% (+3.0 / -2.5) 14.3% (+5.5 / -4.2)
Ad Retargeting 16.4% (+2.8 / -2.5) 13.1% (+3.1 / -2.6) 13.8% (+5.4 / -4.1)

People in the 25 to 34 age range tend to be more aware of these terms than other age groups.

Vote 18-24 year-olds (229)  25-34 year-olds (316)  35-44 year-olds (162)  45-54 year-olds (227)  55-64 year-olds (182)  65+ year-olds (99) 
Pay Per Click 30.1% (+6.2 / -5.6) 50.3% (+5.5 / -5.5) 48.8% (+7.6 / -7.6) 44.9% (+6.5 / -6.3) 51.1% (+7.2 / -7.2) 51.5% (+9.6 / -9.7)
AdWords 37.1% (+6.4 / -6.0) 40.5% (+5.5 / -5.3) 32.7% (+7.6 / -6.8) 33.0% (+6.4 / -5.8) 22.0% (+6.6 / -5.4) 20.2% (+9.0 / -6.7)
SEO 21.4% (+5.8 / -4.8) 32.6% (+5.4 / -4.9) 29.6% (+7.4 / -6.5) 14.1% (+5.1 / -3.9) 13.2% (+5.7 / -4.2) 18.2% (+8.7 / -6.4)
Link Building 17.0% (+5.4 / -4.3) 17.4% (+4.6 / -3.8) 16.0% (+6.4 / -4.9) 15.9% (+5.3 / -4.2) 15.4% (+6.0 / -4.5) 12.1% (+7.9 / -5.0)
Ad Retargeting 12.2% (+4.9 / -3.6) 16.1% (+4.5 / -3.6) 17.3% (+6.6 / -5.0) 18.9% (+5.6 / -4.6) 11.0% (+5.4 / -3.8) 16.2% (+8.5 / -6.0)

The map is sort of all over the map...there are no easily definable regional patterns.

Vote The US Midwest (320)  The US Northeast (415)  The US South (432)  The US West (316) 
Pay Per Click 43.8% (+5.5 / -5.3) 47.5% (+4.8 / -4.8) 43.1% (+4.7 / -4.6) 48.7% (+5.5 / -5.5)
AdWords 33.1% (+5.3 / -4.9) 30.6% (+4.6 / -4.2) 33.1% (+4.6 / -4.3) 34.5% (+5.4 / -5.0)
SEO 18.1% (+4.6 / -3.8) 24.3% (+4.4 / -3.9) 19.2% (+4.0 / -3.4) 22.2% (+4.9 / -4.2)
Link Building 15.3% (+4.4 / -3.5) 13.5% (+3.6 / -3.0) 18.5% (+3.9 / -3.4) 16.1% (+4.5 / -3.6)
Ad Retargeting 13.8% (+4.2 / -3.3) 14.2% (+3.7 / -3.0) 17.1% (+3.8 / -3.3) 13.6% (+4.2 / -3.3)

People in urban areas tend to be more aware of SEM terms than rural people are. This is not particularly surprising since in smaller towns word of mouth and word around the town goes a long way (I used to live in a town of 1200 people) and in cities there is a lot more options than any one person can try & there is far greater noise/competition in the marketplace, both from a consumer and business perspective.

The "unknown" density category only had 32 total responses, so that is just noise.

Vote Urban areas (793)  Rural areas (113)  Suburban areas (563)  Urban Density unknown (32) 
Pay Per Click 45.4% (+3.5 / -3.4) 38.9% (+9.2 / -8.5) 47.8% (+4.1 / -4.1) 43.8% (+16.9 / -15.6)
AdWords 35.6% (+3.4 / -3.3) 27.4% (+8.9 / -7.4) 29.3% (+3.9 / -3.6) 40.6% (+17.1 / -15.1)
SEO 24.7% (+3.1 / -2.9) 15.9% (+7.8 / -5.6) 16.9% (+3.3 / -2.9) 31.2% (+17.3 / -13.3)
Link Building 15.5% (+2.7 / -2.4) 17.7% (+8.1 / -5.9) 16.2% (+3.3 / -2.8) 12.5% (+15.6 / -7.5)
Ad Retargeting 14.6% (+2.6 / -2.3) 19.5% (+8.3 / -6.2) 13.3% (+3.1 / -2.6) 31.2% (+17.3 / -13.3)

There are not many clear patterns among income (that surprises me as I would have thought there was a strong correlation). However, once again, the data is skewed to exclude most people with higher incomes, as there was only 1 response at > $150,000 / year.

