Study: Search Users Don't Recognize Organic vs. Paid Ads

Fifty-six percent of Internet users don't know the difference between natural and paid search, according to a study released yesterday.

However, the “How America Searches Study” that Harris Interactive conducted for search analytics firm iCrossing, Scottsdale, AZ, noted that more users of Google than other search engines know the difference between the two types of searches. Fifty-four percent of frequent Google users report knowing the difference between paid and natural listings. The next-closest group is Yahoo users at 42 percent.

More than 50 percent of men said they know the difference between the two forms of search while about one-third of women said they can tell. Fifty-seven percent of men said they prefer natural listings while 32 percent of women said they don't prefer one over the other.

Though Google is the most widely used search engine at 77 percent of users, most people are not loyal to just one engine. Thirteen percent of Google searchers say they use only Google while 11 percent of AOL members use only AOL for search and 10 percent of MSN users search only MSN.

Most people use search engines to research a specific topic or get directions, the study said. Eighty-eight percent of searchers use engines to research specific topics, and 75 percent get directions and maps. Also, 65 percent are seeking information about news and current events while 62 percent are just surfing the Web.

The iCrossing study produced some surprising results on how men search versus women. Eighty-three percent of men who use search for shopping are comparing prices versus 77 percent of women.

In addition, more women — 61 percent — use search engines to find health and medical information than men (35 percent). Other results include:

· 54 percent of search engine users say they have used the Internet instead of a phone book to find someone. More are looking for addresses of people rather than businesses.

· Though local search has become an increasing focus for engines, less than 50 percent of all who use search for shopping are looking for a local retailer of specific products and services.

· Only 47 percent of people use search for entertainment purposes. The majority of those — 61 percent — are looking for movie times and reviews.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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