Trust, Advertising, and Search

Here's a quick follow-up piece to last week's interesting conversation about trust (and if you haven't read the comments on that post, check them out). Scott Brinker, a marketing guy, did a small survey about people's attitudes related to the paid search results in Google.

You know what I'm talking about: when you do a google search you get a long list of possible sites to visit, but the ones on the very top and along the right are paid advertisements. They've guessed what you're going to search for and paid to be at the top of the list.

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In this screenshot I searched for "remodeling industry" (one of my clients is the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, Metro DC chapter). NARI National shows up as the top organic search, but NVS Kitchen and Bath is highlighted above--a paid ad (but kudos to NVS for being a NARI Metro DC member. For that I give you a link above!). The two on the right are paid as well.

But here's the deal. I don't click on the sponsored links. I know they are paid, so I don't trust them.

Apparently I'm not alone, because that was a major finding in the survey. First, that non-marketing types don't usually click on the paid links (more than two-thirds said rarely or never), and second that one of the primary reasons was that they didn't trust the ad.

It's interesting. If you pay to get a message to me, I don't want to hear it (any more). I want to find it myself. I want it to come from (a) someone I already know (think Twitter) or (b) an objective algorithm. I trust friends and I trust math, but I don't trust advertising, at least not within the confines of google search (because within those confines, I expect to be in control). 

There is a sense of satisfaction that I get from successfully finding what I was looking for on my own (okay, with Google's big brains helping). You paying to take that feeling of satisfaction away from me seems odd.  

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