Here is the opening chart, followed by the same chart

Vote People earning $0-24K (178)  People earning $25-49K (828)  People earning $50-74K (371)  People earning $75-99K (88)  People earning $100-149K (24)  People earning $150K+ (1)  Income unknown (11) 
Pay Per Click 43.3% (+7.3 / -7.1) 44.2% (+3.4 / -3.3) 48.8% (+5.1 / -5.0) 52.3% (+10.1 / -10.3) 50.0% (+18.6 / -18.6) 0.0% (+79.3 / -0.0) 45.5% (+26.5 / -24.2)
AdWords 34.3% (+7.2 / -6.6) 31.9% (+3.3 / -3.1) 35.0% (+5.0 / -4.7) 28.4% (+10.2 / -8.4) 20.8% (+19.6 / -11.6) 100.0% (+0.0 / -79.3) 45.5% (+26.5 / -24.2)
SEO 21.9% (+6.6 / -5.4) 20.4% (+2.9 / -2.6) 23.7% (+4.6 / -4.0) 13.6% (+8.7 / -5.7) 29.2% (+20.0 / -14.3) 0.0% (+79.3 / -0.0) 36.4% (+28.3 / -21.2)
Link Building 19.1% (+6.4 / -5.1) 16.3% (+2.7 / -2.4) 14.6% (+4.0 / -3.2) 12.5% (+8.5 / -5.4) 12.5% (+18.5 / -8.2) 0.0% (+79.3 / -0.0) 9.1% (+28.6 / -7.5)
Ad Retargeting 13.5% (+5.8 / -4.3) 14.1% (+2.5 / -2.2) 17.0% (+4.2 / -3.5) 12.5% (+8.5 / -5.4) 20.8% (+19.6 / -11.6) 0.0% (+79.3 / -0.0) 27.3% (+29.3 / -17.5)

Here is the chart again with those last 2 columns lopped off

Vote People earning $0-24K (178)  People earning $25-49K (828)  People earning $50-74K (371)  People earning $75-99K (88)  People earning $100-149K (24) 
Pay Per Click 43.3% (+7.3 / -7.1) 44.2% (+3.4 / -3.3) 48.8% (+5.1 / -5.0) 52.3% (+10.1 / -10.3) 50.0% (+18.6 / -18.6)
AdWords 34.3% (+7.2 / -6.6) 31.9% (+3.3 / -3.1) 35.0% (+5.0 / -4.7) 28.4% (+10.2 / -8.4) 20.8% (+19.6 / -11.6)
SEO 21.9% (+6.6 / -5.4) 20.4% (+2.9 / -2.6) 23.7% (+4.6 / -4.0) 13.6% (+8.7 / -5.7) 29.2% (+20.0 / -14.3)
Link Building 19.1% (+6.4 / -5.1) 16.3% (+2.7 / -2.4) 14.6% (+4.0 / -3.2) 12.5% (+8.5 / -5.4) 12.5% (+18.5 / -8.2)
Ad Retargeting 13.5% (+5.8 / -4.3) 14.1% (+2.5 / -2.2) 17.0% (+4.2 / -3.5) 12.5% (+8.5 / -5.4) 20.8% (+19.6 / -11.6)

Paid Placement in Search Engines

Consumer Search Insights.
In the below poll we didn't make any distinction between AdWords & organic SEO investments. If we did I am not sure how it would have impacted the voting.

How do you feel about people paying for placement in search engines?

