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Is Search Engine Advertising Trustworthy?

generally reveal that most searchers’ focus is on the top, left hand third of the natural search result links rather than on the spaces devoted to search engine advertising.

It begs the question of whether search engine advertising, as opposed to natural , is effective at all.

(via ) offers some data that would seem to support that assertion.  The study found that the most trusted forms of advertising are:

  1. Recommendations from consumers – 78%
  2. Newspapers – 63%
  3. Consumer opinions posted online – 61%
  4. Brand websites – 60%
  5. Television – 56%

Conversely, the least trusted forms of advertising are:

  1. Email I signed up for – 49%
  2. Ads before movies – 38%
  3. Search engine ads – 34%
  4. Online banner ads – 26%
  5. Text ads on mobile phones – 18%

I have always emphasized natural search engine marketing over search engine advertising for the very reason that people consider the links in the natural search results to be more credible and therefore more trustworthy and as a result they will be more likely to click on those links.

The fact that few people consider search engine advertising trustworthy while many people trust brand websites is a compelling argument for emphasizing natural search engine marketing over paid search advertising.

That does not mean that I think search engine advertising doesn’t work, though. Clearly, Google would not be thriving due to its search engine ad revenue if the service didn’t produce results.

While people do trust natural search results more, the same dynamic is probably at work as it is with traditional advertising.

People do not tend to pay attention to advertising until it’s relevant to them; that is, until they are in the market for what is being advertising. I’d love to see a study on it, but I’d be willing to bet that as people move closer to a purchase decision, the search engine ads would increasingly be perceived as more and more trustworthy.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.

10 Comments

  1. isedb.com on December 20, 2007 at 1:49 00 pm CST

    Is Search Engine Advertising Trustworthy? – Internet Marketing Blog

    The fact that few people consider search engine advertising trustworthy while many people trust brand websites is a compelling argument for preferring natural search engine marketing over paid search engine advertising.



  2. isedb.com on December 20, 2007 at 6:49 20 am CST

    Is Search Engine Advertising Trustworthy? – Internet Marketing Blog

    The fact that few people consider search engine advertising trustworthy while many people trust brand websites is a compelling argument for preferring natural search engine marketing over paid search engine advertising.



  3. Justin Seibert on December 24, 2007 at 1:58 00 pm CST

    David – without a doubt more eyeballs end up in the upper left of search results – the same way they do on Web sites (which is why, or a result of, everyone puts their logo there). If you look closely at the eyetracking study on the link you provided, you’ll notice heat patterns and clicks on the sponsored listings on the top of the page as well. Still, there is more heat on the organic results – maybe that’s due to credibility, but maybe it’s due to relevancy or perceived relevancy.

    SEO’s great and can really help businesses. Paid search can, too. Sometimes one is right for an organization, sometimes the other, sometimes both, and sometimes neither.

    Heatmapping is a great tool – just be careful not to throw out the pay per click baby with the bathwater. The numbers (not just the revenue Google and Yahoo! receive, but the roi for advertisers) back up paid search’s power.



  4. Justin Seibert on December 24, 2007 at 6:58 44 am CST

    David – without a doubt more eyeballs end up in the upper left of search results – the same way they do on Web sites (which is why, or a result of, everyone puts their logo there). If you look closely at the eyetracking study on the link you provided, you’ll notice heat patterns and clicks on the sponsored listings on the top of the page as well. Still, there is more heat on the organic results – maybe that’s due to credibility, but maybe it’s due to relevancy or perceived relevancy.

    SEO’s great and can really help businesses. Paid search can, too. Sometimes one is right for an organization, sometimes the other, sometimes both, and sometimes neither.

    Heatmapping is a great tool – just be careful not to throw out the pay per click baby with the bathwater. The numbers (not just the revenue Google and Yahoo! receive, but the roi for advertisers) back up paid search’s power.



  5. David Erickson on December 24, 2007 at 4:04 00 pm CST

    Thanks for the insights, Justin.

    I think I’m agreeing with you. I do believe pay-per-click can be effective and is often the best solution.

    The problem is that so much PPC advertising is a complete waste because it is either used during the wrong parts of the search process (the research phase, for example) or the ads are not maintained or optimized properly.



  6. David Erickson on December 24, 2007 at 9:04 25 am CST

    Thanks for the insights, Justin.

    I think I’m agreeing with you. I do believe pay-per-click can be effective and is often the best solution.

    The problem is that so much PPC advertising is a complete waste because it is either used during the wrong parts of the search process (the research phase, for example) or the ads are not maintained or optimized properly.



  7. Justin Seibert on December 24, 2007 at 7:18 00 pm CST

    Absolutely – there’s an old hotel in my downtown that hasn’t been operational in decades. Its side reads “Rogers Fireproof Hotel,” probably a good selling point in the early 20th Century. It’s always reminded me of some ppc ads that may have been good and relevant when they were first put up, but aren’t compelling in the current environment. Keep up the good posting and happy holidays.



  8. Justin Seibert on December 24, 2007 at 12:18 23 pm CST

    Absolutely – there’s an old hotel in my downtown that hasn’t been operational in decades. Its side reads “Rogers Fireproof Hotel,” probably a good selling point in the early 20th Century. It’s always reminded me of some ppc ads that may have been good and relevant when they were first put up, but aren’t compelling in the current environment. Keep up the good posting and happy holidays.



  9. natural seo on January 6, 2008 at 8:01 00 pm CST

    Both paid and natural search marketing are valuable. I do think that natural search results are more trusted and obviously worthwhile for the long-term. However, paid search results like adwords are indispensible for new sites and/or those looking for targeted visitors quickly. Natural SEO is still king as most would agree that the long-term benefits from natural search engine optimization outweigh the short-term benefits gained from PPC.



  10. natural seo on January 6, 2008 at 1:01 50 pm CST

    Both paid and natural search marketing are valuable. I do think that natural search results are more trusted and obviously worthwhile for the long-term. However, paid search results like adwords are indispensible for new sites and/or those looking for targeted visitors quickly. Natural SEO is still king as most would agree that the long-term benefits from natural search engine optimization outweigh the short-term benefits gained from PPC.



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