63% of Consumers Don’t Know How Search Results Are Categorized

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A study of US consumers conducted this holiday season shows that many don’t fully understand what goes into ranking web pages in search results.

BrandVerity, an online brand protection company, found that 63% of consumers believe SERPs are ranked by either relevance or advertising spend, or they simply “don’t know” how results are ranked.

Only 37% of consumers understand that search results are ranked based on a combination of relevance and advertising spend. Though 31% say search engines aren’t doing a good job of indicating which results are ads.

That’s troubling when you consider 54% of consumers trust websites at the top of search results more than others. That means there’s searchers out there clicking on the first result, thinking it’s the most relevant, not realizing they’re clicking on an ad.

From a brand perspective, it’s important to be aware that advertisers can exploit consumers’ lack of understanding how search results work. For example, competitors can bid on a brand’s keywords and rank above the brand’s own website in the paid listings. Doing this, competitors can attract business from unsuspecting customers who are searching for the other brand.

With that said, BrandVerity encourages brands to be vigilant this holiday season:

“Competitors, bad affiliates looking to make quick commissions, and other bad actors will be working overtime to divert holiday shopping traffic their way. And make no mistake, the impact is significant. We found that 52% of consumers say they’ll sometimes purchase a competing product because it “also appeared in the search results” amongst the specific brand of product they searched for.”

Other Interesting Findings

Some other interesting findings from BrandVerity’s study include:

  • US retail ecommerce spending is projected to rise as much as 13.2% to $135.35 billion.
  • When searching for a specific brand, 56% of consumers say they start their search on Amazon, compared to 30% that say they start on Google.
  • When not searching for a specific brand, 52% of consumers start their search on Google compared to 37% who turn to Amazon.
  • 65% of shoppers do a “significant amount” of online research before purchasing a product.

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