Nearly 2 in 3 people dislike money manipulating search results.

response All (1201) 
I think it is deceptive 65.4% (+3.3 / -3.5)
It is good if it is relevant 34.6% (+3.5 / -3.3)

Women tend to dislike it slightly more than men.

answer Men (813)  Women (388) 
I think it is deceptive 63.6% (+3.6 / -3.8) 67.2% (+5.4 / -5.9)
It is good if it is relevant 36.4% (+3.8 / -3.6) 32.8% (+5.9 / -5.4)

Older people tend to think money influencing search is manipulative, as do younger people who have not had their idealism beaten out of them by the harshness of the world. However the people in the 25 to 34 range who grew up with the web tend to like paid search far more than other groups do.

response 18-24 year-olds (350)  25-34 year-olds (266)  35-44 year-olds (164)  45-54 year-olds (194)  55-64 year-olds (148)  65+ year-olds (80) 
I think it is deceptive 61.3% (+5.0 / -5.2) 47.9% (+6.6 / -6.6) 63.8% (+7.0 / -7.7) 72.5% (+5.8 / -6.7) 72.8% (+6.9 / -8.1) 70.6% (+9.9 / -12.3)
It is good if it is relevant 38.7% (+5.2 / -5.0) 52.1% (+6.6 / -6.6) 36.2% (+7.7 / -7.0) 27.5% (+6.7 / -5.8) 27.2% (+8.1 / -6.9) 29.4% (+12.3 / -9.9)

People in the south tend to dislike money influencing search than any other region & people out west are more accepting of it. Perhaps the audience from California is more likely to understand how search impacts the local economy?

answer The US Midwest (267)  The US Northeast (333)  The US South (355)  The US West (246) 
I think it is deceptive 64.3% (+6.9 / -7.5) 66.4% (+5.9 / -6.4) 69.5% (+5.6 / -6.2) 59.8% (+7.4 / -7.8)
It is good if it is relevant 35.7% (+7.5 / -6.9) 33.6% (+6.4 / -5.9) 30.5% (+6.2 / -5.6) 40.2% (+7.8 / -7.4)

Rural people dislike money influencing search more than urban people do.

response Urban areas (620)  Rural areas (109)  Suburban areas (460) 
I think it is deceptive 63.2% (+4.4 / -4.6) 70.9% (+8.9 / -10.8) 65.3% (+4.9 / -5.2)
It is good if it is relevant 36.8% (+4.6 / -4.4) 29.1% (+10.8 / -8.9) 34.7% (+5.2 / -4.9)

Income has essentially no impact on the perception of the influence of money in search (though there was insufficient data at the upper end of the income range).

response People earning $0-24K (135)  People earning $25-49K (675)  People earning $50-74K (307)  People earning $75-99K (71)  People earning $100-149K  People earning $150K+ 
I think it is deceptive 65.1% (+7.4 / -8.2) 65.8% (+4.3 / -4.6) 65.4% (+6.1 / -6.7) 66.5% (+9.2 / -10.7) Insufficient data Insufficient data
It is good if it is relevant 34.9% (+8.2 / -7.4) 34.2% (+4.6 / -4.3) 34.6% (+6.7 / -6.1) 33.5% (+10.7 / -9.2) Insufficient data Insufficient data

Ad Retargeting

Consumer Search Insights.

How do you feel about companies tracking your online behavior to target ads?

Surprisingly, nearly 1 in 11 people like ad retargeting. However, over 3 in 5 people dislike it.

response All (1250) 
I dislike it because it feels creepy 62.3% (+3.1 / -3.3)
I don't care either way 29.3% (+3.1 / -2.9)
I like more relevant ads 8.3% (+2.3 / -1.9)

Women tend to think being stalked by ads is creepier than men do.

vote Men (822)  Women (428) 
I dislike it because it feels creepy 60.6% (+3.7 / -3.8) 64.1% (+5.0 / -5.3)
I don't care either way 30.0% (+3.6 / -3.4) 28.7% (+5.1 / -4.6)
I like more relevant ads 9.5% (+2.6 / -2.1) 7.2% (+4.2 / -2.7)

Younger people who are old enough to be starting families tend to be more financially stressed than most other age groups, so they are likely more appreciative of relevant ads tied to discounts & such. Younger people have also used the web for so much of their lives that they are not as creeped out by tracking & privacy issues as older people are. People in retirement also like relevant ads, perhaps in part because they are feeling the Ben "printing press gone wild but no inflation" Bernake pinch & see their fixed income retirements collapse under artificially low interest rates tied to money printing game.

