Brits Don’t Understand Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

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  • December 16, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Via Mel & The Guardian comes news that the British public (or at least the 1,636 people with enough spare time to fill in the online survey) isn’t aware of search engine optimisation as a marketing tactic.

Nearly 1 in 4 Britons (24%) believe that the order of the search listings they use cannot be influenced by the publishers of websites listed, whilst a similar proportion (22%) suspect that results are ordered entirely according to how much has been paid by the websites listed. 1 in 5 consumers (19%) have no idea at all how results are compiled, and 5% believe that search listings are arranged completely at random like a lottery.

Now I don’t want to be controversial here but let’s examine the facts.

22% of people think results are ordered according to how much the sites have paid to be listed. I can see how when you search for “car insurance” that could reasonably be the case – lots of sites would happily pay to be featured in those results.

But what about when you search for “green widgets with blue add ons” do these people seriously think the resulting websites have paid to be listed for this query?

Jack Schofield comments:

Of course, if you started compiling a list of things that lots of Brits don’t understand, you’d be busy for some time. It’s also not clear that understanding how search engines work has much practical value if you just want to find sites, rather than promote them. However, if I ran a search engine, I’d be looking for ways to make it clearer that organic results, unlike sponsored links, are not paid for.

I’m not quite sure how search engines can make it any clearer. One set of results is labelled “Sponsored Links” and the other set isn’t.

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