Half of all search engine users can identify sponsored links in search engine results
In 2015, adults who use search engine websites were shown a picture of the results returned by Google for an online search for ‘walking boots’. Their attention was drawn to the first three results at the top of the list, which were distinguished by an orange box with the word ‘Ad’ written in it. They were then prompted with three options and asked whether any of these applied to these first three results. These options were:
• These are adverts/ sponsored links/ paid to appear here
• These are the best results/ the most relevant results
• These are the most popular results used by other people
The results are shown in Figure below. Three in five adults who use search engines (60%) stated that the first three results were sponsored links/ advertising/ paid to appear there. Similar proportions gave incorrect responses, either saying that the results were the best or most relevant (23%), or that they were the most popular results used by other people (20%). Around one in eight (12%) said they were unsure.
Understanding of paid-for results returned by Google searches, among adults who use search engine websites or apps