age 18-24 year-olds (372)  25-34 year-olds (270)  35-44 year-olds (150)  45-54 year-olds (217)  55-64 year-olds (164)  65+ year-olds (77) 
I dislike it because it feels creepy 60.2% (+4.8 / -5.0) 52.3% (+6.3 / -6.4) 65.1% (+7.2 / -8.0) 66.0% (+6.1 / -6.6) 66.6% (+6.9 / -7.7) 55.7% (+11.2 / -11.8)
I don't care either way 33.6% (+4.9 / -4.6) 35.0% (+6.4 / -5.9) 25.5% (+7.6 / -6.3) 27.9% (+6.4 / -5.6) 26.9% (+7.5 / -6.3) 33.5% (+11.9 / -10.1)
I like more relevant ads 6.2% (+2.9 / -2.0) 12.7% (+5.1 / -3.8) 9.5% (+5.9 / -3.8) 6.1% (+3.9 / -2.5) 6.4% (+5.2 / -2.9) 10.7% (+9.1 / -5.2)

People from the west coast are perhaps slightly more aware of the risks of online tracking. People from the south couldn't care either way. In the midwest the stereotype of the mom who clips coupons is shown in the data (though the sample size is small).

vote The US Midwest (259)  The US Northeast (340)  The US South (404)  The US West (247) 
I dislike it because it feels creepy 58.5% (+6.5 / -6.9) 61.8% (+5.9 / -6.3) 61.6% (+5.7 / -6.0) 67.2% (+6.2 / -6.8)
I don't care either way 29.9% (+6.6 / -5.9) 29.1% (+5.8 / -5.2) 32.4% (+5.9 / -5.4) 24.6% (+6.7 / -5.6)
I like more relevant ads 11.6% (+5.6 / -4.0) 9.1% (+5.0 / -3.3) 6.0% (+4.6 / -2.7) 8.2% (+5.7 / -3.5)

On everything outside of disliking online tracking the margin of error is wide enough that it is somewhat hard to notice any strong patterns based on population data.

vote Urban areas (636)  Rural areas (108)  Suburban areas (480) 
I dislike it because it feels creepy 58.9% (+5.0 / -5.1) 61.1% (+9.0 / -9.8) 62.6% (+4.5 / -4.7)
I don't care either way 32.3% (+5.1 / -4.7) 33.9% (+9.9 / -8.6) 27.6% (+4.5 / -4.1)
I like more relevant ads 8.8% (+4.4 / -3.0) 5.0% (+8.7 / -3.3) 9.8% (+3.6 / -2.7)

It is also hard to see much of a broad pattern based on income levels.

vote People earning $0-24K (150)  People earning $25-49K (691)  People earning $50-74K (304)  People earning $75-99K (88) 
I dislike it because it feels creepy 62.2% (+8.4 / -9.1) 60.2% (+4.2 / -4.4) 66.5% (+5.8 / -6.4) 55.1% (+10.2 / -10.6)
I don't care either way 30.0% (+9.2 / -7.8) 30.8% (+4.3 / -4.0) 25.9% (+6.1 / -5.3) 35.8% (+10.4 / -9.2)
I like more relevant ads 7.9% (+8.6 / -4.3) 9.0% (+3.7 / -2.7) 7.5% (+5.5 / -3.3) 9.2% (+9.0 / -4.8)

Google+ Integration

Consumer Search Insights.
As publishers we tend to be quite concerned with the over-promotion of Google+ because it carves up the search landscape, is potentially another hoop that we have to jump through, and in some cases, the Google+ hosted version of a page will outrank the legitimate original source - which screws up the economics of online publishing.

But do users care about how Google+ was integrated directly into the search results? Generally no.

How do you feel Google+ integration has impacted Google's relevancy?

