Apparently many British people don’t understand just how search engines decide to rank results, according to a survey carried out by Tickbox.net on behalf of Fasthosts and published this week. Interestingly the confusion is split fairly evenly between trust in an incorruptible system, cynicism and complete clueless ness, or as the official numbers would have it:
- 24 percent believe that the search listings they use cannot be affected by the publishers of websites listed
- 22 percent suspect that results are ordered entirely according to how much has been paid by the websites listed
- 19 percent say they have no idea at all how results are compiled
Five percent of the respondents believe that the results are completely random and I can’t help but wonder if they think that they are the luckiest searchers on the planet as there always seems to be relevant results on the front page.
Only 29 percent are aware that search results are generated based on the search terms and optimisation techniques used by the individual website owners. Somehow though, despite not knowing how search works, 33 percent ignore paid for listings in favour of the organic, though perhaps these are just middle-class searchers who value chemical free results?
So what does this mean for us digitally/social media/PR type people?
To be honest I’m not sure, pay more attention to what terms people use search would be one piece of advice. Use tools such as Google keyword tool or Google insights to find out what they are actually searching on instead of assuming what they might be searching on. Remember that not everyone is blessed with strong powers of Google-Fu.
As for social media, well if people can’t even work out how search works,how are they going to be able to accurately evaluate the content they find online and decide if it is trustworthy or not? Does it mean that the mainstream brands will remain the dominant players when it comes to trust online. Or as younger, smarter users grow up, apparently 93 percent of 16 – 24 year olds claimed to understand how search engines worked, will we see the rise of the individual blogger again?