The majority of North Americans use search engines for consumer research states a focus group research product undertaken by the search marketing firm Enquiro. The results showed that 65% of North Americans use search engines to come to a purchasing decision.
Enquiro President Gord Hotchkiss commented on some of the more interesting findings of the study, “We were more than a little surprised by some of the things we found. For example, search engines are much more likely to be used to research a purchase than to make the actual purchase. Yet the majority of search marketing campaigns are aimed squarely at the purchaser. We also found that there are distinct search behaviors out there. For example, we found that many of the women in the group had different search behaviors than many of the men.”
One other interesting finding of the study was that many search engine users are still drawn first to the traditional, free search listings, rather than the sponsored ones.
This tendency was most noticeable in Google users, where the sponsored listings have always been clearly labeled. The Federal Trade Commission has warned many search providers that sponsored listings have to be clearly marked on the search results page. This move was spurred by complaints from a group led by consumer advocate Ralph Nader who filed a complaint in 2001 against misleading advertising practices used by some of the major search portals.