Under 1 in 5 people said it made the search results better, under 1 in 5 said it made the search results worse & over 3 in 5 didn't notice any material impact.

vote All (1260) 
no noticeable impact 64.7% (+3.3 / -3.5)
made it better 17.4% (+2.9 / -2.6)
made it worse 17.9% (+3.0 / -2.7)

Men liked it slightly more than women. However, that difference was within the estimated range of error. If this difference was more significant one might guestimate that women are better at socializing offline & have less need for artificial web relationships, given their relatively larger corpus callosum. ;)

vote Men (875)  Women (385) 
no noticeable impact 64.1% (+3.4 / -3.6) 65.3% (+5.5 / -5.9)
made it better 18.7% (+3.0 / -2.6) 16.2% (+5.2 / -4.1)
made it worse 17.2% (+2.9 / -2.6) 18.5% (+5.3 / -4.4)

Older people are less likely to have loads of online friends & relationships (as they spent most of their lives building relationships in the physical world, before the web or online social networks were popular). Older people also tend to be more set in their ways. Thus many older people won't be signed up for Google+ & won't notice as much of an impact from it.

Younger people are more likely to want to try out new technology, thus they are more likely to notice an impact from it. Some generations tend to be more isolated & individualistic (like the baby boomers) while millennials tend to like to work in groups & network more (it isn't an accident that Facebook started on a college campus & targeted college students), thus younger people are not only more likely to notice something like Google+, but they are also more likely to like its impact.

vote 18-24 year-olds (334)  25-34 year-olds (322)  35-44 year-olds (141)  45-54 year-olds (204)  55-64 year-olds (167)  65+ year-olds (93) 
no noticeable impact 59.8% (+5.1 / -5.4) 64.0% (+5.4 / -5.7) 66.6% (+7.3 / -8.2) 59.3% (+6.6 / -7.0) 65.7% (+6.9 / -7.7) 73.9% (+8.1 / -10.1)
made it better 26.6% (+5.0 / -4.4) 18.8% (+5.0 / -4.1) 16.3% (+7.2 / -5.3) 19.1% (+6.2 / -4.9) 16.4% (+6.7 / -5.0) 7.9% (+8.7 / -4.3)
made it worse 13.6% (+4.1 / -3.3) 17.2% (+4.8 / -3.9) 17.1% (+7.4 / -5.5) 21.6% (+6.0 / -5.0) 17.9% (+6.5 / -5.0) 18.2% (+9.9 / -7.0)

I didn't notice any obvious trends or patterns aligned with locations across the country.

vote The US Midwest (267)  The US Northeast (360)  The US South (378)  The US West (255) 
no noticeable impact 65.5% (+6.7 / -7.3) 61.3% (+7.3 / -7.8) 67.6% (+5.6 / -6.1) 62.4% (+6.6 / -7.1)
made it better 16.2% (+6.2 / -4.7) 20.5% (+7.8 / -6.1) 17.2% (+5.0 / -4.1) 16.5% (+6.3 / -4.8)
made it worse 18.4% (+6.9 / -5.3) 18.2% (+6.3 / -4.9) 15.1% (+5.6 / -4.3) 21.1% (+6.6 / -5.3)

Suburban people were more likely to notice an impact, though they were not heavily skewed in one way or the other

vote Urban areas (669)  Rural areas (124)  Suburban areas (450) 
no noticeable impact 65.9% (+4.1 / -4.4) 66.8% (+9.0 / -10.4) 62.0% (+4.7 / -5.0)
made it better 16.4% (+3.7 / -3.1) 14.3% (+8.5 / -5.7) 20.4% (+4.4 / -3.8)
made it worse 17.6% (+3.9 / -3.3) 18.9% (+9.8 / -7.0) 17.6% (+4.2 / -3.6)

People who earned less were less likely to notice positive or negative impact from Google+ integration (somewhat surprising since younger people tend to skew toward lower incomes & younger people were more likely to notice & like Google+ integration). Outside of that, the data is too bunched up to see any other significant patterns based on income.

vote People earning $0-24K (162)  People earning $25-49K (698)  People earning $50-74K (312)  People earning $75-99K (71) 
no noticeable impact 71.1% (+7.8 / -9.2) 62.8% (+4.4 / -4.6) 61.9% (+6.3 / -6.8) 61.3% (+10.6 / -11.9)
made it better 14.8% (+8.8 / -5.9) 17.5% (+4.0 / -3.4) 18.9% (+5.9 / -4.8) 17.1% (+11.5 / -7.5)
made it worse 14.1% (+9.5 / -6.1) 19.7% (+4.3 / -3.7) 19.2% (+6.4 / -5.1) 21.6% (+11.2 / -8.1)

Editorial Objectivity

Consumer Search Insights.

