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Targeted ads, outdated results top list of online search annoyances

by | May 30, 2017 | Public Relations

These days, consumers rely on search for just about everything they need to know—but that doesn’t mean they enjoy the process. Digital marketing technology and service firm SearchDex recently announced the results of its 2017 Google Game Survey, revealing American behaviors around online searching, shopping and browsing incognito.

Searching before shopping

When it comes to how Americans are searching for their next purchase, more than half reveal that they do in fact use a search engine (58 percent), with more than a quarter admitting that they use search engines to read product reviews (27 percent). Other search strategies include:

  • Seeing various online retailer options (26 percent)
  • Comparing prices (25 percent)
  • Finding physical retail store locations (19 percent)
  • Finding coupon codes (15 percent)

Additionally, a third (32 percent) of Americans say their online shopping efforts begin with a search engine. This is followed by:

  • Online-only retailer website (20 percent)
  • Retail store website (18 percent)
  • Brand website (15 percent)

Only 3 percent of Americans say their first search happens through an online shopping portal.

The truth will set you free

Online retailers take note: a third of Americans (31 percent) said that misleading search results would make them less likely to buy from a particular website, and another third (31 percent) said they would worry that the retailer might be a scam. Another 27 percent said a misleading search result would push them back to a more familiar website.

“This survey reaffirms something we at SearchDex already know to be true: for brands and retailers to succeed, it’s not just about showing up in search results—it’s about how they show up in search results,” said Dave Chaplin, CEO of SearchDex, in a news release. “An online search is the first conversation a consumer will have with a brand or retailer—it’s potentially the beginning of the relationship. And if that brand or retailer comes up in an irrelevant search, the relationship has already been damaged. Winning the SEO game is not about getting in front of the consumer whenever and however possible but about using sophisticated SEO to get in front of consumers who are looking for what you have to offer.”

How and what we search

A majority of Americans (68 percent) approach their internet searches with a strategy. Prime among these strategies are using strings of keywords (41 percent), using full-sentence questions (31 percent) and utilizing category searches (20 percent).

“What many people don’t realize is that today’s search engines are using sophisticated algorithms to determine what people are looking for,” added Chaplin. “So, full-sentence questions can actually be a more effective search strategy than keyword searches.”

While 76 percent of Americans believe themselves to be talented at internet searching, surprisingly few say their internet search strategy involves higher-level search functions like Boolean searches (5 percent) or even just simple quotation marks (13 percent).

Americans say search engines are most useful for finding general information (47 percent), reading the news (30 percent), and online shopping (27 percent). Thirteen percent of Americans say they regularly consult their search engine of choice to figure out acronyms, 10 percent turn to their search engines to find out the time in different time zones, and 11 percent use their search engines to do math.

Online searching does come with its frustrations, however: 68 percent of Americans admit to being annoyed by some aspect of online searching. Top annoyances include:

  • Targeted ads (39 percent)
  • Outdated search results (21 percent)
  • Desired result not on first page of search results (18 percent)
  • Slow load times (17 percent)
  • Description of search result unclear (12 percent)
  • Key search term labeled as missing (10 percent)

Going incognito

Unsurprisingly, a majority of Americans (68 percent) have concerns about their browser history being sold to big companies. Top among these concerns are that it would cause an increase in annoying ads (44 percent), that their data could fall into the wrong hands (43 percent), that their private searches could be made public (40 percent), or that a security breach could cause their browser history to be exposed (40 percent).

Perhaps for this reason, Americans prefer to use incognito windows to access their bank accounts (21 percent). Americans also prefer to use incognito windows to research and buy gifts (14 percent), watch embarrassing movies and TV shows (13 percent), download confidential work documents (12 percent), and check social media (11 percent).

SearchDex commissioned this survey of more than 1,000 American adults from April 25-28, 2017, via Google Surveys.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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