Should search engines be able to preferentially promote their own services in their search results?

Nearly 3 in 4 people think that search engines should not be able to preferentially promote their own services.

vote All (1226)
no, results should be objective 74.1% (+3.1 / -3.4)
yes, it is their search results 25.9% (+3.4 / -3.1)

There was essentially no split between men & women.

vote Men (827) Women (399)
no, results should be objective 73.7% (+3.1 / -3.4) 74.4% (+5.2 / -6.0)
yes, it is their search results 26.3% (+3.4 / -3.1) 25.6% (+6.0 / -5.2)

Older people tend to prefer/want more editorial objectivity, whereas younger people are more fine with search engines preferentially promoting their own services. Older people tend to be more fixed in their ways & younger people are much less so.

vote 18-24 year-olds (338) 25-34 year-olds (269) 35-44 year-olds (158) 45-54 year-olds (209) 55-64 year-olds (169) 65+ year-olds (83)
no, results should be objective 65.0% (+4.9 / -5.2) 76.0% (+5.1 / -6.0) 74.0% (+6.5 / -7.7) 71.2% (+5.7 / -6.5) 71.4% (+6.5 / -7.5) 87.2% (+6.1 / -10.4)
yes, it is their search results 35.0% (+5.2 / -4.9) 24.0% (+6.0 / -5.1) 26.0% (+7.7 / -6.5) 28.8% (+6.5 / -5.7) 28.6% (+7.5 / -6.5) 12.8% (+10.4 / -6.1)

Geographically, people in the south & midwest tend to be slightly more trusting, perhaps due to the lower cost of living & less competitive markets. However, any differences here are fairly minor & are within the margin of error.

vote The US Midwest (244) The US Northeast (367) The US South (352) The US West (263)
no, results should be objective 72.2% (+6.4 / -7.4) 77.7% (+4.5 / -5.3) 72.1% (+6.0 / -6.9) 75.9% (+5.7 / -6.9)
yes, it is their search results 27.8% (+7.4 / -6.4) 22.3% (+5.3 / -4.5) 27.9% (+6.9 / -6.0) 24.1% (+6.9 / -5.7)

People who are rural tend to be slightly more accepting of Google doing as it wishes, though this is also a small sample size & well within the margin of error.

vote Urban areas (647) Rural areas (106) Suburban areas (453)
no, results should be objective 74.3% (+4.3 / -4.9) 71.9% (+8.5 / -10.5) 74.4% (+4.2 / -4.7)
yes, it is their search results 25.7% (+4.9 / -4.3) 28.1% (+10.5 / -8.5) 25.6% (+4.7 / -4.2)

There isn't a strong correlation with income on this issue either. People cared a bit more at higher income levels, but there was also a wider margin of error due to small sampling size.

vote People earning $0-24K (142) People earning $25-49K (677) People earning $50-74K (316) People earning $75-99K (75) People earning $100-149K People earning $150K+
no, results should be objective 72.0% (+7.8 / -9.4) 76.8% (+3.7 / -4.1) 68.7% (+6.1 / -6.8) 83.1% (+6.9 / -10.2) Insufficient data Insufficient data
yes, it is their search results 28.0% (+9.4 / -7.8) 23.2% (+4.1 / -3.7) 31.3% (+6.8 / -6.1) 16.9% (+10.2 / -6.9) Insufficient data Insufficient data

The Return of GoTo / Overture (and AOL)?

Overture wasn't able to build itself into a credible search destination in part because their brand was positioned incorrectly as being primarily about paid ads that only would backfill with other results in when the ad auction was empty, so as a destination it was seen as a payolla engine. Likewise AOL peaked because it was seen as a walled garden & couldn't keep up with DSL and the open web.

Search engines have recently pushed aggressively to revive the Web 0.1 game of walled gardens. Ever since I have been in search, Ask has been a (the?) leader in arbitrage. To this day IAC is Google's #1 advertiser & while AOL's search marketshare keeps dropping like a rock, Ask has managed to hold their marketshare relatively constant while over-monetizing the search results.

Even though Ask exited algorithmic search, IAC's stock price is up over 160% since they split off their other companies.

What makes that growth even more impressive is when it is compared against Google or Yahoo!.

Yahoo! bowed out of search, outsourcing to Bing. Over the past year Yahoo! has dialed up on over-promotion of their verticals in the search results quite aggressively.

In the above search result, Yahoo! ...

  • added an "official site" label & favicon to the PPC ad
  • inserted Yahoo! finance
  • inserted Yahoo! Search sitesearch
  • inserted Yahoo! Deals coupons (with a huge graphic)
  • inserted Yahoo! Downloads (with a big button)

While Yahoo! has been able to increase "engagement" they have done so in part at the expense of losing users.

Surely some of that loss is due to Google's Chrome promotions, but that doesn't put Yahoo! in any stronger of a competitive position going forward, especially as Google clones their portal model.

Increasingly, when we search & when we surf the web it is getting harder to leave the networks we are on. Facebook offers advertisers discounts for advertising other Facebook pages. YouTube signs premium content partners like Motor Trend (and backfill garbage) & then advertises the manufacturer YouTube channels next to that content. The user never leaves the portal throughout the entire process & brands are forced to buy their own pre-existing brand equity, or Google will sell it off to competitors.

Google recently added a Yahoo!-like global portal navigation bar at the top of their pages & Google+ gets over-represented in the organic search results. Even while not logged in & doing advanced longtail searches Google still shows promotional Google+ boxes like this one:

A couple years ago Amit Singhal said:

“We deal with those responsibilities by having very concrete principles. All rankings are decided algorithmically, and the focus is on user benefit, not advertiser or commercial benefit. We ask ourselves, ‘Can a random company who does not want to be part of any Google system be harmed by a change we’re proposing?’ If they are, we won’t do it.

Today that is simply not true.

Then again, who would expect the head of organizing the world's information during the information age to have a year or two of foresight? Or, is the double-speak intentional:

"Things keep happening where you can’t even trust [Google's] word. I don’t think they were ever not evil." - Danny Sullivan

Now that Google may show AdWords ads at the bottom of the search results, Google is testing showing fewer organic listings on navigational searches. In some cases the 7 Google Places listings act as 7 results & the search results only contain 3 other listings. What's even uglier than this is a new enhanced AdWords sitelink option where a single ad unit takes up nearly a third of the screen real estate on a large monitor (and much more on a smaller screen).

And that doesn't account for all of Google's various vertical search services & the ways Google inserts itself into the sales stream, with...

  • Google Checkout & Google Wallet
  • Software: Android Apps, Chrome Apps & their Enterprise Marketplace @ google.com/enterprise/marketplace/
  • Google Offers
  • Google Books ebook sales
  • Google Music song downloads
  • YouTube movie rentals

And even when you leave Google, they invest in heavily SEOed sites and are still tracking you wherever & however they can, even if it violates Safari or Internet Explorer terms of service. Such an anti-privacy policy works brilliantly for ad networks (so long as users do not get creeped out) as the ad networks can slice and dice who receives how much credit for any measurable online action.

As Google redefines how credit is shared & competes more directly against publishers, those publishers need to adjust their business models. If Google grows too parasitic & captures too much of the value creation they will turn the media against them & give billions of Dollars worth of coverage to smaller search upstarts that actually respect their users.

Both DuckDuckGo & Blekko are increasing traffic & monetization.

Along with the nepotistic portalization of search, the rise of algorithmic journalism that can turn Tweets into an automated story puts further pressure on publishers. As the web becomes a series of walled gardens the opportunity in SEO diminishes, which is why some SEO websites want to drop the SEO label.

Want to see what Google will look like in a couple years? Set your default search engine to Yahoo! or Ask & you can see the future today. The push for social garbage & nepotism over quality will last until Google's search traffic chart looks like the above Yahoo! chart. At that point we will focus more on Bing & other search engines.

SEO Lemons

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SEO Market for Lemons.

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Thanks to John Andrews for highlighting the above industry trend.

Google Admits 'Organic Results' Are Filler To Pump Deceptive Ads at Consumers

Some of Google's new search results look quite alarming in terms of every single link above the fold is either a paid ad, or links to yet another Google page wrapped in ads.

I have a huge monitor & it is impossible for me to click *anywhere* above the fold on some search results without going through Google's toll booth or clicking off to yet another Google ad wrapped page.


(click on the image for the full sized view)

Some people have given Google the benefit of the doubt "well this is just vertical search" and "this is just for the consumer" but we see that in many cases it harms consumers by limiting choice:

Charlie Leocha, the director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, says Google Flight Search is “limiting consumers’ knowledge.” He explains, “this is a situation where Google is trusted as a ‘search engine’ that goes across the whole Web, but it is only going to a small select group of airlines and including them in Flight Search.”

The bottom line?

According to Leocha, “Google and the airlines have a sweetheart deal with each other, and the consumers are getting screwed.”

Those who coddled Google & gave Google the benefit of the doubt now have egg on their face, and the industry as a whole is poorer for their poor judgement & lack of stewardship.

As absurd as the above behavior is, it gets worse. When Google acquired DoubleClick, Larry Page wanted to keep Performics (an SEO/SEM company). But since it would have been a flagrant violation of law for him to run an SEO company, they now decide that nobody should run an SEO company...telling consumers to simply forget about SEO even when they specifically search out information about SEO!

Google recently ran AdWords ads with the following copy when consumers searched Google for SEO information:

“Forget about SEO. To be visible in Google today, try Adwords”

You know Google's slogan: "maybe the best ads are just answers." And sometimes they are misdirection or scams that quite literally kill people.

You can't be 100% certain which is which until long AFTER you click. And by then Google's cash register has already rang & it is off to dupe the next person.

Comments turned off, as this is a conversation that NEEDS TO SPREAD. If you run a blog about SEO, you owe it to your readers & your industry to cover this topic. If this topic doesn't get broad coverage then pretty soon your career might be over & you will deserve it too.

Cloaking: Survey Says?

In the below video Matt Cutts states that "there is no such thing as white hat cloaking" ...

... yet Google is testing a new ad unit where users have to fill out a survey before they can view the content.

How long until the surveys include something like:

  • did you vote in 2008
  • what presidential candidate did you vote for
  • how do you feel about issue x
  • how strongly do you feel about your opinion on x

Then after the survey: "Thanks for your feedback. Candidate y supports your views on issue x."

Advertisers then get a report like: "in Ohio, 84% of the 289,319 swing voters with an average household income between $32,400 and $67,250 think issue x is vitally important and have a 6:1 bias toward option A. They respond to it more strongly if you phrase it as "a c b" and are twice as likely to share your view if you phrase it that way. The bias is even stronger amongst women & voters under 50, where they prefer option A by a factor of 9:1."

Couple that ability to flagrantly violate their own editorial guidelines with...

... & Google is in an amazing position politically.

It is thus not surprising to see how politicians have a hard time being anything but pro-Google, as they are the new Western Union.

This isn't the first time Google experimented with cloaking either. Threadwatch had a post on Google cloaking their help files years ago & YouTube offers users a screw you screen if they are in a country where the content isn't licensed - yet they still show those cloaked pages ranking in the search results.

“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

It is common knowledge that you shouldn't mix business and politics, however if one looks at history, many of those who gave us those sage words did precisely the opposite - and often illegally so - selling us down the river.

What is so obnoxious about Google's survey trial is that a big site that was hit by Panda was hit because they used scroll cloaking & didn't let the users get to the content right away. Googlers suggested users didn't like it & voted against it, and then roll out the same sort of "wait 1 moment please" stuff themselves as a custom beta ad unit.

And today Google just announced that they might create an algorithm which looks at ad placements on a website as a spam signal outside of Panda:

“If you have ads obscuring your content, you might want to think about it,” asking publishers to consider, “Do they see content or something else that’s distracting or annoying?”

On the one hand they tell you to optimize your ad placements & on the other they tell you that those were not optimal & are so aggressive that they are spam.

For a while there was a period of time where you could use something like "would Google do this" as a rule of thumb for gray area behavior.

In the current market that won't work.

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” ― Ansel Adams

As ad units get more interactive & Google keeps eating more verticals the line between spam vs not will keep blurring.

Perception is everything.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ― Oscar Wilde

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